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Kobo announces new Touch edition e-reader

May 23, 2011 | 11:38 am

Newkobo On the eve of Book Expo America, publishing's biggest conference, Kobo has announced the Touch, a new version of its e-reader.

The new Kobo Touch is paperback-sized -- the company describes it as being able to fit in a jeans pocket. It uses e-ink, like a Kindle -- it has a black and gray screen, and can be read in bright light. What's new is that, even with the e-ink screen, the new Kobo works as a touchscreen, like a tablet -- readers can turn the page with the swipe of a finger.

Our Technology blog reports:

The display uses an infared touch technology that allows the screen to react to the touch of any object, not just a human finger.

"You can touch, tap or swipe with a pen, pencil, hand, hand in gloves, whatever you want to touch it with and it will work," [Kobo Chief Executive Michael] Serbinis said.

Kobo, which Serbinis said was "neck and neck" for third place in the U.S. e-reader market dominated by Amazon's Kindle and the Barnes & Noble Nook e-readers, is looking to gain market share on being the most affordable digital reading device available.

The new Kobo is now available for preorder for $129.99; the earlier edition Kobo e-reader, previously about $130, has dropped to $99.

Kobo, which is the top-selling e-reader in Canada, Australia and New Zealand, has not found as firm footing in the U.S., where the market is dominated by Amazon's Kindle, Barnes & Noble's Nook and the longstanding Sony eReader. In the U.S., Kobo may have been hampered by its partnership with the ill-fated Borders; now, Kobo e-readers are also available from Best Buy and Wal-Mart.

Unlike the Nook or Kindle, Kobo e-readers do not have 3G. Kobo users, Serbinis said, "[T]old us that rather than pay extra for 3G, they'd prefer to spend that money on books."

Our Technology blog continues:

The Touch also will feature Kobo's Reading Life application, which tracks a user's activity -- what, how much and how long a user reads -- and offers up awards based on that progress.

"What initially was just fun awards, like the 'Juggernaut' for reading 10,000 pages, well, now we're modifying that too," Serbinis said. "The awards are going to soon come with rewards, such as a cup of coffee or a discount on a new e-book purchase, or something like that. And Reading Life will be coming to more of our apps too."

Of course, Reading Life users can connect the app to their Facebook and Twitter networks, and Serbinis promises that more social networking features are on the way.

News of Kobo's Touch e-reader comes one day before an expected announcement from Barnes & Noble, in which the company is expected to debut some kind of e-reading device, possibly a new iteration of its Nook.


Is a new Nook coming May 24?

Amazon now sells more Kindle e-books than print books

B&N's Nook goes down to $149, Amazon cuts Kindle price too

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Image: Kobo Touch e-reader. Credit: Kobo Inc.