International ebook retailer and device-maker Kobo has launched a new fleet of e-reading and tablet devices along with an ebook 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.
In addition to reboots of its seven-inch tablet and six-inch e-reader, Kobo has added a ten-inch tablet. The company is positioning itself as focused on reading experience, building in special features like “Reading Mode,” which allows, among other things, users to turn off notifications from other apps on its tablets.
Kobo also has launched a new book discovery tool dubbed “Beyond the Book,” which will help readers find new books via highlighted topics within books and content from across the Web.
The company has also expanded its content offerings, with a dedicated ebook store for children’s ebooks and an upgraded magazine reading experience called “Guided Reading,” a “one-tap” interface that the company says makes it easier to navigate through magazines on a tablet. Magazines publishers like Condé Nast, Hearst, Bauer and Reader’s Digest have all signed on as partners. The Kobo Kids store offers parents and children a selection of nearly 100,000 pieces of content and will give parents the ability to set up dedicated Kobo accounts for their children to control and monitor device usage.
Kobo has also launched a partnership with Web-to-device content aggregator Pocket. The partnership allows Kobo users to save articles from the Web and send them to a Kobo device for reading later. Amazon and others have had similar services for some time now.
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.”
Tamblyn added that Kobo is interested in focusing its customer acquisition and retention on those who have “reading at the center of their lives.”