The increasing socialification (as opposed to socialization) of our everyday activities is food for thought. What is it that makes people want to share everything about every activity? Reading especially, to me, has always been more of an escape from the social sphere. Except for on the rare occasions on which I have had to read out loud, books are a way to completely disengage from the constantly and insistently connected online world. Yet I can’t deny that the urge to share and be shared with must be as compelling for some regarding books as it is for their lunches, activities, and so on.
So when Kobo shows off its e-book reader and touts it as the world’s first social e-reader, I am skeptical. Firstly because I’m pretty sure there are plenty of socially-enabled e-readers out there, and secondly because I’m not sure social is a basket into which that Kobo should be putting all their eggs.
The competition is fierce as hell. Amazon’s Fire is widely recognized as a potential powerhouse, and the Nook Color has already captured a nice little piece of the LCD e-reader market. I’ve had a soft spot for Kobo for a while now, being a fan of their original and updated touch-based e-readers, but I have no confidence in this new venture.
The reason Amazon is able to make the Fire a compelling device is because of the vast stores of content they have waiting to serve up. Movies, shows, music, and more in addition to books. The Nook Color was able to carve out a niche because it had an actual identity, and was far cheaper than other Android tablets. What does the Kobo have?
Well, to its credit, it has social features that are very desirable among social readers. You know, book clubs and such. If you and your friends have the wherewithal to put together a book club, this is definitely the platform to do it on. The Kobo Pulse integration lets you detect and join discussion of passages and pages as you read them, and the Vox is the first e-reader to get Facebook Ticker integration. “Devin turned a page in The Aeneid – 12 seconds ago.”
And who doesn’t like stats like these:
But outside Kobo’s unique and potentially interesting social e-reading platform (collectively called Reading Life), it’s just another slightly out of date Android tablet with a skin on it. The specs aren’t anything to sneeze at (they were leaked a while back), but they’re also nothing special. It’s priced competitively at $200, certainly, but I’m not sure I could advise anyone to pick it up over the Fire, based strictly on the potential I see in them. That said, I haven’t used either, so I don’t want to make any real recommendations here. But I don’t think there’s anything Kobo has that Amazon can’t whip together in an update. That’s a dangerous position for them to be in.