The article has some interesting details on Kobo's long term plans - expanding outside North America, a dedicated reader, and partnerships with device manufacturers and mobile carriers to sell ebooks through pre-loaded apps.
Those telecom assets suggest the other way in which Kobo plans to extend its reach. “Booksellers will not be the only place you’ll be able to buy e-books,” Serbinis says. “You’ll be able to buy them from your favourite device manufacturer, from your local carrier. Any way you buy books today.”
As early as next week’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Kobo will start announcing partnerships with telecom carriers and device manufacturers that will result in co-branded, Kobo-powered e-book stores coming preloaded on their devices. Serbinis won’t confirm exactly which companies Kobo’s hammered out deals with, but he allows that agreements are in place, or are being worked on, to get Kobo on cellphones, high-end and budget smartphones, computers and tablets by manufacturers like Research In Motion, HTC, Dell and HP. A few months from now, when you buy a phone or a computer, the plan is for there to be a Kobo-powered bookstore one click away — and that, says Serbinis, will help Kobo secure the potential e-book customers “who won’t know a Kindle from a candle.”
Partnerships of this kind, Serbinis says, will be key in Kobo’s efforts to tap emerging markets, where the company is already making an effort. The top three countries from which customers have already been visiting Kobo’s store are the U.S., the U.K. and Canada, but Serbinis says India and China are numbers four and five. “India’s the perfect example of a place where not everybody’s got a library of physical books, because they can’t afford it. But many of them have cellphones, or have access to PCs. So there’s an example where there’s no access today, or limited access today, but it’ll change.”
There is also the matter of the Kobo e-reading device. Serbinis revealed its existence as part of Kobo’s December spin-out, but both Reisman and Serbinis confirm that it will be launched in April. They see it as one in a stable of devices that a consumer will likely own, a complement to your phone and computer, not a replacement for either. It will use the low-power, easy-on-the-eyes e-ink technology found in the Kindle and in Sony’s e-reader, and an as-yet-unnamed third-party manufacturer is making it. A single model will initially be offered — “for now,” Reisman says; and she hints that the price point for the Kobo e-reader is what’s really going to set it apart. Serbinis believes that a $99 e-reading device will be on shelves some time in 2010. Neither executive will confirm or deny what the price point will be for the Kobo Reader, nor will they speak to any of the other features that have Reisman excited, but it’s a good bet that they’re aiming to produce the lowest-priced major e-reader on the market — and that it will be featured prominently at most of the global tens of thousands of retail points of presence owned by Kobo’s partners. It will be another step toward Reisman’s stated goal for e-reading: “Any written material, any language, any format, any access channel.”