<i>In The News:</i> One New E-Reader, One Cancelled, A Cavernous Library, Abe's Top 10
By Michael Stillman
Orders are now being accepted at Borders.com for the new electronic reader from Kobo. Shipments are scheduled to begin June 17. It joins a growing list of electronic readers, including both devices dedicated to books such as Amazon's Kindle and Barnes and Noble's Nook, and devices with a broader range of uses such as Apple's iPad.
Don't look for any spectacular new features from the Kobo. That is not its aim. What it offers is the lowest price yet for an electronic reader. Its price tag of $149.99 puts it at least $100 under that of any of its competitors. The Kobo lowers the price to the point where even the occasional reader may consider joining the new electronic world of books.
The Kobo offers a six-inch "e-ink" screen (easy on the eyes) in grayscale. It is best suited for text, not images. The major advantage of the Kobo reader, besides its price, is the weight - under 8 ounces. The Kindle weighs a little over 10 ounces, the Nook just over 12. Borders states that the Kobo can store around 1,000 books, and if that isn't enough for you, a card can raise it to 4,000. It comes preloaded with 100 classic books. It does not connect directly to the internet for downloads like other e-Readers. You connect it to a computer via a USB cable or wireless Bluetooth connection to load books.
Electronic books can be purchased from Borders or Kobo, or other vendors who supply texts in the appropriate Adobe format. In other words, unlike Kindle, which is a reader dedicated to books in the format provided by Amazon, the Kobo is meant to receive books from many vendors. Similarly, electronic books received in this format can also be read on other devices such as RIM's Blackberry. While Borders is selling the Kobo readers, and offering the 1 million books Kobo has available on their website, this is really a Kobo project, not a Borders' one. The major shareholder in Kobo is Canada's largest bookseller, Chapters/Indigo, although Borders and others are also invested in the company.
Meanwhile, Microsoft announced that it has dropped its "Courier" project, at least for now. The Courier was to be an electronic device to compete not only with the Kindle and Kobo, but more sophisticated devices such as the iPad. Along with being an electronic reader and internet accessing device, it was also supposedly going to include handwriting recognition. It is not known whether any prototypes were ever built, or whether it was still in the conceptual stage when cancelled. One interesting aspect of the Courier for book readers is that it was to contain two screens. It would have opened like a book, to reveal facing screens like facing pages of a book. That certainly would have made for a more book-like feel when using it as an electronic reader. Whether this would have been a major selling feature or a quaint vestige of the past is unknown.
On May 26, iPad maker Apple's stock value exceeded that of rival Microsoft. Ten years ago, Microsoft's value was 35 times that of Apple, and many doubted the latter would survive. As the above news reinforces, Apple has been on the cutting edge of technology in the past decade; Microsoft has not. There are consequences.