For manufacturers of e-readers, these are tumultuous times. On the one hand, Apple has sold more than 1 million iPad devices, which indicates a good deal of life in the portable market. On the other hand, Apple has sold more than 1 million iPad devices, and maybe people aren't looking to add yet another tablet computer to their gadget arsenal.
Enter the Borders Kobo. If you pay any attention to the book publishing industry, then you probably know that Borders has seen its fortunes fall mightily in recent years, more so even than Barnes & Noble, which recently launched an e-reader called the Nook. With the Kobo, pictured at left, Borders appears to be acknowledging what plenty of smart folks have already acknowledged: The future of reading, to a large extent, lies online.
Some details: The Kobo will sell at $149.99, undercutting the Barnes & Noble Nook and the Amazon Kindle, which both sell for about $260. (By comparison, the cheapest Apple iPad retails for $500; then again, the iPad also plays videos and graphics-heavy games.) Borders says the Kobo, which launches on June 17, will come preloaded with 100 "classic" books, so readers can fire the thing up and start reading, straight out of the box.
According to Borders, the Kobo will be "platform agnostic." This means that the 1 million-plus books available on the Borders e-book store will be accessible on the Kobo, but also on the PC, the iPad, and via iPhone, BlackBerry, and Android apps. The Nook and Kindle currently have ways of accessing their proprietary e-books on most of those platforms.
"We are giving consumers the flexibility to read the content they want on a variety of devices of their choosing. The Borders eBook store will be positioned as a device-agnostic, content-focused destination with expertise from decades of deep book knowledge and experience," Borders Group Interim President Mike Edwards says in a statement.
We're going to hold fire on an evaluation until we actually see something more than a photograph of the Borders Kobo. But the math sounds right to us: A relatively cheap e-reader, and e-books with a good deal of platform openness. How does it sound to you? Or maybe you're already a Kindle or iPad or Nook owner. Drop us a line in the comments section and let us know.