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Boycott Kobo Ebooks and Save the Elephants

With effect from today, I am opting out of the distribution of my ebooks into Kobo ebook stores from Smashwords. Kobo is owned by Japanese ecommerce giant Rakuten. Rakuten made the news this week when it announced that it was ending the sale of whale meat through its websites. This is good news. But Rakuten remains the world's biggest marketplace for elephant ivory products, with approximately 28,000 ivory listings on its core Japanese site.

As reported in the Guardian (18 March, 2014), "Rakuten's ads are effectively as deadly as giving bullets to elephant poachers and harpoons to whalers," said Environmental Investigation Agency's president, Allan Thornton. "[It] must act immediately to ban all ads selling elephant and whale products, or its global brand will be irrevocably tainted with the ongoing mass slaughter of these species."

Boycott Kobo

While closing off any distribution route for my work may be commercially damaging, I don't want to endorse or profit from the trade in ivory. Ireland's biggest bookselling chain, Eason, sells only ebooks supplied by Kobo but I will forgo sales through Eason's website if it means sending a message to Rakuten. The survival of elephants is more important than the sale of my ebooks.

My ebooks will continue to be available in all other ebook channels, including Apple, Amazon and Barnes and Noble. I urge all independent ebook publishers to withdraw their works from sale on Kobo until Rakuten ends the sale of ivory products. To do this, just log in to your Smashwords Dashboard, choose Channel Manager, then click on Opt out for each title under Kobo. Save changes and your ebooks will be withdrawn from Kobo at next scheduled channel update. I also urge anyone who's thinking of buying an ebook reader to avoid Kobo ereaders (and Sony ereaders, as they link directly to the Kobo ebookstore) and instead choose an ereader that links to an ebook ecosystem that doesn't contribute to the slaughter of elephants.

Without marketplaces for ivory products, there will be no point in slaughtering elephants. In refusing any association with ivory marketplaces we, as ebook publishers and consumers, have the power to say that some things are more important than the mindless pursuit of profit.

Gary J Byrnes, 4 April, 2014



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