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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 (s amzn) 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 (s aapl), webOS (s palm), Android (s goog) and BlackBerry (s rimm) — noticeably absent in Microsoft’s Windows Mobile (s msft) devices — plus you can use Adobe (s adbe) 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.

7 Responses to “Borders and Kobo — Buy e-Book Once, Read it on Practically Anything”

  1. Just looked at some of the comments on the Kobo/Shortcovers app in Android Market. Indicates that it doesn’t remember the last page you were on and requires a web connection to read books (doesn’t download them to the device for off-line reading). No thanks…..

    I will stick with eReader software for now, but I am still looking for a solution for my Android (Droid) that will allow reading books on the phone and an eink device, which will sync the last page read across the devices.

  2. So, we’re up to 4 e-book stores that have content for Android, through 3 different apps:

    1) EnTourage eDGe software and store (but, probably only on the eDGe)
    2) software and store
    3)’s software with (their partner store, forget the name)
    4) Kobo software with Border’s store

    How long before we get the Kindle, too?

  3. When you say that ” e-book content at its core is just basic text” limits the concept of books and illustrates the divide in what I think e-reader type platforms are good and bad at. Understand, I’m a happy Sony PRS-505 owner, but presently, dedicated readers are only good (somewhat) at displaying text. But books are so many things. Textbooks and art books have needs that are poorly served by current hardware. Compic books demand color. Typography support is poor at present as well. I bought my reader primarily to have an easy to use library of the classics, so for me (and I’m certainly in the minority, I’m sure) on-line stores are a minor feature. The E-Ink screen could stand to be *slightly* larger, but what I’d kill for is sharper contrast between the text and the background (and the resolution upped to at least 250ppi).

    As useful as e-reader hardware is, I suspect they are a computer evolutionary anomoly. Soon, we will have general purpose full color devices in the same size range that can run other software as well as being a good e-reader. The Pixel Qi screen technology is an excellent step in that direction, and with processors using less power, coupled with lithium polymer batteries (currently the market leaders in storage density, and have the advantage over normal lithium ion by being moldable into different shapes to match industrial design requirements) we should be able to have a device the same dimensions as the PRS-505, but using more area for the screen, and offering all day or more usage for books, movies, web, photos and music. These devices will be much more deserving of being e-book readers.