With the Kobo e-reader priced at $150, Border too has joined the lucrative e-reader and e-book market. Border will not only be seen selling e-books but also the device, read e-readers, through which users can make the best use of these e-books.
As for the device itself, the Kobo a no frills e-reader in the 6 inch screen size segment. It was conceived at a time when the iPad was still to see the light of day and the Kindles and the Nooks were having a jolly time sharing the riches between them. They both were priced above the $250 price mark and there were enough buyers who didn’t mind shelling out that amount for an e-reader. The Kobo was designed to be a very basic e-book reading device that would bring e-readers to the masses with a convenient well below $200 price tag. But then, the iPad came onto the scene and and the whole market dynamics went through a sea change.The Kindles and the Nooks were reduced to being budget e-readers themselves in spite of them being feature rich and a notch higher than the built to a price e-readers, something that spoke of trouble for the Kobos and the likes.
And now, the latest sales report does reveal the worst. Kobo is increasingly finding itself on a slippery track and the one thing or device that is making life difficult for Kobo is the new price cuts announced for the Nook e-reader. Sure, the Kobo too has a six inch screen and it too is based on the e-ink technology. However on the downside, there are only eight shades of gray that the screen can support as of now. Also, there is no W-Fi or 3G, or for that matter, wireless connectivity of any sort. There is however the Bluetooth connectivity option that allows one to synch and update data from select smart phones which has support for this technology. The Kobo has 1 GB internal memory and one can add 16 GB more using the SD card expansion slot. Compare this to the nearest B&N offering that comes with WiFi connectivity while the full blown Kindle and Nook e-readers are priced $199 and $189 respectively.
The selling strategy that Borders has been banking on till now is that of using the low initial cost of the e-reader as a bait to attract customers and creating a base thereof. Apart from this, Borders also announced a gift of $20 along with the purchase of the Kobo but these in no way can cover the biggest hurdle for Kobo, that of lack in sheer performance that simply can’t stand up to the Nook or the Kindle. The text that is displayed on the Kobo screen is also not that clear as in the case of the other two readers of the same genre. To make matters worse, even the Sony e-reader Pocket Edition PRS 300 with a 5 inch screen also comes at $150.
So it remains to be seen how Borders rises to the occasion. An upgrade of the Kobo will surely be a step in the right direction but the real challenge will be to do so while not upgrading the cost of the device. The e-reader price war it seems has taken on an interesting turn. Keep watching for more on this as well as all the other tablet pc or e-reader news.