E-books: Kobo’s bid to kill Kindle

Indigo launches its new e-book, but the online store is the real attraction.

Forgive the folks at Kobo, Indigo’s e-book spin-out, for being in a celebratory mood last week. The morning after Apple approved Kobo’s e-book app and bookstore for the iPad, Kobo began pre-sale of its own e-reading device. Staffers at the company’s Toronto offices organized a betting pool over how many orders they’d receive the first day. At $149, it’s the lowest priced e-reader yet to hit the market, and if that price point comes with concessions – there’s no 3G wireless connectivity – Kobo hopes it appeals to customers who want a no-frills, dedicated reading device. But the Kobo eReader is really a sidebar to the company’s plans; like Google’s Nexus One phone, it’s intended to showcase Kobo’s e-reading software and e-book store. Also launched last week was the Powered By Kobo platform, which will see the company’s bookstore and reading application offered on a host of new third-party e-readers, and in a few weeks, Kobo will start announcing partnerships with hardware manufacturers beyond the e-reader category. “E-books, just like music and other forms of digital content, are going to wind up everywhere,” says Kobo CEO Michael Serbinis. “Sometimes they won’t even look like books. We want those different devices to be powered by Kobo, and this [device] is really a way to showcase that power.”