Kobo Stupidity

Anyone who has ever heard me rant about online ebook booksellers’ closed system (yes, I am talking to you Amazon) knows I think the way we are currently selling ebooks is ridiculous, immoral and dangerous. When I first started reading ebooks I almost gave up because I couldn’t figure out why my well-established sense of book ownership was being thrown away in the new commerce of ebooks. It was as if the booksellers/publishers were trying to lease me books rather than sell them to me. At one pint (although I am not sure if it is still true or not) Amazon was able to erase purchased books from your library without any permission at all.

I got over it, and with the help of Calibre, I set up a DRM-free system that allowed me to ‘sideload’ all my purchases to all my ereaders, iPhones and iPads and eventually to my Android-based Nexus 7. All I had to do was avoid Amazon (because they are a closed-system fount of evil) and iBooks (because their drm was too hard to crack).

I bought everything I could direct (and drm-free) from Baen and eventually settled on Kobo as my goto source of ‘other’. Recently Tor has joined the ranks of drm-free publishers and so now 90% of my purchases I don’t even need to strip the drm.

Well as of this week that has changed. For the worse. I bought Hawk, a new Vlad Taltos book from Steven Brust on the Kobo website as was my usual pattern but when I went to my Kobo library there was no way to download the actual file. The download link was gone. I did a bunch of googling but couldn’t see that anyone else had the same problem so I figured it was a glitch. After I got no response from Kobo’s auto-help mail form, I eventually broke down and called. I got some half-ass explanation that it was an epub3 file and that I would have to use the Reader for Mac app that my Sony (something I de-installed ages ago) came with or read it on a proprietary Kobo app. Uh, no… I don’t think so.

The follow up email they sent me:

Dear Sir,

Thank you for contacting Kobo Customer Care. It was our pleasure assisting you today.

You contacted us today as you could not download a book (“Hawk”) from the website. We apologize for the inconvenience this may have caused.

This is due to the fact that this book is in a specific format (ePub3). You can only download it via the software “Reader for Mac”.

To sign in using your Kobo account, Click on “Edit” >> “Preferences” >> “Account” >> “Sing in”

Should you have further concerns, you may visit our HELP section online at www.kobobooks.com/help. Or call us at:1 (800) 368-5390

For your records, here is your Reference Number: xxxxxxxxx

Thank you.


The Kobo Team

I looked at Reader for Mac later and it had no such Edit::Preferences etc. Of course the software I have is years old as it resides on the e-reader itself. Sony Bookstore is defunct so I doubt there are any updates available. And I couldn’t be bothered.

Now that I knew what I was looking for the Google hits came fast and furious. Seem Tor, for some unknown reason, has begun to package their ebooks as epub3 files. When submitted to Kobo, Kobo then auto-converts them to a proprietary kepub format that is not downloadable. No one seems to know why Tor or Kobo are doing this and apparently if I went to another retailer I would be able to download the epubs easily enough. That didn’t help me as I had already forked out the $11 for the book and shouldn’t have to pay again for something I already owned.

The Digital Reader.com provided a solution. So it seems if you install the Kobo Desktop App and then download the file, you can then install a plugin called Obok (here is the  download link from the digital reader site) in Calibre and be able to import the ebook files that way. Didn’t work. Other books I had purchased from Kobo showed up but not Hawk. But a bit of comment reading showed that the issue was that Hawk was already DRM free so the plugin didn’t work. But is seems the kepub files had been downloaded to //Users/admin/library/application support/kobo/kobo desktop edition/kepub/ (on my Mac) and I merely needed to copy the file from that (hidden) directory and add the .epub ending to get my book.

This however means I have to use terminal and command line since the files are hidden. After a bunch of screwing around I came up with this:
cp -r //Users/admin/library/application\ support/kobo/kobo\ desktop\ edition/kepub/ /users/admin/documents/my\ books/

This copies the contents of the kepub folder to my Documents/My Books folder in the admin account I usually use. Then I manually added the .epub and imported the book into Calibre. Worked like a charm.

As for Kobo, I am very likely to go elsewhere because this is nonsense and I shouldn’t have to read my books in their ecosystem for no other reason than they are trying to force me to use them as my sole provider of reading material. I will likely fire off an email to Tor as well as there is no apparent reason for this file format.

Find the solution and the comments here:the-digital-reader.com/2014/09/25/download-kobo-ebooks-including-ones-wont-allow/