And yes, I was surprised. Who would expect Kobo to increase the price? The trend for gadgets has always been to lower the price, not increase it. But perhaps this is a sign that Kobo is looking to compete directly with Amazon instead of pitching their ereader as the cheaper alternative?
That would indeed be a change for Kobo. They launched their first Kobo eReader in early 2010 with a retail of $149, and that was about half the price of the Nook 3G and Kindle 2 at the time. They priced it lower than the competition because, well, it was less capable, but also so they could pitch it as being cheaper.
You might recall that the strategy backfired on Kobo. B&N and Amazon each responded by dropping the prices of their ereaders to below $200, and then they each released a Wifi equipped model for $149. That forced Kobo even lower and then it eventually led to the current situation where you can get a $99 Nook Touch or a $109 K4.
If you look at this price bump as a shift in branding then it isn't a surprise anymore. I suspect that Kobo are planing to cash in on the common belief that they are one of the major ebookstores, and they want to stop being thought of as the cheaper alternative. The first step would be to raise the price of the Kobo Touch to $139; that lets them apply the same discount as on the ad-supported K3 and Kindle Touch.
One friend on Twitter suggested that this might be the first sign of Rakuten's influence, which makes a fair amount of sense given that it happened so soon after Rakuten bought Kobo. While it is plausible I don't know what's going on in their heads.
In any case, this price increase is a sign of changes coming.