Toronto-based Kobo will open up a new self-publishing initiative later this month; allowing authors, writers and publishers use portable e-reader devices and online e-commerce infrastructure to monetize their own content.
The now-in-beta service called Kobo Writing Life is just one chapter in an increasingly successful story for the company, now owned by an international marketing firm.
The company recently announced it’s achieved triple digit growth, driven by growing eBook downloads of some 400 and increased eReader sales by 160 percent.
Now Kobo is playing with Google, and Google Play, the search giant’s new digital content experience launched to let consumers find, enjoy and share movies, games and apps.
Kobo Vox customers now have access to more than 500,000 apps, including top news, weather and information feeds, as part of the e-reader’s new support for the Google Play digital content service. Users can access music, movies, Android apps, and games with the Google Play store app preloaded on the Kobo Vox.
Access includes Google Mobile services, including: Gmail, YouTube, Google Maps for Android, Google Calendar, Google Contacts and Google Play Movies, and customers in the United States will be able to store up to 20,000 songs for free through Google Play.
The Kobo Vox features a 7” FFS+ multimedia touch screen display, and online connectivity for send email, check Facebook, or browse their favourite websites.
“Google Play is the perfect addition for the content-rich eReading environment of the Kobo Vox,” said Dan Leibu, Chief Technology Officer, Kobo. “This is another big step in our ability to give people an open and compelling multimedia device that can be customized to suit their needs. Having access to the thousands of games, apps and tools offered by Google Play makes the Kobo Vox an eReader and so much more.”
"We're thrilled to introduce Kobo's open eReading platform and the Kobo 'Read Freely' philosophy to new countries around the world," says Michael Serbinis, CEO of Kobo. "It's become increasingly clear that the world of eReading is the way of the future and as technology continues to break down geographic borders, Kobo is excited to lead the charge into new markets and continue to shape the future of the multi-billion dollar eReading industry."
The self-publishing Kobo Writing Life portal does not charge the author for use. Authors can in fact set their book price to “FREE” at any time without restrictive exclusive agreements.
The service plans to pay 10% higher royalties on sales in many growing international markets, allowing authors much more freedom on pricing. The service will give authors the opportunity to connect with readers through its Kobo Author Notes, or to connect to readers through Kobo’s free apps, integrated with Facebook Timeline
“We can't wait to see what authors will do with this.” said Michael Tamblyn, EVP Content & Merchandising, Kobo.
Kobo Writing Life, currently being tested by 50 authors in its beta program, will be available in English at the end of June for the more than 1,600 authors already signed up.
Additional languages and country-specific support will be added in the coming year, the company reports.
Kobo eReading apps are available for tablets, desktop computers and smartphones.
The recent Kobo acquisition by Rakuten, an international e-commerce company, extends Kobo's reach to Japan and European countries through some of the world's largest international e-commerce companies including Buy.com and Play.com.
Headquartered in Toronto, Kobo says it has passed the 2.5-million title mark, and now offers some one million free books and books in 60 languages represented in its content catalogue. Kobo recently partnered with the McClatchy Group, Dark Horse Comics and Trajectory Classics Illustrated to bring readers the latest comic, graphic novels, newspapers, as well as book titles.