Kobo is an anomaly in the e-reader world because they perfectly blend ease of use, for the general public and super advanced options for the hardcore readers. The Toronto based company simply did not get to this point overnight and unlike their competition, they frequently speak with the general public, programmers and beta testers.
If you have ever used a Kobo e-reader, likely you are familiar with the ability to change the type of font you want your e-Book to use. Advanced users know that if you are not happy with the stock fronts that the e-readers employ, there is a special directory where you can upload your own. Its these types of options that makes the Kobo brand especially appealing to a broad audience.
The first Kobo e-reader came out in March 2010 and by September their lead programming team had established themselves on the MobileRead forums. If you have never heard of this website before, it is basically an online community where folks from all over the world congregate to talk about the latest news and share tips with each other. The Kobo team has been leveraging this community in order to solicit feedback on ideas they have for future firmware updates. Hardcore users can also talk directly to some of the senior programmers to give their take on new coding conventions or to present comprehensive analysis on problems they see with existing firmware, or just to give advice on how to make the software better. The Kobo team also uses the people who contribute great ideas to test the functionality of the firmware, as its been developed, so all of the bugs can be worked out.
Kobo has an ulterior motive with crowd-sourcing ideas and suggestions to improve their product. Their programming team is smaller than Amazon and Barnes and Noble and they rely less on focus groups, saving them money. This assists them in lowering company costs in this specific department so they can focus more on promoting the product and international expansion.
The global e-Book market is big business and has recently been valued at $14.5 billion dollars and is expected to reach more than $22 billion by 2017. Amazon controls roughly 70% of the North American and European digital book sales, while Kobo is sitting pretty in second place.
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.