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Borders Enters The E-Reader Fight With The Kobo

by Sean P. Aune | May 10, 2010May 10, 2010 6:57 pm PST

It seems that any company related to books is now required by default to also have a company branded e-reader, no matter what their financial status may be.  You can now add the Borders chain of book stores to that list.

Borders has had a rough couple of years financially, culminating in the 2009 holiday season being down 14.7 percent from the year previous, and 182 of its retail locations being closed as of Jan. of this year.  Despite these financial hardships, the company has made a deal with Kobo Inc. to market its e-reader via its chain of stores and online, and it will be opening an e-book store within a month.

koboThe Kobo will have most of the bells and whistles you have come to expect from an e-reader, but not quite all of them:

  • E-ink display
  • Flexible font size
  • 1 GB of memory (approx. 1,000 books)
  • Comes pre-loaded with 100 classic public domain books
  • Measures 4.7 x 7.2 x 0.4 inches
  • Weighs 8 ounces
  • Organize books in a manner that suits you
  • Bluetooth connectivity
  • Quilted back for a textured feeling
  • PDF support so you can read graphic works like Manga and graphic novels
  • Two-week battery life

What’s missing here is any Wi-Fi or 3G connectivity.  To purchase new books you will need to attach it to your computer via USB, or pair it to your cell phone via Bluetooth to download them.

The trade off here is that the Kobo is going to be priced at $149.99, a whopping $110 less than the lowest priced Kindle or the Barnes & Noble Nook.  With such a significant difference in price, this may be the e-reader that opens up the relatively new marketplace to a whole new set of customers.

To my mind, the $259 price point, while not outrageous, has just been too high for your average consumer to roll the dice on a product they aren’t even sure they will like.  We’ve all bought gadgets that sound great, but once we get them, we find we hardly use them.  Simply not enough people have yet been exposed to e-readers to judge if its worth spending $259 on one.  Now you price one at $149, and the barrier to trying it out drops significantly.  The real proof of how successful this particular device might be will come when the e-book store opens and we see the pricing, but if its comparable to iBooks, Amazon and Barnes and Noble, Borders may find its stock price quickly on the rise.

While $149 is nice, and far more tempting to a lot of people, I still think the real test of the sustainability of the e-reader market will come when someone finally releases one for $99 or free with a subscription contract.  (i.e. “You must purchase one book a month for two years, early cancellation fee”-type thing)

What say you?  Have you bought an e-reader yet?  If not, does this new pricing entice you a bit more to try one?


Sean P. Aune

Sean P. Aune has been a professional technology blogger since July 2007, but his love of tech dates back to at least 1976 when his parents bought...

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