Kobo for the first time ever conducted a massive launch event in New York City, where media from all over the country converged to check out all of their hardware. Not only did the e-reader company announce a bevy of new tablets, but unveiled their brand new magazine service.
Kobo Magazines current has over 250 titles available and more are being added every day. They intend on launching the service in October and hope to have over one thousand issues available. Major publishers have been attracted to the platform and we will see Conde Nast and Hearst contribute all of their major assets.
Last year Kobo made their first major acquisition with Aquafadas, who specializes in plugins and tools aimed to assist publishers to digitize their content and make it available for magazine or graphic novels. The new Kobo magazine initiative is the first time the technology will be deployed and distributed to publishers to help put their content in the Kobo ecosystem. I have heard that the entire process is super easy and will give customers who buy the 10 HD the chance to get the same resolution that the printers get at the presses.
Magazines will be available in single issue and yearly subscriptions. Currently there is no system in place for publishers to give deals on subscription rates. The current Holy Grail for digital magazines are to offer a reduced rate for the first month or year and then jack the prices up. Most companies cannot do this, even though its the way print has always worked. Kobo has assured me that as the platform matures, they will offer this. What are you going to pay for magazines? They will be very competitive and the exact rates are set by the publishers and Kobo gets an indeterminate cut of each sale. I talked to a number of high level executives and no one would give me a definitive answer. They would only say that it was financially worth it.
One of the most exciting aspects of the magazine platform is that back issues will be available on day one. Most publishers really want to be able to sell previous issues and offer their compete catalog. This is useful for research or for collectors, I know many of my friends parents have the complete collection of National Geographic in physical form and its currently impossible to do it digitally. This is something that is important to both publishers and Kobo, and they are implementing it right away,
Instead of consistently pinching and zooming like most major magazine apps, Kobo is doing something different. They are employing Guided Reading which uses a simple one-tap interface that intelligently moves from one column of text to the next. Removing distractions so Readers can focus on the content, Kobo eliminates the need for toolbars – creating a more crisp and clean interface.
The magazine content system will be available in October, with the launch of the Kobo Arc 10 HD and 7 HD. By the end of the year it will be available on Android and other devices. Don’t expect to ever see it on their e-Ink readers, as you don’t really get a good experience.
Michael Kozlowski is the Editor in Chief of Good e-Reader. He has been writing about audiobooks and e-readers for the past ten 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.