Kobo, the newly independent incarnation of Canadian Indigo Books & Music’s e-bookstore Shortcovers, has announced that it is developing applications for Windows 7, Android and additional operating systems, which will make Kobo’s service available for tablet and slate computers in February.
Anticipating that 2010 will be “the year of the tablet,” Kobo CEO Michael Serbinis said in a release that “we are working with major OEMs [original equipment manufacturers] to ensure that Kobo apps are made available on those devices.” Michael Tamblyn, executive v-p, content, sales and merchandising of Kobo said, “One of the reasons that we’re so excited about the tablet space in general is because we see that as another class of devices that people are going to have around with them a lot.”
The idea that readers should be able to switch between devices with their library following them is “fundamental to how Kobo operates,” Tamblyn said. The company supports open standards like ePUB format, which allows readers to read on any device. Asked if this flexibility would be a competitive advantage, Charlie Sorrel, who writes in Wired.com’s Gadget Lab column told PW, “Standards are good for the customer and for the hardware maker. This is why the iPod did so well -- it played MP3s from the start.”
However, Sorrel added, the problem for Kobo is the catalogs of books offered and ease of use. “As the iPod/iTunes store proved, people don't care about open formats until its too late. The general public (the market for e-readers) will just go to Amazon because buying is easy, and the catalog is fairly good. They might finally realize their mistake when they want to put their Kindle books on another device.”
Tamblyn said Kobo’s system of managing readers’ libraries makes switching between devices easy. “If you switch from an iPhone to a Blackberry, you log back into your Kobo account and all of the books that you read, or have read, or are reading show up there in your reading list and you can dive into the most recent book…. And you are back at the page where you were when you left.”
This, Sorrel agrees, is a plus. “Whispersync [which synchronizes information between different Kindles] is one of the best aspects of the Kindle. An e-reader already divorces the text from its traditional physical home - the book - and syncing between devices takes this even further. If the text is DRM [digital rights management] free, being able to pick up where you left off, on any device you pick up, is a wonderful feature.”
Kobo currently offers more than 2 million titles; 1.8 million of which are books in the public domain.