And that is: Concern yourself with delivering value, not just book sales.
Having to edit the meta-info on several dozen books didn't exactly make my evening. Swallowing the fact that I could make only 20% off these books from here on out also didn't sit well. (That royalty rate is just above what I'd get if a traditional publisher signed me a contract.) It is better than not publishing at all, though.
After sleeping on it (and venting in a polite blog post) the reaction mellowed a bit.
Kobo is a single distributor. I know of at least seven other major players in this area. (Feedbooks would be another if their upload process weren't so antiquated.) If Kobo has decided to penalize self-publishing authors for public domain, it's still not as bad as Smashwords - who won't accept these at all. Meanwhile, Lulu will send your PD-based books direct to iTunes and B&N, while Amazon just makes you add "10 images" at a minimum. GooglePlay almost doesn't care what you upload. So, Kobo can move itself to the bottom of this heap if they want. It's free choice.
(Meanwhile, my income from Kobo has seldom been higher than other distributors. They beat B&N in volume, but not by much.)
[Update: Just found out that iTunes/B&N are now rejecting new public domain works. Seems to be a duplicate content script. Two more distributors out of the profit loop. See note below.]
You have to look at why we are doing this. Aside from having stories in your head screaming to get out, the primary reason for marketing is to improve someone's quality of living by allowing them to exchange something with you (money) for a valuable product of yours (books). The higher the book quality, the more they are likely to return for the next (or previous, or both) in that series. That means you get to help them some more.
The reasons for re-publishing public domain books are:
- They are still in demand, so the value is high.
- You are able to market them better to bring them to people who have not yet found that solution, but are looking. (More market out there.)
- Publishing books as a business plan allows you increased financial freedom of passive income so you can help even more people.
The point of this is that you have many different choices of where to publish your books.
You also have many formats. Lulu and Createspace will publish hardcopy versions for you. Leanpub will give you PDF's, .mobi, and epub versions. Convert it to an audiobook and upload to ACX for distribution. Your video versions have multiple outlets. PDF's can be sold on Scribd and in other venues (although Scribd has a nasty "duplicate filter" content which throws out public domain books they already have.)
Again, that's all mechanics.
What are you doing that will help people the most?
For me, that's converting these books into ecourses so that people can study them from their mailboxes, audio so they can listen on their commutes, video - if that's their preference, PDF so they can read it on any device.
The message behind the book is the help it can give to people to improve their lives.
Kobo? Maybe you want to simply do a book review with excerpts that then link to a page where they can get the full book from another distributor or in any format they want. That would fit Kobo's requirements nicely for public domain content.
The bottom line:
- What matches your production resources, and
- What format(s) are your readers needing that would help them the most?
[Update: My PD series I just published on Copywriting got summarily rejected after Lulu tried to push them to iTunes/B&N. I'll do another test to see if this is both of them, or just one. Regardless, it means that a quality derivative work is needed, not shortcut-versions. iTunes/B&N just went into the Smashwords category, leaving GooglePlay, Amazon, and Lulu on the top of the heap, Kobo in the middle.
It also means you are going to need to do a lot more of the heavy lifting in order to succeed at this profitably. Writing a quality book, with substantial value is the real method now. Blog your reviews of books, include the chapter(s) you are reviewing, and then publish based on that.
I'll do this with these dozen copywriting books and let you know...]