Kobo is a relative new player on the e-reader scene. They have only been around for a little over a year and initially rose to prominence with their e-readers and ebook store. The company is also leading the pack when it comes to application development for reading on almost every platform, and has tremendous social media integration. In order for the Kobo line of electronic readers to be competitively viable in the near future, they have to implement ebook lending.
eBook lending is a relatively new phenomenon and basically allows a user to lend out a purchased book for up to 14 days. Barnes and Noble implemented their “Lend Me” program around May of 2010 and if you purchase a book from B&N and have a Nook, Nook Color or the Nook reading application on iOS or Android you can lend out and borrow books. When you lend out a book under “Lend Me,” it disappears from your library and automatically reappears when the lending expires. Online retail giant Amazon introduced a new Kindle lending feature in December 2010 and works similar to B&N.
Kobo came onto the scene in April 2010 with its Kobo e-reader. It was a low cost alternative to the other leading e-readers but did have its share of design flaws. They quickly addressed this issue a few months later when the company released their Kobo Wireless Reader. The wireless reader allowed its users to do business with the Kobo bookstore directly and even take out subscriptions to newspapers, magazines and other content. You can get the latest bestsellers and a ton of classic books, totally around 1.3 million. The company has also been working on overdrive to get their product in other markets. It is available in retail settings in Canada, New Zealand, Australia and the USA. Currently they are in negotiations to take Europe by storm and devise a strategy for the EU and the UK.
Sometimes smaller companies can be lost in the shuffle and lose a ton of sales against the major players in the industry. Currently Amazon and Barnes and Noble lead the e-reader arms race with Kobo not even in the top 5 of global e-reader sales. In order to garner more market share and appease its own users it is essential for Kobo to follow Amazon and Barnes and Noble’s lead and implement its own version of ebook lending.
Many new sites are rising up that help facilitate the ebook lending process such as Lendle, and eBook Fling. They function as the middlemen to help people list the books they own and books they want to be lent from other people. These lending sites might be a boon to people who have e-readers, but don’t have any direct friends or family members who also have a device and the same taste in books. These lending sites help boost the amount of sharing going on from user to user, and don’t forget libraries also lend books out directly.
Right now B&N and Amazon are the only companies to allow users to share books. It’s very important that Kobo is not left out of this critical race and be forced to play catch-up. Sometimes it pays to watch what your competition is doing and what your own customers want.
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.