Kindle vs Kobo

While there are no Kobo Reader details out, and we can’t do a Kindle Vs Kobo Review yet, we can certainly compare the ebook stores and the strategies.

Kindle Vs Kobo – Reader to Compare by Q2, 2010

Kobo have confirmed that they will have a Kobo Reader out in the second quarter. No details beyond that are known at the moment.

The Kobo will almost certainly be sold at Borders, Indigo, Borders Australia, and 3 Mobile Stores. The Kobo CEO seems to say in an interview that Kobo just decided this month to do an eReader.

How are they going to create a good eReader in 6 months?

Kindle Vs Kobo – Comparing Strategic Advantages

Kindle Vs Kobo – At first, Kindle seems far ahead

The Kindle really does have a huge lead and some significant advantages -

  1. A 2.5 year lead by the time the Kobo Reader comes out. 
  2. A laser focus on reading that other companies seem to be missing. For example, the Kobo CEO thinks the future is multi-purpose devices.
  3. Wider range of books than anyone else. Kobo say they have 2 million books – However, 1.8 million of those are from the Internet Archive. 
  4. Better web infrastructure and web expertise than any other book seller or eReader company.
  5. Kindle 3 and Kindle DX 2 ought to be much more polished than a first generation Kobo eReader.
  6. A large installed base of customers.
  7. A strong revenue stream from eReader sales and eBook sales.
  8. Loads of brand recognition.
  9. Kindle for iPhone.
  10. Kindle for PC.

We could write down quite a few more. Kindle has a sizeable advantage in the Kindle Vs Kobo Wars.

Kindle vs Kobo – Kobo springs a few, big surprises

Kobo has a pretty dangerous partnership behind it and some advantages of its own -

  1. Retail presence in the US via Borders Stores.
  2. Retail presence in Canada via Indigo Stores.
  3. Retail presence in Singapore, Australia and New Zealand via REDgroup.
  4. Retail presence in UK and Europe via 3 mobile stores and other retail stores.
  5. Brand recognition amongst readers in at least 6 markets i.e. US, UK, Canada, New Zealand and Singapore.
  6. A Li Ka-Shing company is investing in Kobo and that means access to retail and telecom across Europe and Asia.
  7. Shortcovers iPhone App and 9 months experience with the iPhone.
  8. They’re very clear about their global vision and intend to add a ton of content from all over the world.
  9. They aim to have Kobo-powered services on 4 continents by end of 2010. 
  10. Their vision of any book on any device gives them more channels than Amazon.
  11. ePub and the usual openness and choice.
  12. Kobo Reader will support any store that sells in ePub.

Reading up more on the partners certainly makes Kindle Vs Kobo seem like it might eclipse Kindle’s rivalries with Sony and B&N. The partners, each with their regional expertise and retail locations, will be a dangerous enemy if they can coordinate well.

Li Ka-Shing, with his $16.2 billion fortune and the largest health and beauty retailing business in the world, is perhaps the most dangerous.  

Do check out the interview with Kobo CEO Michael Serbinis.

Kindle Vs Kobo – Comparing the eBook Stores

Kindle Vs Kobo – Kobo really is device agnostic

Since Kobo is just a rebranding of ShortCovers they already support -

  1. Adobe Digital Editions which works on PC and Mac.
  2. Any eReader that works with ADE which means Sony Reader and Nook and a lot more.
  3. Smartphones – including iPhone, Blackberry, Palm Pre, and Android.

That is an advantage over the Kindle. If interoperability is your cup of tea you’ll feel at home at Kobo Books.

Here’s a list of devices Kobo Books work with (via Consumerist) -

  • Asktak (EZ Reader, EZ Reader Pocket Pro, Mentor)
  • Barnes & Noble Nook
  • BeBook (One, Mini)
  • Bookeen (Cybook Opus, Gen 3)
  • COOL-ER Classic
  • Elonex eBook 600
  • HanLin eBook (V3, V5)
  • IREX Digital Reader 1000S
  • Neolux NUUT2
  • PRS-300 Reader Pocket Edition
  • PRS-505 Reader Digital Book
  • PRS-600 Reader Touch Edition
  • PRS-700BC Reader Digital Book
  • The Kindle Store has better range and lower prices

    The Kindle Store beats Kobo Books in a few crucial areas -

    1. Wider Selection i.e. 360K books compared to the 200K Kobo has.
    2. Note that I’m leaving out the 1.8 million Internet Archive titles that both have access to.
    3. Kobo has fewer new free book offers.
    4. The Kobo books website is rather plain and doesn’t have much searchability.

    At the moment the Kindle Store has the clear advantage.

    Kobo has the international advantage

    One area where Kobo shines is in international -

    1. We’ve already discussed the retail locations.
    2. Through Li Ka-Shing they also get access to retail stores in China.
    3. They claim to offer books in 180 languages.
    4. They say they have had a million downloads across 200 countries.

    The partners do bring a lot of regional expertise and physical stores and that will be crucial when the Kobo Reader launches.

    The Kindle Store has the Kindle

    The Kindle is a direct link connecting some of the most lucrative book buying customers with the Kindle Store.

    That’s an advantage that’s hard to beat.

    Kindle Vs Kobo has to factor in that the Amazon Kindle has already captured a lot of the best customers.

    Kindle vs Kobo – Will the Kobo Alliance remain stable?

    Indigo have invested $5 million out of the $16 million initial investment and they had started and built up ShortCovers so they get the lion’s share.

    Kobo currently has this break-up (via Canadian Press) -

    1. 58% is owned by Indigo. 
    2. 20% is owned by Borders UK. 
    3. The Rest is presumably split between REDgroup and Li Ka-Shing.

    What happens if Kobo takes off?

    The eBook Store and the eReader might become hugely important and there’s little chance that Indigo’s partners will be happy with the current 42% they have.

    The biggest weakness of Kobo in the Kindle Vs Kobo Wars is that the partners might end up fighting each other.

    10 Responses

    1. The first device to offer school children and university students the opportunity to download and edit large PDF files from major textbook publishers will capture that share of the market that truly counts: our children’s world and all who follow!

    2. [...] For further details check my post comparing Kindle Vs Kobo on strategies and more.  [...]

    3. [...] Chapters-Indigo) and the US (via Borders), as well as a strong international presence (check out this posting from iReader Review comparing the Kobo to the [...]

    4. I’m rooting for Kobo. I really dislike the fact that you have tons of books in Amazon but they are mostly restricted to US buyers. Most US reviewers take this for granted.

    5. It will be interesting how this new addition to the market will fare against the iPad.

    6. I love my Kobo. And for a gift, if I were to pick an eReader for a young person or an elderly person, I would go with the Kobo. Its so easy to learn and use w/o all the extra frills on it. I don’t want to pay for the extra frills anyway. There are different font choices and sizes…pretty much a great product to take with you EVERYwhere! It has WiFi and supports ePub, PDF, and Adobe DRM! ~Sandy, SheConnected Community Manager

      • thanks for the comment Sandy. I’ve been using the Store recently for Kobo and it’s very good. I do think they need to come out with a better eReader – with eInk Pearl and perhaps touch.

      • Hi Sandy: Do you still Love your Kobo and does it have good battery life. Thanks, Margo

    7. I recently ordered and paid for a book from kobo estore. The receit arrived but pop up telling me to download the book never showed. After complaining I was told there had been a systems failure at the store and they would resend. Again, no pop up telling me to download the ebook. I had bought a book a few weeks earlier with no problem and also downloaded a freebee from the kobo estore. The responses from the “zen” help desk have been pretty pathetic. I';m confinced that kobo simply sold a book they didn’t have in stock. Because of this and other issues with the kobo reader I’m picking up a kimble and only using the kobo for epub books.

      • Gerald, was this on the Kobo itself or on the website?

        My current understanding, based on people’s opinions and my use of the Kobo website, is that Kobo Reader is not good and the Kobo store is pretty good – especially if you start using coupons.

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