Don’t Count Kobo Out As The EReader Race Rumbles On

Kobo is about to launch their new Vox ereader/tablet and I think it’s important to remember that the reader race isn’t just down to two contestants: this Canadian company, while comparatively small in the US, is performing quite admirably on the international stage, hitting 2.5 million users in the US and over 5 million total in the world.

The Vox is a fairly nondescript Android tablet running a slightly modified version of Android 2.3. It is compatible with most Android apps and ships with the Kobo app pre-installed. As it stands there’s little to be excited about except the price and the bright, readable screen that is purported to have excellent visibility in direct sunlight. At $199, the Kobo Vox is probably one of the most affordable “big name” Android tablets that may actually gain some traction this holiday.

Clearly the Vox is up against still competition against the $199 Kindle Fire but there is a certain breed of consumer that will enjoy the ostensible “openness” of the Kobo platform as well as the unfettered access to over a million free, public domain books out of the box.

Because it’s an Android tablet it is actually fighting against the Nook as well as any number of bargain basement tablets that could grab consumer’s attention. However, the Kobo app is one of the top downloads on both the Android and Apple app stores and they’re the de facto choice in Canada and Europe, two areas where B&N and Amazon have failed to make much of a dent.

You can think of Kobo as the Nokia of the ereader world while Amazon and B&N are Apple and Google respectively. While I won’t bet on Kobo in the long term – I think it will be a tough road to keep selling ereaders when facing the other two juggernauts – I’m happy to report that their latest product is not to be dismissed out of hand.

We’ll have a full review when this thing begins shipping on Friday but until then we had a brief hands-on and I’m happy to report that the Kobo Vox is an impressive – and inexpensive – ereader worth a second look.