Just in time for the holidays and the company’s expansion to a local bookstore near you, Kobo has unveiled three new devices: two e-readers and a tablet computer.
Responding to the successful April launch of Barnes & Noble’s Nook with GlowLight, Kobo has built its own e-reader with a built in reading light, Kobo Glo. The device is a typical e-ink touch-screen device with a build in reading light and retails for $129.99, $10 less than the similar Nook device. (Specs for all three devices below.)
In an attempt to appeal to a thriftier consumer, Kobo will sell the Kobo Mini, a five-inch touch-screen e-ink e-reader for $79.99. By comparison, the least expensive Kindle e-reader, a six-inch device, is $79 but comes with “special offers” (ads that populate the screen when it’s not in use) and does not feature a touch-screen. It retails for $109 without the “special offers.”
Unlike slightly larger e-readers that can go without a charge for a month, the Mini has a two-week battery life. The Mini also features a removable backing that comes in different colors for the fashion-conscious reader.
The Arc is Kobo’s latest foray into the exploding tablet market. The device was built for readers, the company said, and features Tapestries, a Pinterest-like system that readers can use to “pin” their favorite books and other content to “tapestries.” A discovery engine built by Kobo then finds and suggests related content based on each reader’s “tapestries” – including websites, movies, television shows and, of course, books. The Arc will retail for $199.99 (eight gigabytes of memory) and $249.99 (16 gigabytes).
Kobo declined to release its next-generation tablet as the Vox 2 due to the device’s bad product reviews and poor brand equity.
“Given the poor reviews on the Vox, it seemed to be the right thing to do to not continue with that legacy,” said Kobo executive vice president and general manager of devices, Wayne White, who has been with the company for two months and comes most recently from Motorola. “It’s almost unfair to compare the Arc with the Vox. This is a greatly improved Android tablet and is just dramatically different from the ground up.”
In addition to a faster processor, better display and the latest version of the Google Android operating system, Kobo believes that the Tapestry feature will be a difference-maker for tablet-buyers who are focused on reading.
While other tablets seem to be in a race to retail for much less than $200, Kobo is content with the price point on its latest tablet.
The Arc is very well positioned in the marketplace given the specs,” said White. “We’re not trying to be all things to all people. We’re trying to build a product that book lovers love.”
While Kobo is featuring these new products for the holiday shopping season, the Kobo Touch will remain part of the company’s lineup, White said.
Kobo now operates in 190 countries and claims to have 10 million users. Its devices are sold in electronics retailers in the U.S., the UK, France and other countries, including Best Buy, Target, Argos, WHSmith, Fnac and others. Soon, these new devices will make their debut in independent bookstores across the U.S. due to a deal Kobo recently signed with the American Booksellers Association that makes it possible for indie bookshops to sell Kobo devices and e-books. Kobo also told Digital Book World that it would be announcing another significant U.S. retail partner before the end of the year.
Later today, Amazon is expected to announce its new line of e-readers and tablet computers at a special press conference in Santa Monica, Calif.
Dimensions: 120 mm by 11.5 mm by 189 mm
Weight: 364 g
Processor: Texas Instruments OMAP 4470, 1.5 GHZ (dual core)
Display: 7-inch HD; 1280 x 800 resolution; 215 ppi; 16.4 million colors
RAM: 1 gigabyte
Screen: IPS LCD — optimized for 178 viewing angles; damage-resistant glass
Connectivity: Wi Fi, micro USB, WiFi Direct
Storage: 8 gigabytes ($199.99); 16 gigabytes ($249.99)
Sensors: Accelerometer, ambient light sensor
Colors: Available in black or white; interchangeable backs in black or purple are also available
Software: Android 4.0
Price: $199.99 to $249.99
Dimensions: 113.9 mm by 157.4 mm by 10 mm
Weight: 185 g
Processor: Freescale, Solo 6 1 GHZ
Display: 6-inch e-ink XGA screen; 1024 x 768 resolution; 16-level grey scale
Light: Built-in ComfortLight technology
Screen: Non-glass touch-screen
Connectivity: Wi Fi, Micro USB
Storage: 2 gigabytes with room for a 32 gigabyte micro SD card
Battery: Over one month with Wi Fi and light turned off; 55 hours of continuous use with light on
Colors: Black, pink, blue, silver
Dimensions: 101.6 mm by 133.1 mm by 10.3 mm
Weight: 134 g
Processor: 800 MHZ processor
Display: 5-inch e-inch touch-screen; Vizplex V110 display; 16 level grey scale
Screen: Non-glass touch-screen
Connectivity: Wi Fi, micro USB
Storage: 2 gigabytes
Colors: Black and white; red, purple and teal interchangeable backs availalbe