Kobo aims to take on Amazon Kindle with new Vox tablet ereader

jet-black_2064481b Walk in to any branch of WH Smith’s and you’ll see huge banner adverts offering the Kobo eReader Touch or the much more advanced Kobo Vox.

These devices, made by Canadian company Kobo, have not yet had the wild sales success that Amazon’s £89 Kindle has, but in their different ways both do considerably more. The Kobo bookstore claims to be the largest in the world, offering 2.5million titles and more than a million free ones. The standard Kobo Touch, too, offers a touchscreen where Amazon’s UK equivalent relies on buttons to turn the pages; the Vox is in fact a full-colour tablet that is geared towards reading but also offers email, movies and everything Google can offer, plus a decent selection of apps too. At just £169, it’s almost a mini-iPad, and a rival to the Amazon Kindle Fire, which is currently only available in America.

Amazon itself is already selling more than twice as many ebooks as hardback books; as prices for devices have fallen, and as apps have made ereading more accessible to phones and tablets, the market has expanded rapidly.

Such expansion, however, comes at a price. Publishers are becoming increasingly concerned that digital books could lead to piracy; the debate, which the music, film and games industries have already had, is not helped by a number of conspicuous absences in some ebook libraries, and the fact that ebooks still sometimes cost more than physical books. While they do attract VAT, there are still obvious reductions in the cost of manufacture and shipping.

Michael Serbinis, Kobo’s CEO, says that the Vox offers great audio and video, plus “social reading”, using Facebook to tell readers’ friends what they’re enjoying. At £169, the device may well be above the typical impulse purchase price bracket – but with the support of a major retailer such as Smiths, it has the best shot yet at being a tablet computer for the mass market.

That doesn’t mean, however, that 7” devices' future is assured: Apple’s larger iPad is continuing to enjoy sales success, while mobile phone screens are now often up to 4”. So what the Vox really emphasises is that times are changing for computers, for phones – and for reading itself – at a pace that is quickening ever faster.

The Telegraph

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