Kobo launches new e-reader and service to help grandma set it up

For stalwarts of the printed word that just can’t give up “the feel” of paper books, Rakuten Kobo Inc. is introducing a new e-reader device that it says will finally convert them to the digital experience.

The Kobo Glo HD was unveiled this morning in Toronto. The 6-inch e-ink display offers the highest resolution display on the market for an e-reader, at 300 ppi and 1448 x 1072 resolution. The device has a 1 GHz processor to make those page turns as fast as possible, and includes a built-in night light. It’ll be available in Canada starting May 1 and costs $129.99. It can be pre-ordered from Kobo.com starting April 8.

At a breakfast launch event in Toronto, Michael Tamblyn, president and chief content officer at Kobo, described how Kobo challenged some book lovers that were e-reader holdouts to try the Glo HD for seven days. A video of interview clips with the focus group shows that all of them enjoyed the leap to e-ink.

Kobo was looking for the characteristics of a device they’d want to see to make the jump from print to digital, Tamblyn says, and found that the closest possible fidelity to printed text was priority number one.

“To find that in a device that was at least $100 lower than anything else in the market is a big plus,” he says. “The question we asked ourselves was how do we expand from people that are generally comfortable with technology to people who sit just outside that.”

We did a quick Periscope livestream demo of the new e-reader, which you can watch here if you don’t mind the vertical framing.

Beyond the new e-reader, Kobo is also launching a new support service for first-time e-reader buys. Dubbed Kobo Welcome, it’s a toll-free concierge call-in service exclusive to buyers of the Glo HD. It will help customers get set up with their new device, to the point of loading a book to read.

“You open up a box, you call a number, and you have someone on the other end walk you through the entire process,” Tamblyn says. “Because sometimes you have someone that is 75 years old, or 80 years old, opening that e-reader for the first time.”

It all goes back to immersing the reader in the book they are reading, Tamblyn says, and to do that you want to make the device as invisible as possible. That is part of the reason that Kobo has scaled back on the gamification aspects of its Reading Life social networking features. While Reading Life is still available in a separate section on the e-reader, Kobo used to insert messages from it directly into the reading experience.

“We had a sub-set of our customer base that really likes them and at the same time a large section that just wants to be in the book,” Tamblyn says. “Those people didn’t want things coming at them from the sides that would knock them out of that experience.”

Kobo will continue to push on building community around e-books, he says. But he wouldn’t elaborate on any specific plans at the moment.

Kobo Welcome will be available between 9 AM and 9 PM local time, seven days a week, and is supported in Canada, the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, the U.K., and Portugal.

The Kobo Glo HD is available May 1 for consumers in the U.S., Australia and New Zealand as well. It’s available May 22 in France, and June 1 in the U.K., Italy, Netherlands, Germany, and Spain.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Brian Jackson
Brian Jacksonhttp://www.itbusiness.ca
Editorial director of IT World Canada. Covering technology as it applies to business users. Multiple COPA award winner and now judge. Paddles a canoe as much as possible.

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