Kobo doesn’t allow you to download revised ebooks.

As an author, I try to promote my books on as many publishing platforms as possible. I will not lie to you or put up a front–I started this self-publishing venture as quite a newb and had to update the ebooks several times since 2012 (I have since worked out the kinks and streamlined my process.) Some professionals will scoff at this, and it is in their right; I’m primarily a writer and hardly a savvy businesswoman. Like most things, I learned by jumping in and doing it, then correcting my mistakes.

I am a Kindle user and Amazon allows updated ebooks to sync automatically to Kindle libraries. Nook does the same thing. What this means, is that if an author uploads a new version of their book, perhaps reformatted, edited, or expanded, anyone who bought the old version can automatically update to the new version without having to purchase the book again.

Today, I discovered that Kobo does not do this.

I am not going to give false credit to Kobo. In my eyes, they designed a knock-off Kindle/Nook and distributed it at a cheaper price, which is great for families with less income. However, Kobo does not offer automatic book updates to their readers, which feels like a slap in the face. In order for a reader to update an ebook to an edited/reformatted edition, they need to purchase it all over again. Trying to get it for free can turn into a very lengthy process.

One of my readers contacted Kobo Support about this. Here is their response below. I changed the names to protect the individuals involved:

Reader: will the kobo update automatically, or is there a process to download the new ebook?
Kobo Help: Since the new version is a new completely edition of the book and has new content it has to be purchased. Even though, you have purchased the previous version, these are two different books.
Reader: It’s the same book, the author just edited some typos and changed the formatting. I follow her blog. So there’s no way for me to update to the new version?
Kobo Help: We will need to test the book in order to confirm that the typos are there, if the book has them, we can issue a store credit so you can use it to purchase the new edition. The oldest version will be removed from your library.
Kobo Help: However, we need the account’s information in order to test the book and issue the credit.
Reader: ooh okay, so this is quite a process. Can I just delete the ebook from my account and purchase the new version? Or will Kobo block me by saying “you already bought this book” or something like that?
Kobo Help: As these books are different editions, you will not received this error message.
Reader: okay great. so just to clarify, i will delete the ebook of Sora’s Quest from my account and then go to the product page and purchase it again, and because the ebook has been updated to a new version, I’ll be able to download it with no problem?
Kobo Help: Exactly.

This is all well and good since Sora’s Quest is permanently free. However, what if I updated Viper’s Creed and Volcrian’s Hunt to better formatting? What if I decided to include graphics in my chapter headers or a lengthy Table of Contents? Or, like what happened in August 2013, what if I hire a professional editor to do a clean sweep of the manuscript, and then upload it again? (Disclaimer: I don’t plan on doing this.) Obviously big publishers don’t have to worry so much about these issues, but to the indie-market or smaller, it’s a very big deal. I feel terrible that my readers need to purchase a whole new copy of Viper’s Creed just to enjoy a reformatted version. And if they try to get store credit, it develops into a long, discouraging process.

Yes, it is partially my own fault. But if Amazon and Nook both offer this service, why not Kobo? I don’t think Kobo is intentionally trying to rip-off their customers, but they need to step up their game. They need to improve their system and find a way for readers to update their ebooks automatically. I’m sure I’m not the first author who needed to fix an error in their ebooks, and I’m sure their policies┬áhave frustrated many Kobo users across the board.

If you are a Kobo customer or fellow author/publisher who feels strongly about this, please contact their support and leave a complaint. I would suggest calling. With enough voices, Kobo will update their system eventually. In the end, I trust that Kobo wants to stay competitive in the ebook market, and offering less-than-standard services is a sure way to fail.