Barnes & Noble, Kobo Have Shut Down Their HTML5 Reading Apps

2776410802_28e00a715b_oIn 2011 browser-based HTML5 reading apps were hailed as a rebuff to Apple's demand for a vig. Everyone from Kobo to Nook to Kindle were releasing their own app, and there were even a couple independent platforms like Bookish. The ebook market was showing every sign of going for web apps over native apps, but as the years passed the momentum swung the other way.

First Ibis Reader and then were acquired and shutdown, and now both Kobo and Barnes & Noble have quietly retired their web apps.

Over the weekend a reader tipped me to the news that Kobo had quietly removed the install option for Kobo Instant Reader. Launched in 2012, this app was one of the better HTML5 reading apps (I seriously couldn't tell that it wasn't the iPad app). You could use it to read ebooks offline, and even buy the ebooks in the app.

Alas, the great experience wasn't enough to keep the app around. It is now gone, and Kobo is not responding to queries on the topic.

While we don't know why Kobo abandoned their app, we do know a little more about B&N's Nook for Web.  That app was lost in last year's botched relaunch of the B&N website. Barnes & Noble did not bring the app from the old site to the new one, and I can understand why.

Launched in July 2012, Nook for Web was never fully developed. It was a frankly shitty app which did not work offline, could not remember to keep you logged in, and didn't support all browsers or even most mobile devices.

Its demise went unremarked but not unnoticed. With the B&N website working about as well as a one-legged man in a butt- kicking contest, the death of that web app was relatively unimportant. (Plus there was the chance that B&N might fix the app, or replace it.)

But with Kobo having dropped their app as well, it was worth noting that B&N had passively let Nook for Web die. It's gone now, and that leaves just Amazon, Google, and OverDrive (they bought with web reading apps.

image by Ultra

About Nate Hoffelder (11471 Articles)
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader: "I've been into reading ebooks since forever, but I only got my first ereader in July 2007. Everything quickly spiraled out of control from there. Before I started this blog in January 2010 I covered ebooks, ebook readers, and digital publishing for about 2 years as a part of MobileRead Forums. It's a great community, and being a member is a joy. But I thought I could make something out of how I covered the news for MobileRead, so I started this blog."

9 Comments on Barnes & Noble, Kobo Have Shut Down Their HTML5 Reading Apps

  1. I did happen to notice that B&N didn’t have any web-based reader when I was going through the thing with my missing A Fire Upon the Deep novel a few weeks back, but I just figured that it was part and parcel with their decision not to let people download e-books anymore.

  2. So, is B&N’s windows 10 app the only PC reader left?

  3. I think Rakuten owns Kobo and they recently bought OverDrive. That might have something to do with Kobo dropping their app?

    • The two companies are separate, serve different markets, and the platforms are incompatible.

      It would cost less and make more sense for both companies to keep its cloud ebook app.

  4. And Google’s is the only HTML5 reader that supports BYOeB. But not so great with mobile browsers, won’t even run in Chrome for iOS! It used to work (badly) on the Kindle experimental web browser…I always thought that was a lost opportunity: Kobo/Google/B&N could have made a Fire+Kindle friendly web reader.

    I see supports IE10+ now. As well as (forever) iOS Safari.

3 Trackbacks & Pingbacks

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