Borders plans on joining the e-reader wars with its Kobo device, which will be priced at around $109 less than both Amazon.com's Kindle and Barnes & Noble's Nook e-reader. These companies find themselves in pitched battle against not only each other, but also the Apple iPad, which includes a robust e-reader application. Google also plans on selling e-books online as early as June, raising the specter of yet another aggressive competitor in the space. Borders is likely betting that its lower price will be a crucial differentiator, although it risks being left behind as the Kindle and Nook add features.
Chalk this one up under the category of "inevitable:"
Borders Group announced that it would release its own e-reader, the Kobo, on
June 17. That brings the bookseller into an e-reader market already occupied by
its rivals Amazon.com, which sells the Kindle, and Barnes & Noble, which
offers the Nook.
Borders, likely recognizing the crowded nature of that
market, decided to price the Kobo at $150, or roughly $109 cheaper than either
the Nook or Kindle. That price is also well below that of Apple's iPad, the
full-color tablet PC whose e-reader application makes it a substantial
competitor in the space.
The Kobo, which includes 1GB of memory and comes preloaded
with 100 free e-books, can display documents in ePub, PDF and Adobe DRM
formats. Navigation comes courtesy of a "D-pad," a four-way controller embedded
in the device's chassis. Users can sync their Kobo with "select smartphones"
wirelessly, via a Bluetooth connection, and to their PC with a USB cord.
Borders plans an e-book store with one million titles, which will also open
The growing popularity of e-readers, once termed a niche
item by analysts, has ignited something of a device race among manufacturers.
At this January's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, a number of companies
rolled out e-readers with any number of features, including touch-screen
capability, designed to differentiate them from the Kindle or Nook.
In response to that new bounty of devices, as well as the
challenge of the iPad, Amazon
recent announced plans to release a software update for its Kindle and Kindle
, termed Version 2.5. That update, which will be pushed to a limited
group of Kindle users before a broader release in late May, allows users to
share passages from e-books via Facebook and Twitter.
Not to be outdone, Barnes & Noble also recently unveiled
a software update for the Nook, including Android-based games such as Sudoku and
chess. Other new Nook features include beta versions of a Web browser and Read
In Store, which allows users to browse the retailer's library of e-books for
free at any Barnes & Noble location.
Both Amazon and Barnes & Noble offer their e-reader
software for a variety of other hardware devices, including the iPad. Despite
the fluidity of the e-reader marketplace, and the evident aggression of these
companies to expand onto any platform possible, the level of competition is
likely far from peaking: Google plans to begin selling electronic books online
as early as June, through
Google Editions will apparently let users read books from a
variety of devices, as well as allow publishers to set prices for the works.
That could help Google attract the loyalty of those companies, which have
negotiated fiercely with Amazon and Apple over book prices and revenues.
Whether the Kobo is lost among this clash of titans remains
to be seen.