Kobo is expanding its hardware range with a new selection of e-readers and ebook-flavoured tablets, including the 10-inch Google-certified Kobo Arc 10HD. The Kindle competitor is also launching a dedicated kids' section and Pocket-integration which allows users to view website content offline.
The flagship product in Kobo's new range is the Arc 10HD, which boasts a 10in Full HD capacitive LCD touchscreen with a native resolution of 2560x1600 pixels (300 ppi), a NVIDIA Tegra 4 T40S quad-core CPU (1.8 GHz), 16GB of inbuilt storage and 2GB of DDR3L RAM running on Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean.
Other chief specifications include 10 point multi-touch, inbuilt WiFi (Wi Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n) a Micro HDMI output and a front-facing 720p HD camera. The Kobo Arc 10HD is available to pre-order now and will sell in Australia for $499.95.
More than an ereader?
As you probably gathered from the above components and price tag, the Kobo Arc 10HD is much more than just an ereader. This puts Kobo in an unusual position when it comes to marketing the product -- is it a deluxe e-reader device for serious bookworms or a full-blown tablet for multimedia fans? According to Malcolm Neil, Kobo's director of content acquisition and publisher relations APAC, the answer is somewhere in the middle.
"We see our customers as the passionate reader, so that is who we are chasing: we're still all about the reading community and that will continue to be the focus of what we do," Neil told us.
"We're positioning the Arc 10HD to people who watch movies, stream music and really like reading books -- the experience you get on an iPad is great but it's not optimised for e-reading. The Arc 10HD is a multimedia and rich format reading device that caters to all forms of [digital] published content, be it magazines, film, books or YouTube.
"We think we take published content to a place our competitors don't at the moment. This is our niche and we fill it pretty well."
According to Kobo, the Arc 10HD's battery will last for up to 9.5 hours in-between charges (with WiFi switched off). This puts it roughly in line with most 10-inch tablets but is woefully short of an average ereader. Thankfully, there's also a Reading Mode which extends the battery life by around 10 days.
New models, new features
In addition to the Arc 10HD, Kobo is releasing a range of more affordable tablets and ereaders. These include the 7-inch Kobo Arc 7HD (prices start at $249.95) and the Kobo Aura; a deluxe 6-inch ereader that comes with a low-glare Pearl E Ink display (212 dpi, 16 level grey), an inbuilt reading light and a Freescale i.MX507 1 GHz processor for a smoother reading experience. As its name implies, the Aura shares much in common with Kobo's earlier Aura HD device, which we dubbed the coffee table book of ereaders.
Kobo also announced a new partnership with Pocket which will allow users to store web content on their Kobo devices. The tool works in much the same way as modern mobile browsers, with articles saved for later, offline viewing. The service also supports around 400 apps including Twitter, Flipboard and Pulse.
In a day full of announcements, Kobo also found time to throw a bone for its pint-sized customers: a new, dedicated Kids store will be launching this summer. The new section will come with safe-search tools and allow children to set up their own accounts. The range of available kids' titles has also been expanded to more than 100,000 including the popular Hairy Maclary picture books and Diary of a Wimpy Kid series.
Suffer the children
We think the creation of a kids ebook section is an interesting development for Kobo; especially when you consider all the parents who believe traditional picture books are sacred. We asked Malcolm if the company was anticipating any kind of backlash from staunch traditionalists and whether there were any plans to win these people over.
"I suppose it comes down to a generational change," Neil said. "When you think about it, what's the difference between reading digitally or on a printed page? I've yet to hear an articulate argument as to why [printed books] are better or why ereaders are a lesser experience. If someone is vehemently against it, well, we're not forcing them to do this. You still have the opportunity to buy normal picture books and I still do as presents for kids.
"But we should be encouraging kids to read digitally as well. We live in a digital world and it's better to teach them good habits on a digital device instead of just getting them to play Angry Birds. People who are against ebooks or think they are bad for kids are basically King Canute at the edge of the beach trying to turn the tide back -- it's not going to happen."
Kobo's new tablet and ereader range are available for pre-order now. For more information, head to the company's website.