Kobo aims for a slice of the tablet market

By: Gadjo Sevilla

November 22, 2011

Text and photos by Gadjo Cardenas Sevilla

Toronto-based eBook reader company Kobo has introduced the Kobo Vox which is an eBook reader with social graces and an eye on the emerging tablet market.

Kobo CEO Mike Serbinis launches the Kobo Vox

Kobo (which recently got acquired for a  $315 million by Japanese web retailer Rakuten) is geared to compete against the Kindle Fire and the Barnes & Noble Nook Colour which are similar eReader Android tablet hybrid devices.

Being a Canadian company, Kobo’s colour offerings work in Canada while Barnes & Noble and Amazon are limited to the US market. Kobo is also making a bid for a global presence starting with Europe and Asia.

Kobo currently offers 2.5 million ebooks for sale, most of which cost significantly less than their hardbound or paperback counterparts.

“The Kobo Vox was designed for today’s connected consumers,” said Michael Serbinis CEO of Kobo. “Finding new books is best done through trusted sources and friends. With Kobo Vox  our customers can not only discover new books by connecting with other readers, but also share their insights in real time.”

Currently available  for $199, the Kobo Vox  eReader brings the best features of a standalone eReader and 7-inch Android tablet.

In terms of look and feel, it is very similar to the BlackBerry PlayBook although substantially lighter and unlike the BlackBerry PlayBook, it offers a built-in email client. Kobo is also the only eReader company that has tie ins with Facebook as part of

As an Android tablet running Gingerbread (Android 2.3), many of the more important apps are present so browser, mail and multimedia (RDIO streaming music) as well as games and other social media apps. Kobo offers its own Android Marketplace for apps but will not run the entire gamut of tablet applications.

During the event we tried to acquaint ourselves with the device but the WiFi signal was weak and since many apps had been open on the demo units, they felt somewhat laggy. Testing it some days later in an Indigo bookstore, we found that the Kobo Vox was just as responsive as 7-inch tablets running the phone version of Android.

One of the unique features of the Kobo Vox is called Pulse which can determine when other users are reading the same book and get realtime statistics such as what passages were most highlighted and what people

“With Kobo Pulse we are capturing the zeitgeist of every book in the world, and enabling readers to be a part of it, to contribute to the life of the book, while reading,” said Kobo CEO Michael Serbinis in a statement. It will be interesting to see if Kobo Vox can capture part of the tablet market this holiday season.


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