November 9, 2011

Kobo Acquired for $315 Million

Exciting news for ebook readers this week as Kobo is acquired by Japanese ecommerce firm Rakuten for $315 million. If you’ve not used Kobo before, in my opinion it has all of the elegance you’d want in a reading app.

Having struggled with, and flipped between iBooks and Kindle for iPad, I think that Kobo is fast becoming a worthy adversary for these juggernauts.

To give it some credit, iBooks has a nice interface but it lacks just about everything else. It’s clunky and unresponsive and as with all Apple products you find that buying anything from the iTunes store has a huge price mark up. Importing anything into your library that’s not in the standard ePub format is a no go, book choices are limited, and I’ve often found that ebook re-releases have been so rushed that they often arrive littered with typos. I’d like to think that when I’m paying £7 for a book a sub editor has at least glanced over it before sending it to be published.

Kindle for iPad used to be my ‘go to’ app for reading because simply has a wider selection of books, priced more reasonably than its competitors. Unfortunately, what you lack with this app is the beautiful interface, it just looks ugly and dare I say it slightly tacky. Annoyingly it also doesn’t have the cute when-you-turn-page-feels-like-using-a-real-book function, which might not seem like a big deal to you, but I enjoy that feeling of satisfaction I get when I make a page in iBooks curl at the edges. It adds to the reading experience.

So now we have Kobo, a cleaner more sophisticated design conscious app that allows for better customisation and more importantly sharing. Everyone at some point has bought a book that they’ve never read but left strewn on a coffee table somewhere. Always in the hope that someone would stumble across it before turning to you and saying something like “Kafka? Gosh, you’re so clever and cool and good looking”. With Kobo, you can pretend to read books and tweet your progress so that people will know how clever and cool and awesome you are. Or you could actually read them, but either way, the social tie in is a good one and I love the idea of tweeting my reading progress (though perhaps, my followers not so much…?) You can also earn reading badges and awards much like Foursquare.

If the iPad is slightly out of your price range, Kobo also offers an affordable range of eBook readers that should hopefully rival the Kindle. It also has huge online store that stocks over 2.5 million titles which are priced similarly to those on

Hopefully the Rakuten acquisition will mean even bigger and brighter things for Kobo, as I’d hate to see a great concept and company start to flounder under new management. Personally I think that Kobo has legs and can’t wait to see what comes of this after the dust has settled.