Kobo launches e-book self-publishing platform, “Writing Life”

Digital reading company Kobo is launching a competitor to Amazon’s (s AMZN) KDP and Barnes & Noble’s (s BKS) PubIt: Kobo Writing Life, a free self-publishing platform for independent authors and publishers.
Writing Life is in beta tests with 50 authors now and will launch in English by the end of June, “with new language and country-specific support added in the coming year,” it said in a blog post.
In a separate¬†press release, Michael Tamblyn, Kobo’s EVP content and merchandising, says, “When we started working on Kobo Writing Life, the first thing we did was ask authors what they felt was most important in a self-publishing platform. They were incredibly clear: openness, control, great royalties, incredible reporting and global reach. It should be powerful but drop-dead simple.”
On its website, Kobo takes a jab at Amazon: “Unlike some self-publishing portals we could mention, Kobo doesn’t bind you to us. Publish to Kobo and take your ePub to your adoring fans, no matter where they might be. You’re free to sell your eBook the way you want.” To be fair, Amazon’s KDP doesn’t require exclusivity, but its KDP Select (which lets self-published authors include their titles in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library) does. The main difference between Kobo and Amazon is outlined in the press release:

Unlike competitive self-publishing tools, Kobo allows authors to set their book price to “FREE” at any time without restrictive exclusive agreements, in addition Kobo pays 10% higher royalties on sales in many growing international markets and allows authors much more freedom on pricing.

Jane Litte at Dear Author reports that Kobo is paying a 70 percent royalty on e-books priced between $1.99 and $12.99, and a 45 percent royalty on e-books below $1.99 or above $12.99. By contrast, Amazon pays a 70 percent royalty on KDP e-books priced above $2.99 and a 35 percent royalty on those below $2.99. And she notes that authors can sell their books with or without DRM.
Writing Life also gives authors an analytics dashboard showing real-time sales stats, including sales by country. “The ability to see the performance of my books across different markets helps me to understand how my advertising and promotions are influencing sales so that I can engage with more readers around the world,” self-published author Bella Andre, who is beta-testing the program, says in the release.

Kobo’s international growth: Now 8 million users in 190 countries

Separately, Kobo released some year-on-year growth stats (though no actual numbers): e-book downloads up 400 percent, e-reader device sales up 160 percent and the number of people reading internationally with Kobo up 280 percent.
Kobo was acquired by Japanese e-commerce company Rakuten for $315 million in November and says it “will be launching in Japan, with subsequent launches planned for Portugal, Spain, Italy, with more launches to follow. These markets have distinct needs for digital reading and Kobo intends to provide access in regions where printed books are inaccessible and where electronic devices can be more easily obtained.”