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New Kobo E-reader for $79

By on September 6, 2012

The world of tablets and mini e-readers just got a new competitor of sorts. Kobo.

Kobo is based in Toronto and owned by Rakuten Inc, Japan’s top e-commerce operator, will launch three new devices in the next two months, as Amazon — the world’s largest Internet retailer — reportedly prepares its new tablet for market. And don’t forget the update of the Kindle e-reader.

Kobo, which has e-reading applications for the iPad, iPhone, BlackBerry and other devices, will name its tablet device ‘Kobo Arc’. It will come in an 8 gigabyte version priced at $200 and a 16 gigabyte version priced at $250, Chief Executive Mike Serbinis said.

The Arc is powered by a Texas Instruments OMAP 4470, 1.5 GHz dual core processor with 1GB of RAM and a 1280 x 800 (215 ppi) “HD” display. It also has a 1.3 megapixel front-facing camera but it doesn’t appear to offer Bluetooth. (The Nexus 7 uses a 1.3 GHz quad-core processor and weighs 12 ounces to the Arc’s 12.8 ounces).

While Kobo created its own customized interface for the Arc, Kobo CEO Michael Serbinis touted the fact that this is an “open” Android tablet that runs on Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) and gives you access to the Google Play Store for apps and games. (Presumably — and ironically — that would mean you can also download the Kindle and Nook e-reader apps, for instance.)

At the core of the Kobo Arc interface is a feature called Tapestries. It’s basically Kobo’s marketing term for giving you a way to customize your tablet “based on your interests and the content you love to easily organize your tablet.”

Unlike its bigger rivals, Kobo positions itself as the local option for users in every market in which it operates, by partnering with local bookstores that often market the device as their very own e-reading platform.

The company suffered a major setback in the crucial U.S. market last year after Borders, its bookstore partner in the United States, went bankrupt. In a bid to revive growth in the U.S., Kobo last month announced that it has joined forces with the American Booksellers Association, which comprises nearly 2,000 independent stores.


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