Borders and Kobo — Buy e-Book Once, Read it on Practically Anything


As I was using my iPhone 3GS last night, I saw an update in the iTunes App Store for the e-book software called Shortcovers. I noticed the app went through a name change to Kobo, which had me scratching my head in thought. Why would such a popular application with support for several handset platforms change its brand? This morning, I got my answer courtesy of the New York Times.

Shortcovers is indeed now known as Kobo and Kobo will power an e-book device from Borders, the last major bookstore I can think of that doesn’t have e-book hardware to sell. What I immediately like about the news is that Shortcovers — er, I mean Kobo — will still support multiple devices:

“The partners said the new e-bookstore will also offers mobile reading applications and will be “device neutral,” allowing readers to download content to the most popular smartphones, including the Apple iPhone, Research in Motion BlackBerry, Palm Pre and Google Android devices.”

Let’s face it: e-book content at its core is just basic text. Oh, it’s usually very good text and well worth paying for, based on the author’s efforts, but really — it’s simply textual content. And consumers don’t want content locked to specific devices or platforms. I’ve actually had to buy the same e-book titles more than once, simply because the content wasn’t compatible from one device to another. Kobo already goes where Amazon has yet to tread (but will be soon) — supporting e-book content on most major handsets as well as the PC and Mac. There’s currently a Kobo client for iPhone, webOS, Android and BlackBerry — noticeably absent in Microsoft’s Windows Mobile devices — plus you can use Adobe Digital Editions on a computer with Kobo content.

The Times says that there will be multiple Kobo reader devices, all with wireless connectivity and will be built around the ePUB industry standard. Watch for a device within the next six months — yes, it’s late to the game, but widespread device support could be the differentiating factor here.

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