Tag Archives | Kobo

Kobo to Apple: We’re Building Our Own HTML5 E-Bookstore

Apple’s new App Store policies–the ones I worried about when they were announced months ago–have kicked in. From now on, app makers who sell content such as books and music have two ways of making it available. They can use Apple’s In-App Purchase system to sell content within the app (giving Apple a 30 percent commission). Or they can sell it directly to consumers through their own venues, such as Web-based stores–but can include no mentions or links relating to that fact in the iOS app itself.

Many third-party developers are choosing one route or the other without any public fuss. Canadian e-book purveyor Kobo is being a tad more prickly. It’s updated its iOS app with a new version that meets the new rules–it lets you read books you’ve purchased, but provides no way to buy them or register for a Kobo account, nor any explanation of how to do so. But it’s also announcing plans to build an HTML5 e-reading app which will work in the iOS browser–and which it’ll control itself, with no requirement that it follow Apple’s rules. And the company’s chief iOS architect is detailing the Byzantine approval process which the Kobo app had to go through before Apple would finally approve it. (The essentially similar Borders app wasn’t forced to jump through as many hoops, a reminder of the biggest problem with App Store rules: they’re sometimes applied in an inconsistent, apparently arbitrary fashion.)

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I Own a "Vast Kindle Library," and I'm Worried

Today, I wanted to buy a book. I did what I usually do these days before I plunk down my money for one: I checked to see if it was available as an Amazon Kindle e-book–one which I’d be able read not only on a Kindle but also on an iPad, an iPhone, an Android phone, a Mac, or a PC. It was. My finger instinctively lunged towards the 1-Click button.

And then it dawned on me: With the recent development that Apple is going to require creators of e-reader apps to sell books using its in-app purchasing feature, it’s not the least bit clear what the fate of Kindle books on Apple devices will be. (Apple says that as long as e-readers support in-app purchases, they’ll be able to retain access to digital books bought elsewhere–even though this violates the App Store approval guidelines.)

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E-Readers: They're All Selling Like an Unspecified Number of Hotcakes!

Back in August, I wrote about Amazon.com’s odd habit of frequently bragging about sales of its Kindle e-reader without ever providing explicit numbers. It continues to do so–and it’s inspired its competitors to do some similarly evasive crowing of their own.

Barnes & Noble issued a press release today that it had sold “millions” of Nooks since the first version’s release in December of 2009. But it mostly bragged about Nook sales without disclosing them, by saying that Nooks are the company’s best-selling products ever, and that the Nookcolor is its best-selling gift this holiday season.

Barnes & Noble, Inc. (NYSE: BKS), the world’s largest bookseller, today announced that with millions of NOOK eReading devices sold, the line has become the company’s biggest bestseller ever in its nearly 40-year history.  The new NOOKcolor Reader’s Tablet, introduced just eight weeks before Christmas, is the company’s number one selling gift of the holiday season. Barnes & Noble also announced that it now sells more digital books than its large and growing physical book business on BN.com, the world’s second largest online bookstore.

[snip]

Demand for the critically acclaimed NOOKcolor remained high following the product’s introduction in late October through the holidays. Sales have continued to exceed the company’s high expectations.

The only hard number in the release is the “millions” of Nooks sold; we can apparently assume that B&N has sold at least two million devices. (A few weeks ago, it was a minor news story when an Amazon staffer said that “millions” of third-generation Kindles had been sold in 73 days; I wonder if B&N would have been even this specific if Amazon hadn’t made the leap first?)

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E-Reader Price Wars: Kobo Tries to Keep Up

When cool products cost a lot of money, there’s plenty of opportunity for other manufacturers to introduce less-cool competitors–or ones with fewer features, at least–at lower prices. But what happens when the cool products get radically cheaper? We’re seeing that entertaining scenario play out in the e-reader market.

When bookstore behemoth Borders announced in March it would start selling a basic reader called the Kobo for $150, it was $110 less than the Kindle and Nook. And even though it didn’t have a 3G connection–it made you buy books on a computer and sync them via USB–it was a deal.

But then Barnes & Noble set off e-readers price wars by cutting the price of the Nook from $259 to $199 and introducing a $149 Wi-Fi-only model. Amazon knocked the Kindle’s price down to $189 a few hours later–and last week, it shipped the third-generation Kindle in both a $189 3G model and a $139 Wi-Fi only one.

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Borders Sort of Responds to the E-Reader Price Wars. You Out There, Sony?

As of Sunday night, the Kobo e-reader sold by Borders was a $150 gadget that dramatically undercut the $259 pricetag on Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes & Noble’s Nook. Then B&N cut the Nook’s price to $199 and introduced a $149 model, and Amazon responded by knocking the Kindle down to $189. The Kobo is still a cheap e-reader, but not strikingly so–especially considering that it has neither a 3G connection nor Wi-Fi.

So Borders has taken action, but not in the form of a straight price reduction: It’s including a $20 gift card with purchase of the Kobo, reducing the effective cost of the e-reader to $129. I don’t think Kobo matters enough (at least not yet) for Amazon or B&N to feel forced to react to this price cut. But I suspect that before all the product introductions and price reductions are done with, we’ll see three standard price points for e-readers: $200 or thereabouts for 3G models, $150 or thereabouts for slightly less fancy ones, and $99 or thereabouts for basic models that you might still plausibly want to own.

Still to be heard from: Sony, whose $169.99 Reader Pocket Edition and $199.99 Reader Touch Edition are now a tad pricey–and whose already-big-ticket $349.99 Daily Edition is totally out of whack with the e-reader economics that Barnes & Noble and Borders established yesterday,


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Borders Starts Selling the Kobo E-Reader

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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Kobo’s Cheap E-Reader Headed for Borders

In the era of the iPad, there are two paths that the still-nascent gadgets known as e-readers can take. They can try to take the iPad on head-to-head by adding fancy color touch screens and new features that go beyond reading. Or they can get even simpler and even cheaper, until it’s unlikely that it’ll even occur to anyone to compare them to the iPad.

At the MobileFocus event in Las Vegas last night, digital book purveyor Kobo was showing its first hardware device–and it’s definitely the latter sort of e-reader. At $150, it may not be the cheapest e-reader to date, but it’s the least expensive one I know of that’s going to be widely available and have a serious digital bookstore. (Sony’s low-end Reader has held that distinction; it’s $200, but is currently on sale for $170.)

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