Kobo’s newest e-reader is going after fans of Amazon’s Kindle Oasis. The new Kobo Forma is the company’s most expensive and comprehensive e-reader yet, coming in at $279 and featuring a waterproof design and an E-ink Mobius display.
Seemingly cut from the same cloth as the Kindle Oasis, the Kobo Forma has an 8-inch display with a large bezel on one edge for gripping.
The Mobius technology built into the HD E-ink display uses a flexible plastic layer to make the device more durable while keeping it light. Weighing about 195 grams (0.43 pounds), the Kobo Forma can withstand drops from up to two meters and it also meets IPX8 standards, which means it can withstand being under up to two meters of water for up to 60 minutes. Kobo also claims that the Mobius tech lets the Forma withstand “more bends, twists, full handbags, and overloaded backpacks” than other e-readers.
Targeting US readers, with Walmart’s help
The new e-reader debuts not long after Kobo and Walmart announced their partnership to bring e-books and audiobooks to Walmart customers, and in turn, to more people in the US. Kobo devices and services are popular in Canada, the UK, and other countries, but only recently did the company decide to come back to the US to try to compete with Amazon in the digital reading market.
Through the partnership with Walmart, Kobo e-readers are available in Walmart stores and online, and customers can access Kobo’s library of over six million e-books and audiobooks through both the Walmart and Kobo mobile apps. The two companies also have a $9.99-per-month audiobook subscription service that, like Amazon’s more expensive Audible, includes one complementary audiobook each month.
Amazon currently has the US e-reader market firmly in its grasp. While competitors like Barnes and Nobles’ Nook still exist, Amazon’s Kindle devices are the most popular e-readers in the country. Also, the company’s Kindle app provides a gateway to the millions of e-book titles available through Amazon for those who don’t want a dedicated e-reader. Partnering with Walmart, arguably Amazon’s biggest competitor, was a smart move on Kobo’s part because it gets Kobo’s name, devices, and services in front of the millions of people shopping at Walmart regularly.
Kobo faces an uphill battle in the US, but its integration with the Overdrive online library service could give it an edge over Amazon. Recently, the company pushed out a software update that allows most of its e-readers to search for, borrow, and download library books via Overdrive directly from the e-reader itself. Kindles can’t do that—customers can only use the Overdrive website or app to borrow Kindle library books, which are sent to e-readers via an external web link.
The new Kobo Forma e-reader with 8GB of storage will be available for preorder on October 16 for $279 in the US, Canada, the UK, Italy, the Netherlands, France, Japan, and Spain. A Kobo Forma with 32GB of storage is expected to be available at a later date.