Borders Starts Selling the Kobo E-Reader

By  |  Friday, May 7, 2010 at 11:33 am

Borders is taking orders for the Kobo e-reader, a new device from a startup partially owned by the bookstore megachain. It says it’ll start shipping Kobos in June.

The most intriguing thing about the Kobo has nothing to do with its hardware, software, or service. It’s the price–at $149.99, it’s the cheapest e-reader yet that’s backed by a big brand. (Sony has been selling its Reader Pocket Edition for the same price, but it’s a sale that’s scheduled to end on Sunday.)

Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes & Noble’s Nook both go for $259. Both sport 3G wireless and other features that the Kobo skips in order to hit a low price point. (The Kobo doesn’t even have Wi-Fi–you buy books on a computer, then download them to the e-reader via USB.) But you gotta think that if Borders promotes the Kobo energetically enough, it’ll still put pressure on Amazon and B&N’s fancier rivals. There are already rumors of a cheaper, simpler “Nook Lite,” and I’d be startled if Amazon doesn’t do something to make the Kindle more affordable.

Then again, it’s not a given that Kobo will be a hit. Borders has sold Sony’s Readers in its stores for years, but hasn’t exactly pulled out all the stops–they’re displayed at  kiosks which usually look pretty lonely when I wander by them. Kobo gives the bookseller a second chance to get serious about the future of reading, and it’ll be interesting to see if it invests more energy in the idea this time around.

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