Kobo has secretly developed a new web reader that is currently in beta. They have been working on it for over six months. It was designed to work on any major internet browser on your computer or mobile device. The Kobo Web Reader only supports Books with no DRM (Digital Rights Management) only; however, Kobo plans on refining the overall experience and unveiling new enhancements.
You can test the feature out yourself, by logging into your Kobo account on their website. You can search for free and click on the book and you will be taken to the book description page. Click on Add to My Books and then View in My Books. You can also select My Account on the top right side and clicking on My Books. In your book library there will be a listing of all of the books you have ever purchased from Kobo and what titles are compatible with the Web Reader, since they have a Read Now button underneath them.
The Web Reader is very barebones right now. The only option is to read the book in a two page spread, there is no one page option or infinity scroll system. Text can be increased or decreased in size, but there is no way to select a different font type. There is a table of contents that has clickable links, that will take you to a specific chapter in the book you are reading.
It remains to be seen what markets Kobo is currently beta testing it in, but it should be in select markets and not available worldwide. I have verified it at least works in Canada and will update this post if users can verify what countries they live in, where this is available and if the Web Reader is English only, or supports other languages. I have also reached out to Kobo for comment.
This is not the first time that Kobo has developed an online reader. Back in 2012 they took their first stab at making an online reading system that was built for Safari. This was created during a time when Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo all sold ebooks directly within their iOS apps, but then Apple unveiled a new policy to take a commission for every piece of digital content being sold. All of these players basically turned their iPad and iPhone apps into glorified reading apps, but you had to make the actual purchase online. The original thought behind the Kobo Cloud Reader was to get people to buy and read, right in the browser. Of course, nobody really did that and Kobo killed the project in 2016.
I think a modern online Web Reader by Kobo might be a good move. There are all sorts of new operating systems for mobile that people are using, such as Sailfish or Oxygen OS. On the desktop front, and increasing number of people are embracing Linux. Not to mention, millions of people are still using older versions of Windows. There are hundreds of millions of people who don’t have a good modern smartphone or a tablet. I have a sneaky feeling that the average user will be at school or work and just want to read, when they should be doing something else.
Michael Kozlowski has been writing about audiobooks and e-readers for the past twelve years. His articles have been picked up by major and local news sources and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times. He Lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.