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Indigo Books and Music

Indigo Books & Music Inc.
Type Public:
Traded as TSX: IDG
Industry Books
Founded 1996
Founders Heather Reisman
Headquarters Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Key people Heather Reisman (CEO)
Joel Silver (President)
Jim McGill (COO & CFO)
Revenue Increase $1.017 billion CDN (2011)
Operating income Decrease $(4) million CDN (2011)
Net income Decrease $11 million CDN (2011)
Total assets Decrease $516.180 million CDN (2011)
Employees 6,500 (2010),[1]
Indigo Kids.
Indigo Books, Music at the Yorkdale Shopping Centre
An Indigospirit store

Indigo Books & Music Inc. (stylised as !ndigo) is a Canadian retail bookstore chain.


  • History 1
  • Operations 2
  • Charitable activities 3
  • Kobo Inc. 4
  • Employee programs 5
  • Criticism and controversies 6
    • Product removal 6.1
    • Support of Israel by owners 6.2
    • Competitive position 6.3
  • See also 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9


The company was founded in 1996 by CEO Heather Reisman, wife of Gerry Schwartz, majority owner and CEO of Onex Corporation.

The company's first big box bookstore, initially called "Indigo Books, Music & More", was opened in Burlington, Ontario on September 4, 1997. With the aid of Onex Corporation, Indigo bought Chapters, their largest Canadian competitor, in 2001 and continuing to operate many stores under the Chapters banner. Indigo also gained the ownership of the Coles chain of small-format bookstores, which was also owned by Chapters.

Indigo closed three high-profile stores in Toronto in the spring of 2014, including the "World’s Biggest Bookstore", which it acquired when it bought Chapters. In June 2014, Reisman said the company was headed into a new phase, selling a much higher percentage of non-book items.[2]


The company sells books, magazines, CDs, DVDs, gifts, and toys through its website, and in its stores. Its banners currently include Indigo Books & Music, Chapters, and Coles, SmithBooks, IndigoSpirit, and Prospero-The Book Company (small format).

In recent years, Indigo has partnered with Apple and iUniverse publishing. Indigo also manufactures its own brand of products, called IndigoLife. In addition, the chain's Indigo Trusted Advisor Program offers book recommendations from experts in health, finance, and the environment, such as David Bach and David Suzuki.

Charitable activities

In 2004, Indigo started the Indigo Love of Reading Foundation, a program which helps provide new books and learning materials to high-needs elementary schools, enhancing the literacy and self-esteem of students. Indigo commits $1.5 million annually to schools across Canada.

The money is raised exclusively by Indigo customers, individual staff, and proceeds from Love of Reading fundraising products, such as plush toys and gift wrap. Indigo does not match funds or contribute itself. The schools then use 90% of this money to buy books from Indigo, Chapters, or Coles,[3] however Indigo claims it does not benefit from this.[4]

In 2007, the Indigo Love of Reading Foundation produced a documentary chronicling the issue of funding for books in Canadian elementary schools. The documentary Writing on the Wall recounts the establishment of the foundation, while revealing the current conditions of school libraries and literacy in Canada.[5]

Kobo Inc.

Kobo Inc., an e-reader platform and manufacturer, was founded and spun off of Indigo in November 2009.[6] By August 2011, the Kobo e-reading platform had become the dominant player in Canada, with research firm Ipsos Reid estimating that it represented 36% of the Canadian market as of that date.[7]

In November 2011, Japanese ecommerce company Rakuten purchased the company for US$315 million in cash.[8] Around fifty-eight percent of Kobo was owned by Indigo at the time of the purchase.[9]

Employee programs

Indigo was listed in the 2006 and 2007 edition of Canada's Top 100 Employers, as well as Greater Toronto's Top 50 Employers (2007).[10] This is due in part to a staff rewards program which includes benefits eligibility for both full-time and part-time employees. Indigo also offers a company matched RRSP program and yearly employee scholarships.

Criticism and controversies

Product removal

In 2001, Indigo removed Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf from the shelves.[11] In 2006, Indigo decided not to sell the June issue of Harper's Magazine, which reprinted the controversial cartoons of the Muslim prophet Muhammad that had led to violent demonstrations around the world.[12] Indigo also did not distribute the issue of Western Standard which reprinted and discussed those same cartoons.[13] The company has also reportedly refused to stock several titles by David Icke, and firearms magazines.[14]

Support of Israel by owners

In the summer of 2006, the company was targeted by social activists from NION and the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid. According to a report in This Magazine, CAIA advocated the boycott of Chapters/Indigo stores due to principals Reisman and Schwartz forming the Heseg Foundation for soldiers serving in the Israeli army that have no family living in the state of Israel. The article claimed Reisman and Schwartz donate $3 million a year to the Foundation.

Competitive position

The Indigo/Chapters chain has been criticized over what some perceive as a virtual monopoly over retail-based book sales in Canada. In 2002, the company strongly opposed the entry of Amazon into the Canadian marketplace with accusations the U.S.-based company was skirting regulations about foreign ownership of Canadian booksellers.[15]

Indigo has also been blamed for undermining the role of independent booksellers in Canada. The company was blamed by many in the Canadian publishing industry for the collapse of Lichtman's, once Canada's largest independent bookseller.[16]

See also


  1. ^ Indigo Books & Music Inc. 2010 Annual Report
  2. ^ Carol Toller (December 1, 2014). "How Indigo plans to become the world’s first “cultural department store”". Marketing Magazine. 
  3. ^ Indigo Love of Reading Foundation | Frequently Asked Questions - General. Retrieved on 2013-09-19.
  4. ^ "Indigo Love of Reading Foundation | Frequently Asked Questions - General". Retrieved 2012-12-13. 
  5. ^ Indigo | Writing on the Wall
  6. ^ "Rakuten to Acquire Kobo". Kobo blog. November 8, 2011. 
  7. ^ Barbour, Mary Beth (2011-11-08). "BlackBerry, Apple, Kobo Top Brands in Canada’s Mobile Device Market". Ipsos Reid. Retrieved 2011-12-17. 
  8. ^ Will Connors (November 9, 2011). "Rakuten to Buy Maker of Kobo E-Reader".  
  9. ^ J. O'Dell (November 8, 2011). "Kobo acquired: Japanese web retailer Rakuten paid $315M cash". VentureBeat. Retrieved December 3, 2014. 
  10. ^ "Reasons for Selection, 2007 Canada's Top 100 Employers". 
  11. ^ "Goodreports News Archive 4". Retrieved 2012-12-13. 
  12. ^ James Adams (May 27, 2006). "Indigo pulls controversial Harper's off the shelves".  
  13. ^ "A little more free speech, please". The Gazette. May 31, 2006. 
  14. ^ Eastern Ontario Firearm Club "Boycott Chapters" page
  15. ^ "CTV News | Top Stories - Breaking News - Top News Headlines". Retrieved 2012-12-13. 
  16. ^ "Lichtman's files for bankruptcy protection". CBC News. March 7, 2000. 

External links

  • Official website
  • Indigo Love of Reading Foundation website
  • Canadian Encyclopedia: Chapters Bid
  • Lockheed, Gordon (October 26, 2001). "Bookselling and Book Publishing in Canada, an emergency report |". Retrieved 29 August 2011. 
  • Publishers Weekly: Heather Reisman: "Cautiously, Respectfully Bullish"
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