Shortcovers, the e-book store launched less than a year ago by Indigo Books & Music, made a big leap into the international e-book and e-reader race yesterday. Splitting off from its parent company Indigo with C$16 million in financing from Indigo, Borders Group, Instant Fame, a subsidiary of Cheung Kong (Holdings) Ltd., and REDgroup Retail Pty, the company is rebranding as Kobo and expanding its services.
Until now, Shortcovers has only sold content that could be downloaded to mobile devices, smartphones, computers and e-readers such as the Sony e-Reader, but it will now develop its own electronic reader. “Kobo will extend its platform by launching additional smartphone support, desktop and tablet apps, and its own dedicated eReader devices,” the company said.
Even with plans to launch its own e-reader, Kobo appears to be holding to Shortcovers’ principle that consumers should not be restricted to one device. “We have a unique opportunity to power the eReading revolution by reaching consumers everywhere they shop today, on any device they choose,” said Kobo CEO Michael Serbinis in a statement.
Kobo’s “device-neutral” approach may have been a factor in attracting the partnership with Borders. Ron Marshall, Borders Group CEO, commented in a release from his company that Borders shares Kobo’s vision of providing “any ebook on any device” and looked forward to working with Kobo on content and distribution. Kobo will power a Borders-branded e-bookstore on the Borders.com site that will offer all of Kobo's e-titles for sale on multiple devices. Currently, Borders e-books are sold through a co-branded site with Sony. Bestsellers will start at $9.99. In addition, Kobo will develop Borders's first apps which will allow customers to download e-books to a range of devices. Borders and Kobo plan to launch the new services in the second quarter of 2010. The e-readers being developed by Kobo will be offered to its partners, a Borders spokesperson said.
Indigo is still the majority shareholder in Kobo. Indigo CEO Heather Reisman commented: “We are very excited about the vision of Kobo and the opportunity to play a leading role in the emerging eReading revolution.We look forward to partnering on the introduction of new services and reading devices and to providing our customers with the richest eReading experiences.”
Kobo announced that its new partnerships give the company distribution in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., European Union, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong and other territories.
Launched in February 2009, Shortcovers had just marked its millionth download. Kobo’s announcement said it serves consumers in more than 200 countries. The company recently announced partnerships with Perseus Book Group and the Association of Canadian Publishers to make more books from independent publishers available, and a new partnership with Internet Archive promises to give users access more than 1.8 million free books. Kobo, according to a blog post from CEO Michael Serbinis, is an anagram for book and the company thought it was “catchy.”
Shortly after the Kobo announcement, Amazon issued a news release, stating that Canada had moved into the top five countries for Kindle book and device sales. Kindle entered Canada a bit later than other countries, but now as over 300,000 e-book titles for sale.