Kobo and Kindle Announcements: The morning after …

TeleRead did a great job bringing you all the news from the Kobo and Kindle press events yesterday. Now that the dust has settled a little, how are people feeling about the new stuff on its way? A few trends I feel are worth commenting on:

GEOGRAPHY MATTERS

I personally think the Kindle is a superior product to the Kobo, but in this area of technology, geography matters. The Kobo is a much, much bigger deal in Canada and many international markets than it is in the United States, and that should not be underestimated. Every single person I know who owns a Kobo only bought one because, when they decided they wanted an e-book reader, they went to the bookstore … and Kobo readers were what they had.

Yes, you can buy some models of the Kindle at Best Buy and other electronic stores. But people go to electronics store to buy electronics; they go to bookstores to buy books. Being the one who is co-branded with Canada’s largest bookstore chain has given Kobo a huge edge in gaining the market share here.

And of course, now that so many Canadian readers are used to the Kobo interface, and are buying their books from the Kobo store, and are experimenting with some of Kobo’s better proprietary features—like the reading stats—they are quite happy to stay with Kobo …

FEATURES MATTER MORE THAN THEY USED TO

Back in the old days, when all you could do was read, people didn’t care so much about one brand or another. But now that more robust features are becoming available—and some of them proprietary at that—people are starting to shop for them.

My sweetie was happy as a clam with his Kobo Touch a week ago, but now that all the new stuff is coming, he’s eying the Kobo Glo. The lit screen, to him, is worth the upgrade. He’ll buy it just for that. Similarly, I have chosen to upgrade in the past for features like text to speech, multilingual dictionary support and even form factor.

The Kobo Mini is very enticing to me because I’ve been battling RSO RSI (Repetitive Stress Injury) issues after a summer of reading on the iPad, and I’d love a tiny and lightweight reader. I still think the Kobo UI needs work, and I loathe their iOS app, so I’m on the fence. But having something with this form factor definitely interests me, and if I play with one in the store, I could possibly be enticed …

FOR SERIOUS READERS, THESE ARE GLORIOUS DAYS

Instant dictionary lookup. On-the-fly word and sentence translation. Seamless Wikipedia integration. Reading stats. Estimations for reading time that customize based on your actual pace. Five-thousand books on one pocket-sized gizmo. Start reading (or listening!) on one device, and resume later on another.

If you’d predicted any of this to Little Kid Joanna, it would have seemed like a Star Trek episode. Regardless of whether one prefers this brand or that, a Kobo or a Kindle or a Nook, a tablet or a dedicated reader, there is some very cool stuff happening. I can’t wait to see what’s next!

14 Comments on Kobo and Kindle Announcements: The morning after …

  1. “Every single person I know who owns a Kobo only bought one because, when they decided they wanted an e-book reader, they went to the bookstore … and Kobo readers were what they had.”

    Just so you know, I had to drive pass ten book/electronic stores carrying Kindles, Sony’s and Nooks to find the one bookstore that had a Kobo Touch in stock when I first bought mine.

  2. fbr: if the stores were carrying NOOKs, you weren’t in Canada. That’s the whole point of the “Geography Matters” section of this article: different readers are popular in different countries, and Kobo is very popular in Canada.

  3. Availability is everything. I prefer Kindle to Kobo too and am very disappointed that the Kindle Paperwhite is only available in the US.

    I would love to know how many sales Amazon will lose to Kobo because Kobo truly are *international* and release in multiple markets worldwide at the same time.

    Four to six months later in international markets is far too long in the tech world, particularly when new devices are rolling out in less than 12 months. People move on.

  4. Features matter more than they used to because a bigger portion of the sales are going to people who already have ebook readers. The upgrade market is becoming as important as (more than?) the entry level readers. Two years ago, it was all about the entry level and people getting their first readers.
    Once people have experience with ebook readers they figure out what matters to them and there is more room for experimentation and product differentiation. With any kind of luck we’ll have a few interesting readers to choose from in another year or so.

  5. I agree with Joanna: Geography plays a very important part in ereader marketshare in different regions. Amazon finally introduced Kindle ebooks in Italy, France, Germany, Spain (or was that one earlier?) and probably some more European countries last year. But unlike when they introduced them in the US, they encountered already existing, albeit modest, ebook vendors.
    I went to Germany and France last winter and in France, all I could see were Kobos at Fnac, and all kind of outdated readers in Germany. Over there, so many users don’t even know that there is a way one can get ebooks without the need of a computer! I read ereader reviews where this most important feature that Amazon has over the readers sold in German book and electronic stores was never even mentioned by the professional reviewers. Instead, they go on and on about how easy it is to purchase a book: just download to your computer and, with Adobe software, transfer it to your reader. Unbelievable.

    Have a look at the “hottest” trends in Germany’s number one book stores:
    http://www.hugendubel.de/1/ebook/ebook.html
    http://www.thalia.de/shop/ereader_start/show/?flyout=a_eReader

    And Kobo’s French succes – only reader in this electronics store:
    http://www.fnac.com/Livre-electronique/shi137559/w-4?SID=b8e9ff0a-8890-f7ce-883d-524d588b8ef6&UID=0C046AB40-FD02-5414-25E3-414FB3634BF0&Origin=FnacAff&OrderInSession=0&TTL=070320130412#bl=MMtmg

  6. PS: I used the Kindle as an example over the Kobo, because, while Kobo books can be bought from the device itself, their foreign language offering is pathetic. I could not even find the Hunger Games in the German store. Instead, I get over 4000 hits of all kinds of books, very often in English.
    http://www.kobobooks.de/search/search.html?q=Tribute+von+panem

  7. Geography really matters. Here in Spain Kindles are available only on web, no physical stores, so Sony has a good market, because people not used to buy asking in forums can play with the device before buying. Sony is really doing a crappy job, they aren’t interested in selling e-readers leaving the stores out of stock (the 650 model was most search for device two Christmas ago, most stores only had the sample device) From what I’ve seen here in Europe, that’s the reason Sony is still in the e-reader market.
    For people like me who has been owning an e-reader for some years, and are a bit geek, the knew devices with more resolution and built-in light are tempting, but for now I’m not upgrading because of what I loose: The touch screen is handy for dictionary look-up and highliting, but I really like the buttons on the two sides of the reader for page turning, it’s one of the deal breakers for me about my Nook. Also, I like to carry my whole library with me, and the library management software when you have thousands of books is not so good, maybe the Kindle is better for that, but once Amazon kick me out of Mobipocket books, I’ve turn to epub. My upgrading device must have access to the Android market so I can install the reader program of my choice, that integrate with Calibre so I have access to the description of the book and the series information.

  8. Doug: I understand many people are frustrated with geographical limitations. The point I was trying to make was simply, I bought a Kobo as a matter of a preference rather than a lack of choice.

    The sentence clearly implies Kobo buyers who bought Kobo’s only bought them due to limited choice. That was not the case for me nor for many others. She starts the article stating her preference for the new Kindle over the new Kobo. Based on what? A thorough review of their marketing material?

    It’s hard to take an article seriously when its obvious it’s simply a collection of generalized impressions.

  9. “The Kobo Mini is very enticing to me because I’ve been battling RSO issues after a summer of reading on the iPad” — what’s RSO?

  10. FBR, as I note in the article, I am referring to Kobo customers I know who purchased in Canada. You, in the US, obviously do have different choices—but you’ve proved my point. In Canada, unless you order on-line or go to a specialty electronics store, it’s Kobo or nothing. The retail-level choices that Americans have are not universal.

    MJV- I think something got mixed up when this got posted. When I sent it in, I wrote ‘RSI’ which stands for repetitive stress injury.

  11. My first Kindle (the original one in early 2008) was a leap of faith. There were none in stores at that time and what sealed the deal for me was a review by a tech person I trust, and the fact that I had long experience with Amazon’s customer service. I have never been sorry. I did have a Kobo later on for awhile because the only digital library books were epub. It was the original Kobo and I loved it being so lightweight. However, it had rotten battery life and some squishy thing to press for page advancing, as I remember. This would not have helped Joanna’s RSI. I have since considered getting another Kobo but have little reason to with all my Kindle books and all my Kindles. I do have the paperwhite on order not because I NEED another Kindle but because I am hoping that the front light will solve my reading in bed issues.

    I think it is great that Kobo is going into so many markets. Good for them! It boggles my mind that Amazon cannot release Kindles to Canada at the same time as US.

  12. borax99 (Alain C.) // September 9, 2012 at 3:58 pm //

    I have tried Kobo reading apps and checked out a colleague’s Kobo ereader. Canadian or not, it struck me as an inferior product throughout – and don’t get me started about their stupid “social” features that you cannot opt out of… so I am a Kindle customer.

    If you have a Kindle Paperwhite delivered to a friend in the States, it *might* work on our side of the border – just saying ….

  13. Hayden Johnstone // September 10, 2012 at 1:03 am //

    I bought a the original Kobo e-reader back in Australia when it came out. The store I purchased it from only had Kobo or Sony e-readers. The Kindle was never an option.

    These days I do my book reading from my Android tablet. The books I buy are in epub format and can be read from a multitude of apps. I never liked being locked in to someone’s propriety systems.

    The nest two weeks sees me travelling to some really remote parts of China. I will be taking my tablet. It will do all my work stuff plus read my books and also keep abreast of the articles posted on Teleread. My tablet will be my workstation and my e-reader. I will be next to a powerpoint most nights so I can re-charge it.

    I don’t understand why people link the e-reader to their bookstore. A book can be read on most mobile devices these days. Their apps allow you to purchase books and do all the fancy stuff (bookmarking, note taking, etc)

    Just buy the mobile device that suits you. If its a kindle or kobo, then fine, but it could also be an Asus, Samsung, Apple or ……

  14. I am sorry, I would not buy a Kindle. They are currently available in Canada. I prefer to have my books that I purchased under my possesion. Everyone is on this train of WIFI and purchasing your books from your device. What happens if you are in an area that has no wifi and you cannot access the cloud for your books? Another thing that irks me is the advertising from Amazon. When I read, I do not want any distraction. I want to pick up my ereader and go straight to my books, not to see an advertisement. I am happy with Kobo. The original device was so so, and their new devices are much better. If my ereader broke, then I would upgrade to the Kobo Glo. I do have a BB Playbook, and would not read on it. The tablet is great for magazines, PDF, games, web browsing, and other stuff, but not for reading a book on it.

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