The consumer electronics market is ablaze with ereaders and the promise of tablet computing, so Kobo’s entry into the field at first blush doesn’t seem all that noteworthy: the Kobo eReader is your basic 6-inch ereader tablet with a d-pad style paging button, 1 GB of onboard memory, and Bluetooth connectivity: no color, no Wi-Fi, no 3G, and high-speed synchronization has to happen via USB. But what might let Kobo give some of the bigger names in the business a run for their money is their multi-platform support: Kobo has an app ready to go for the iPad, it’s already out on the iPhone, BlackBerry, webOS, and Android—as well as Windows and Mac OS X. Kobo is setting itself up to act as a storefront for electronic booksellers and as an ereader platform device makers can embed in their readers supporting ePub and PDF formats.
“We believe consumers want choice, and the freedom to read on any device,” said Kobo CEO Michael Serbinis, in a statement. “Our ‘Powered by Kobo’ program accelerates the time to market for manufacturers of new devices and delivers more options for consumers. By providing a world-class catalog, complementary mobile applications, and global infrastructure, partners can start selling ebooks in a matter of days.”
Kobo’s partners include U.S. bookseller Borders, along with Indigo Books & Music in Canada.
The first Kobo eReader is what the company envisions as the first in a series of devices: it offers 1 GB of storage, a 6-inch E Ink display, USB and Bluetooth connectivity…and that’s about it aside from a thoughtful non-slip rubber backing. However, Kobo envisions a broad ecosystem of devices and applications, and users will be able to sync their purchases and reading via their Kobo account across all of them. Kobo says its catalog encompasses more than 2 million ebooks, including bestsellers, newspapers, and magazines.
The Kobo eReader will be available “for a limited time” through Kobo’s retailer partners for $149, preloaded with 100 “classic books.”