With a format war quickly building in the eBook world, Kobo is a not a new device – but rather a new distribution service for the eBook. Formerly known as Shortcovers, Kobo is being marketed as a free cross-platform download, available on Blackberry, Palm Pre and Android, in addition to the iPhone. There is also an Adobe Digital Edition, which allows you to read eBooks on your desktop or other compatible devices.
With big-dollar backing from Borders, Instant Fame and REDgroup Retail, Kobo is one of the most promising new international eBook retailers. Kobo currently offers over 2 million books with New York Times bestsellers capped at $9.99, as well as over 1.8 million free books.
There are hundreds of categories available to browse, from Art & Architecture to Mystery & Suspense. You can also discover new books from lists that include Oprah’s picks, Prize Winners and The Globe and Mail Bestsellers, among many others.
One of the current issues with Kobo, albeit a minor one, is the purchasing system. In-app purchases are foregone for a quick segue to a credit card payment screen in Safari. While a convenient way to circumvent the 30% Apple cut on in-app sales, the to-and-fro between Kobo and the browser is frustrating.
The use of the app itself is enjoyable – you can flip through the pages just as you would a real book, or scroll through pages vertically if you prefer. You can customize everything – both font and font size, paragraph justification, line spacing and colors.
Kobo is a great way to test out eReading without having to buy an expensive device. With the release of a tablet device from Apple looming, both the popularity of eBooks and services such as Kobo look certain to grow.
Kobo requires the iPhone OS 3.0 or later and is compatible with both iPhone and iPod Touch.