A Kindle Killer. An eReader that knows its place.
Since it’s a ‘skimps on features, bottom of the barrel priced’ device it fits in perfectly with the Press’ preconceived notions of what an eReader should be. It’s quite amusing to see the Press talk about how the $150 price and the addition of Borders (yup, they aren’t yet bankrupt) makes the Kobo the future of the eReader.
The Press’ take on Kobo the Magnificent
Business Week focuses on the lower price and goes so far as to suggest that Kindle and Nook prices will be cut –
… an e-reader more than 40 percent less expensive than devices from Amazon.com Inc. and Barnes & Noble Inc.
The less-expensive e-reader may force Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble to cut prices, narrowing already small margins on their devices, Souers said.
“It’s a necessary move by Borders, but it could also end up backfiring for the whole industry,” …
San Francisco Chronicle brings up the whole ‘eReaders must be cheap to survive’ theme –
If black-and-white “e-ink” e-readers have any chance to compete with more sophisticated tablets like Apple’s iPad, they had better be cheap.
And that’s the best feature of Borders’ new Kindle clone: At $150, “Kobo” is by far the cheapest of the bunch.
A newspaper that suffered a 22.7 percent decline in its weekday sales (in the last 6 months of 2009) shouldn’t really be professing business advice.
The Street lets us know that Kobo preorders will arrive on June 17th and Borders will begin selling the device in stores in August. Also, that shares of Borders went up 7.3% to $2.22 ($2.22 is the stock price, not the gain).
You also get the usual posts claiming eReaders are tablet computers and other strange miscategorizations.
Kobo Features the Press can’t get over
It begins and ends with price. The $150 price meets the Press’ expectations of what reading is worth so they’re happy to talk about the Kobo.
The second most often mentioned Kobo advantage – 100 classic books. How is that an advantage? The Internet Archive and Google are each giving away a million of these for free.
To be fair to Kobo the Press are missing out on a few good Kobo features –
- It’s a platform and it works on a lot of devices – Blackberry, iPad, iPhone, Palm Pre, PC, and Mac.
- It supports ePub.
- Up to 6 devices can share the same ebook.
Also, while we are on the subject of being fair to Kobo, there are quite a few comments from people who think the $149 price is right – with the occasional ‘it should be $99’ interlude.
My Take on the $150 Plain Jane of eReaders
It’s all relative.
If instead of fixating on the dollar amount we look at value for money there’s no comparison – the Kobo offers much less value for money than Kindle or Nook.
Kindle tears apart Kobo on value for money
Here are some of the features you get for just $110 more if you pick the Kindle –
- Free wireless store browsing and 60 second ebook downloads.
- Cheaper eBook prices (except for Agency Model Publishers).
- Free Internet. Note that the free Internet and wireless browsing are across 100+ countries (Internet is free only if your home country is USA).
- WhisperSync – synchronized reading across all devices. A feature Kobo can never deliver because the Kobo doesn’t have wireless.
- Text to Speech – for books where it hasn’t been disabled (your mileage may vary).
- Folders. So far it seems Kobo doesn’t have Folders.
- Screen rotation and lots of fonts and line spacing options.
- Sometime this year (or perhaps next) a Kindle App Store.
There are lots more advantages. For example, Kindle gets 20 or so free book offers on new books each month – other stores don’t get as many (let’s leave out self-published books).
Nook does too
Here’s some of what you get for $110 more if you pick the Nook –
- Free store browsing and 60 second downloads over 3G or WiFi.
- WiFi connectivity and a good, solid browser.
- The little color touch screen for navigation.
- Free Chess and Sudoku.
- A choice of three fonts.
- Usually better prices on eBooks (except on Agency Model Publishers).
- The LendMe feature – when enabled by Publishers.
- Great screen contrast.
Fundamentally, you get a good eInk reader with 3G, WiFi and a color touchscreen and some good features on top – with a Kobo you get an untested eInk reader with a big, blue button.
You have to factor in Total Cost of Ownership
Nook and Kindle have gone through a lot of testing and improvements (well, a little for the Nook and a lot for the Kindle). You won’t be the unofficial beta testers and you will get devices that work pretty well. Kobo is Version 1 – a complete unknown.
Then there’s ebook prices. eBook prices alone might eat up that $110 you saved over the course of a year or two (depending on how much you read).
My grandfather used to say –
When you choose the higher priced, high quality option you cry once.
Pick the cheap, low quality option and you cry again and again.
Often when you buy a non-Agency Model Kobo ebook you’ll have to fork out $2 extra (perhaps just $1 extra, perhaps $3 extra) and you’ll wish you’d thought about it more. It won’t be all the time – just often enough to eat up that $110 savings and make the total cost of ownership the same as the Kindle and Nook. All without getting the bonuses that come with those two eReaders.
Years of rationalizing that wireless doesn’t make a difference were wiped out for me in a few short hours when my international Kindle DX arrived. It does make a difference and it’s just one of many advantages the $259 eReaders have over the Kobo.
Recommendation – Only buy Kobo if you must
That $110 you’re saving now isn’t worth what you’re losing out on. You’re going to end up spending most/all of it on higher priced ebooks anyways.
With the Kindle and the Nook you get a much better overall reading experience and they’re well worth the price. Don’t let the Press fool you into buying a device that isn’t going to make a huge positive impact on your reading experience (like the Kindle and the Nook will).