Kobo Aims at “People with Reading at the Center of Their Lives”

In News by Dennis Abrams

The Aura HD, though pricey, represents 25% of Kobo's sales.

The Aura HD, though pricey, represents 25% of Kobo’s sales.

By Dennis Abrams

Digital Book World reports that “international e-book retailer and device-maker Kobo has launched a new fleet of e-reading and tablet devices along with an e-book store for children and a partnership with content aggregator Pocket — all aimed at helping Kobo win the fight for ‘people who have reading at the center of their lives,” according to Kobo chief content officer, Michael Tamblyn.”

Not only are the six and seven inch tablets seeing reboots, but Kobo has added a ten-inch tablet. Which means, according to DBW, that the company is positioning itself as being focused on the reading experience, especially with features such as “Reading Mode,” which allows the user, among other things, to turn off notifications from other apps on its tablets to keep distractions at a minimum.

But beyond that, Kobo has launched a new book discovery tool called “Beyond the Book,” designed to help users find new books “via highlighted topics within books and content from across the Web.”

There will also be a new e-book store for Kobo Kid’s Books, which Shelf Awareness says will offer “parents the ability to set up dedicated accounts for their children, set spending allowances and reading goals, pre-select e-books and adjust search settings to keep their kids reading safely. The company has also expanded its children’s selections to almost 100,000 titles.”

Shelf Awareness adds that “Kobo has also signed a number of magazine publishers and will showcase their titles using the Guided Reading experience, which replaces panning and zooming around a page with a one-tap interface.

“With magazines joining our e-bookstore, a new kids experience and the best e-reading devices possible, we will help readers find more of what they love — taking them beyond the book,” said Kobo CEO Michael Serbinis.”

Digital Book World says that, “The sweeping upgrade for the ebook retailer and device-maker across its business is part of an effort to help it build market-share in the U.S. and to continue to expand globally, according to Kobo executive vice president and manager of devices, Wayne White. The company is thought to have ebook sales market share of somewhere around 3% in the U.S. In Canada, where the company is based, it is thought to be a market-share leader. The company sells ebooks in over 190 countries and devices in several dozen.

“The new devices are an expression of our fanatical dedication to the passionate reader. So every device we put out comes from trying to understand that reader better,” said Tamblyn, the chief content officer, adding about the company’s competitors, Barnes & Noble, Amazon and Apple, “we have the advantage of being a company that focuses only on one thing, which is how to sell ebooks and sell them well — on devices, through apps and on the Web. It’s a clarity of purpose that none of our competitors really have. We don’t have to worry about a legacy retail business, or selling ebooks in the context in many things, or as one small adjunct of a great, big hardware business. We succeed if we make readers happy and that’s where we compete.”

About the Author

Dennis Abrams

Dennis Abrams is a contributing editor for Publishing Perspectives, responsible for news, children's publishing and media. He's also a restaurant critic, literary blogger, and the author of "The Play's The Thing," a complete YA guide to the plays of William Shakespeare published by Pentian, as well as more than 30 YA biographies and histories for Chelsea House publishers.