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Kobo eReader Touch Edition adds page turns, virtual keyboard

The ereader market is going to get more competitive just in time for Father’s Day and the summer vacation reading season, with Kobo announcing its new Kobo eReader Touch Edition. The new reader keeps the quilted back and 6-inch E Ink display of its forerunners, but adds NeoNode zForce infrared touch technology so users can flip pages, intuitively browse books and their libraries, and type on a virtual keyboard. The Kobo eReader Touch Edition also features a Freescale 508 processor under the hood for faster graphics performance and features like predictive text input. The touchscreen idea might be borrowed from Sony’s ereaders, but Kobo’s target is clear: Barnes & Noble’s Nook series, and (of course)’s Kindle.

Kobo eReader Touch Edition

“We started with a simple, yet powerful idea—to bring ereading to more people in more places, and inspire people around the world to spend more time reading,” said Kobo CEO Michael Serbinis, in a statement. “This is the first eReader you can put in your pocket, take with you anywhere, and read for hours just like a real book, with ultimate comfort and no distraction.”

The namesake feature of the Kobo eReader Touch Edition is infrared touchscreen technology from Neonode, enabling a new interface for the ereader. Users can flip pages by swiping, look up a word using a press-and-hold technique, highlight a phrase, zoom into PDFs, adjust font size, and quickly navigate a book or their library without having to resort to buttons. Users do all this on a 6-inch E Ink Pearl display—which reads like paper and is usable in full sunlight, just like other E Ink displays—but is made more responsive with a Freescale 508 processor. The Touch Edition also features 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi and USB connectivity (to tap into Kobo’s bookstore of more than 2.3 million titles). The Touch Edition comes with 1 GB of built-in storage, and can store up to 30,000 books with 32 GB of removable SD card storage.

Kobo also worked on the design of their eReader, working with IDEO to create a travel-friendly ereader with a single “home” button and a selection of colors for the quilted back—black, blue, lilac, and silver.

Pre-orders for the Kobo eReader Touch Edition are available now from a variety of U.S. and Canadian retailers; suggested retail prices are $129.99 in the U.S. ($10 under Amazon’s current price for the Kindle) and $139.99 in Canada. Kobo says the eReader Touch Edition will ship in “early June” in time for Fathers’ Day and (some) graduation gift-giving. Effective today, Kobo is also officially dropping the price of its previous Kobo Wireless eReader to $99.99 ($109.99 in Canada)—although they were already going for that price at some retailers.

Kobo eReader Touch Edition

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