Kobo Books launches in the UK to put the heat on the Kindle

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In theory there would be a huge advantage to having a bookstore that was not locked to one device. Historically the music industry was caught on the hop when Apple launched the iPod. Because it could play non-DRM MP3s the iPod was the perfect companion to the Napsters/Kazaas of this world. That was a business for Apple, but not for the music industry, which later found itself locked into the the Apple store. Eventually online stores started offering DRM-free MP3s for sale, but the slow-to react music industry has not recovered since.

The same is true of books. Why lock down books to one device? But of course Amazon is trying to do exactly this with the Kindle. So it makes sense then to disrupt this again, with a service which syncs across platforms and devices. Step forward Kobo Books.

Kobo is a cloud-based book store, previously only available in the US but now launching in the UK. Kobo is the re-branded Shortcovers online store which had been selling e-books for a while.

It has a free e-reader software for the Mac, PC and smartphones allowing you to access titles purchase on any of your devices. On mobile it works on apps for the iPhone, Blackberry, Android, Palm Pre and any e-reader that can work with the EPUB-format books, such as the Barnes & Noble Nook or the Sony Reader. Notably, the Kindle is absent from the list. Some reviewers think the Kobo app for iPhone is better than the Kindle app.

In the US the Toronto-based Kobo has teamed up with Borders, REDgroup Retail and Instant Fame, effectively allowing it to distribute books worldwidein North Amercia, the EU, the UK, Australia and the Asia Pacific region. Borders has incorporated Kobo into its stores in the US.

The free Kobo books come from the 1.8 million public-domain books from the Internet Archive.

Titles include the latest best-sellers from the likes of Random House, Penguin, Faber & Faber, Bloomsbury and Simon & Schuster.

It comes with the features you’d expect like recommended reading lists, book clubs etc.

It has over two million ebooks to choose from, including thousands of free-to-download ebooks, and a UK bestseller list priced at £8.99 or less.

So Kobo’s platform-agnostic approach, large catalogue and big partners should position it well.

Watch out Amazon.

  • http://twittercism.com Sheamus

    Unless that’s UK bestsellers at a *lot* less than £8.99, Amazon doesn’t have much to worry about.

    Nor will the entire digital book industry ever truly reach the masses with these insulting prices.

    Example: The Art Of Racing In The Rain is £6.33 at Kobo.

    On Amazon UK, I can buy the actual book – not the ebook – for £4.13, with free P&P.

    The only advantage I’m getting by shopping at Kobo is if I put a price on impatience.

    I’m not singling out Kobo per se – the pricing structure of the entire electronic book industry is a borderline scandal. If you’ve made one digital copy, you’ve essentially made a million. There’s no warehouse storage, binding costs or shipping involved. We shouldn’t be paying such mark-ups for what is a cost of near zero beyond the initial build. £2.99 per ebook seems a more realistic price, but it should NEVER exceed the ‘real’ book.

    Things are going to have to change. If the industry wants to tap into the super-lucrative long-tail of all those tens of millions of (normal) readers who buy only a few books per year they’re going to have to stop focusing on those privileged few who own a Kindle and don’t mind shelling out a little extra for convenience.

    • Hannah

      I don’t disagree with you, but I want to point out that people don’t buy ebooks just because they’re too impatient to wait for the real book to ship. People don’t download music for iTunes because they’re too impatient to drive to Best Buy, it’s just a better way to store your music collection. Having more physical books cluttering your home is like having a big CD collection to go with your 6 CD changer stereo. I’m not saying I want to pay more for something less tangible (in fact I don’t pay anything for ebooks, and I won’t until the price is reasonable) but you’re overlooking a lot of advantages to ebooks here.

  • http://www.easybranches.com/7693/ Kobo Books Launches A UK Service To Compete With The Kindle | Easybranches.com™

    […] Read the rest of this entry » Liked this page: […]

  • eh?

    Wow, you guys are so US-centric. Kobo was not “only available in the US”, it started as a Canadian company (Shortcovers) and it is still headquartered in Canada.

    • http://twitter.com/mikebutcher Mike Butcher

      Fair comment, will amend.

      • http://dereksilva.ca/ Derek Silva

        And yet the comment about being previously only available in the US is still there.

        Kobo is not only HQ’d in Canada, Kobo has an extensive partnership with the Indigo Group which owns and operates the Indigo, Chapters and Coles book stores. Kobo’s partnership is also noted all over Indigo’s website, chapters.indigo.ca.

      • Evan

        I never get tired of seeing thinly veiled short man syndrome in Canadians. Thanks for the laugh guys.

  • http://healthinformaticist.wordpress.com/2010/02/23/kobo-e-books-launches-in-uk/ Kobo e-books launches in UK « (the) health informaticist

    […] Uncategorized on February 23, 2010 by Hanna Kobobooks has launched in the UK (thanks TechCrunch) and allows you to purchase (or access freely available books) and read them on any kind of […]

  • The John

    But kindle books aren’t locked to one device… There are reader apps for the iPhone, iPod touch, and the PC (and possibly others).

  • http://www.ukstevieb.com/2010/02/24/steviebs-shared-items-february-24-2010/ StevieB’s Shared Items – February 24, 2010 at LostInCyberspace

    […] Kobo Books launches in the UK to put the heat on the KindleFebruary 23, 2010 […]

  • http://www.techfieber.de/2010/02/24/uk-start-fur-internationalen-e-book-service-kobo/ UK-Start für internationalen E-Book-Service Kobo | TechFieber | Smart Tech News. Hot Gadgets.

    […] [Link] […]

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  • Anonymous
  • http://www.slim2u.net/ สูตรลดน้ำหนัก

    Top post. I look forward to reading more. Thank you.

  • http://www.kindleinfo.net kindle store uk

    The biggest problem with Kobo is tha lack of shopping cart, everything is straight to the checkout – makes it a pain for buying multiple books – still at least they accept paypal to save trouble with your credit-card company.

  • http://www.monsters-store.com/ Danzel

    Victory won’t come to me unless I go to it.

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