Thousands of books in one deviceBy Tatin Yang
Philippine Daily Inquirer
When my family and I moved to a smaller place a couple of years back, it was the eBook reader that made moving easy.
Just like any bookworm, my room was more library than a bedroom. Owning an eBook reader allowed me to only bring books that had sentimental value; the rest, which I could replace with digital copies, were donated and given away. Had I not owned an eBook reader, I think I would’ve bawled my eyes out over having to give up so many books—or not moved at all.
When digital books and eReaders first came out, it was met with a lot of skepticism on whether it would be a viable alternative to print books. Thanks to technology like E Ink—electronic paper displays that appear like a printed page—digital reading has taken off quite well. Many purists still cling to the tactile feel of a print book, but to a true reader, the act and the pleasure of reading itself transcends any medium— digital or otherwise.
National Book Store (NBS) knows what makes readers tick—that’s its core business after all. So when the company decided to officially open its doors to digital books, it was only natural that it found a partner who valued readers just as much.
That partner is Kobo.
Kobo is one of the biggest players in the eReading industry. Unlike other competitors whose eReading devices make up only a portion of sales, Kobo is focused on eReading alone, from its proprietary devices to content in its digital bookstore.
The deal between Kobo and National Book Store was almost three years in the making. “We were interested in Kobo because it partners with other bookstores all over the world and provides a total solution. No need to invent a new device or put content together ourselves—they did that for other countries and we wanted to be the Philippine partner,” says NBS purchasing director Xandra Ramos-Padilla.
“We choose to partner with the best. I gotta tell you, when we were talking to people in the Philippines, there was only one name that we heard, and that’s National Book Store,” says Kobo’s EVP for business development Todd Humphrey. “You walk into their stores and the experience is exactly what we want to be associated with, so it was a natural choice.”
“Kobo shared the values that we have: It’s all about the reading; it’s giving people options on how they read. eReading is going to be part of the future,” adds NBS marketing director Miguel Ramos.
Three eReading devices from Kobo will be sold in NBS—Kobo Touch at P4,599; Kobo Glo, P6,599 (both E Ink); and an Android-powered tablet, the Kobo Arc (P9,149). Kobo users may purchase content via Kobo’s eBookstore which has already been localized to reflect book prices in Philippine pesos. The Kobo eBookstore already contains around 4 million titles (prices range from as low as P80 to P700, depending on the title), with plans to add more.
Apart from NBS and Kobo’s partnership to make digital readers more accessible for Filipino readers, Kobo’s eBookstore is also a way for locally published content to be digitized to reach more consumers all over the world. Kobo, after all, has about 16 million eReaders in 190 countries. Malcolm Neil, Kobo’s director of publishing relations, is hard at work to make this happen. “We did a lot of research, read a lot of books on Filipino reading culture. We talk to publishers and discuss their digital strategy, if they’ve got one in place,” he says.
All about the reader
Based on Neil’s research, mass-market serials in Filipino and English are very popular here, as well as graphic novels. He adds, “We’ve recently developed in our tablet and in our apps a way to read comics. Filipinos have enormous comics and graphic novel creators and readers; there’s brilliant innovative stuff done locally, and all the big American companies are using local Filipino artists, inkers, etc. There’s a lot of content we’re just starting to bring onto the platform.”
Kobo’s presence in the Philippines will not only impact readers who want to go digital—publishers and self-published authors will also want to check out what Kobo can do for them. “We’ve done agreements with thousands of publishers in the last four years—one of them is Anvil Publishing, one of National Book Store’s own—and really convincing the publishers that this isn’t an ‘either or,’ we are a supplement to the business. Kobo is ultimately all about the reader,” adds Humphrey.
Kobo Touch, Kobo Glo and Kobo Arc will be available in select National Book Store branches starting Sept. 20. Visit www.nationalbookstore.com.ph for more info. Follow @nbsalert on Twitter and Instagram for updates.
Hands-on with the Kobo Glo
“I’D LIKE to say that we are the only (eReading) company in the world that focuses on experience for the consumer,” muses Todd Humphrey, Kobo EVP for business development.
Having tried out eReaders from different brands (Kindle, Nook, Trekstor’s Pyrus), I can really say that Kobo has the most detailed settings available for users to customize their reading experience, especially after my reading date with the Kobo Glo.
Not only can you change the font of the book you’re reading—Kobo lets you choose from 11 different fonts—some of the fonts go as far as to offer advanced settings where you can tweak its size, weight and sharpness. The page turning experience on the touchscreen is also customizable—you can adjust the width space of the “previous” or “next” page turn on the screen according to which hand you are using to hold the eReader. You can also choose when the E Ink page will refresh itself; an E Ink device only consumes battery when the page refreshes, so choosing the lowest refresh setting (every six pages) will ensure that your battery will last you more than a month with regular use. Even at this refresh rate, you won’t see any “ghosting,” where faint traces of the previous page can be seen in the background. Jumping from pages to chapters while reading is also easy with the slider tab located at the bottom of the screen.
Responsive and speedy
The touchscreen is very responsive, page turning is fast, and performing tasks like browsing through your library and purchasing books is speedy, too.
Kobo’s expansive range of multilingual dictionaries available for download is a great tool to insert a bit of foreign language study in between reading your favorite
Highlights and annotations are easily done via the draggable markers, so you can save favorite passages easily. Every feature and setting put in place by Kobo into their eReaders is a testament to its commitment to provide a pleasurable reading experience.
The Kobo Glo, dubbed fondly by its makers as the “marriage saver,” (no need to turn on lamps when you’re still up and reading) comes with a Comfort Light system which lets you read in the dark from the soft illumination on the screen. The light can be turned on and off via a button along the top of the device. The illumination from the Kobo Glo is very comfortable; it lights the screen enough that you can see what you’re reading but never too bright—even at its brightest setting—to strain your eyes, unlike backlit LCD tablets.
The device is light and comfortable to hold in one hand. It’s thin enough to slip in a small bag, but not so much that it feels like it’s going to slip out of your hands. The back of the device curves out gently to rest flush against your palm.
The slightly rubberized texture of the Kobo makes it resistant to scratches, but it is also a fingerprint magnet so you might want to go for the white or colored model instead.
Setting up a Kobo account is easy. All you need are an e-mail address and a credit or debit card. At press time, the storefront accepts Visa and MasterCard credit cards. Visa Debit is accepted, but when we tried our ATM Debit Card (MasterCard), it was not accepted as a viable payment option.
You can buy a book from the device itself (WiFi connection required), or you can buy it from your computer and the device will sync all new content once it’s turned on. You can even preorder a book months ahead and it will be delivered as soon as it’s ready.
If you have books purchased from other eBookstores, Kobo will even let you load the books into the device—you just need to authenticate your Kobo with your Adobe DRM account. If the 2-gigabyte built-in memory (which can hold 1,000 books) isn’t enough for you, the E Ink devices (Kobo Touch and Kobo Glo) offer expandable storage via a microSD card slot, so you can expand memory up to 34 GB to hold 17,000 eBooks, easily 47 years’ worth of books if you read only one book a day.