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

Barnes & Noble, Kobo Have Shut Down Their HTML5 Reading Apps Barnes & Noble e-Reading Software Kobo In 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 Booki.sh 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 Booki.sh) with web reading apps.

image by Ultra

Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader: He's here to chew bubble gum and fix broken websites, and he is all out of bubble gum. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills at the drop of a hat. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.

12 Comments

  1. Chris Meadows20 April, 2016

    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.

    Reply
    1. Nate Hoffelder20 April, 2016

      The weird thing is the page is still there and can be found through search engines.

      Reply
  2. Mark20 April, 2016

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

    Reply
    1. Nate Hoffelder20 April, 2016

      Yes.

      Reply
    2. Frank22 April, 2016

      Not B&N, but Amazon still has its HTML5 reader: https://read.amazon.com/ and it has a PC app.

      Reply
  3. Sean20 April, 2016

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

    Reply
    1. Nate Hoffelder20 April, 2016

      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.

      Reply
  4. […] Der teuren Entwicklung und Wartung von HTML5-Apps scheint allerdings grundsätzlich wenig Interesse bei der Leserschaft entgegenzustehen. Die Nook-Plattform der US-amerikanischen Buchhandelskette Barnes & Noble hat ihren Cloud-Reader im Zuge eines Relaunches stillschweigend vom Netz genommen, und nun ging auch Kobo mit seiner HTML5-App offline, wie zuerst das Fachblog The Digital Reader berichtete. […]

    Reply
  5. Tom Semple22 April, 2016

    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 read.amazon.com supports IE10+ now. As well as (forever) iOS Safari.

    Reply
    1. Nate Hoffelder22 April, 2016

      Google’s isn’t really BYoeB. There’s no way to get it out again afterward.

      Reply
  6. […] I didn’t think any more of it than that at the time—just another brick in the wall of how Barnes & Noble was failing at e-books—but Nate Hoffelder at The Digital Reader suggests it might be part of a larger trend. It turns out that both Barnes & Noble and Kobo have shut down their HTML5 e-reader apps. […]

    Reply
  7. […] I didn’t think any more of it than that at the time—just another brick in the wall of how Barnes & Noble was failing at e-books—but Nate Hoffelder at The Digital Reader suggests it might be part of a larger trend. It turns out that both Barnes & Noble and Kobo have shut down their HTML5 e-reader apps. […]

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to top
%d bloggers like this: