When Apple introduced the iPad, a tablet that combines the functions of an e-reader and a full-color laptop, you would have been excused for thinking that was the last entrant in the E-Reader Derby. But, no. Borders has begun taking orders for yet another e-reader, the Kobo, which will be released June 17 and will cost only $149.99.
The Kobo can be seen as a low-cost version of Amazon's Kindle -- retailing at about half the price. It mimics the Kindle's design and feel -- its white case is about 5x7 inches and weighs less than eight ounces -- and Wired went so far as to wonder whether it would be the real Kindle-killer. I can see a future where the iPad dominates the high-end of the e-reader market, with a large, full-color screen for reading graphic novels, comics and art-heavy books. Kobo, which will be sold at Walmart among other places, could siphon off consumers looking for a cheap e-reader. Still, it has a long way to go to knock out the dominant Kindle.
Kobo also has a fall-back position: It's based on an open system philosophy, so its e-publications can be read on many devices, including laptops, the BlackBerry and iPhone. So even if the e-reader hardware doesn't catch on, Kobo may be around in another form. But even here, Kobo faces an imposing competitor in Google Editions, which will launch this summer and allow users to read books via a web browser from a broad range of websites.