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Kobo Disrupts the eReader Market with a $129 Kindle Voyage Competitor

They’ve done it again.

In 2010 Kobo disrupted the ereader market when it released its first Kobo Reader. That wasn’t a very good device, and Kobo didn’t have a huge market share, but Kobo was selling it cheap in the US and Canada. Its $149 price tag forced B&N and Amazon to drop the prices of their models, resulting in a much cheaper ereader market.

And now Kobo has done it again.

This Toronto-based ebook company just launched the Kobo Glo HD, a 6″ ereader with specs similar to the Kindle Voyage, only at a much lower price.

The Glo HD sports a 6″ Carta E-ink display with a screen resolution of 1448 x 1072 and a sharpness on par with Retina screens (300ppi). It runs Kobo’s software on a 1GHz CPU with 4GB internal storage. There’s no card slot, but it does of course have Wifi, a frontlight, and a touchscreen.


After looking at the leaked images, the leaked quick start guide (PDF), and reading the press release (PDF), it’s safe to say that the Glo HD won’t have the nifty edge-to-edge touchscreen found on the Kindle Voyage, but I’m fine with that.

I never liked that touchscreen, and what’s more Kobo makes up for the lack. The new Kobo Glo HD is scheduled to ship in the US, NZ, Canada, and Australia on the first, and it will cost:

  • $129.99 (CA/US)
  • €129.99 (EU)
  • £109.99 (UK)
  • $179.99 (AU)
  • $219.99 (NZ)

I can’t speak for the markets down under, but the US, EU, and UK prices are equal to the regular price of the Kindle Paperwhite in those markets.

To put it simply, Kobo has redefined what a premium ereader is and what it should cost. They have released an ereader which is comparable to the Kindle Voyage, and then they knocked $90 off of the regular price.

This leaves the Kobo Aura H2O, with its 6.8″ screen and $179 price tag, as the sole premium ereader on the market. The Kindle Voyage and the Kobo Glo HD are now mid-range ereaders.

And as for the Kindle Paperwhite, well, it is going to have to get a lot cheaper.

Is anyone else looking forward to Amazon’s response?

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Reader April 7, 2015 um 11:54 am

No SD card slot? No thanks.

kurt April 7, 2015 um 12:19 pm


Pugwash April 7, 2015 um 3:26 pm

Why? I have 48 books on my H2O at the moment which is not even close to full without an SD card inserted.

Nate Hoffelder April 7, 2015 um 3:36 pm


4GB is enough space for around 4 thousand ebooks. That’s actually a larger catalog than most ereaders are capable of organizing.

rui April 7, 2015 um 5:17 pm

Yep a sd card slot on an eReader is pointless . My glo is 2 years old, over 150 books and no where near getting to a range that I would need a SD card.

sdxmn April 7, 2015 um 9:29 pm

Poor capabilities to manage files on a device could actually be mitigated by using multiple memory cards. Since you can buy lots of small (2 GB or less) microSD cards off eBay for about $0.5/card, that is a good way to organize your papers independently from the reader. I for one find it more comfortable not to have everything on the reader.

Reader April 7, 2015 um 10:16 pm

PDF books can take up a lot of space.

Andrea April 7, 2015 um 10:49 pm

So does manga, either in cbz or epub. One chapter can be 10mb, so that eats into it quick.

The kobo mini had a similar issue, but it was dead easy to pop it open and swap out the 4gb internal for a 16gb…

Nate Hoffelder April 8, 2015 um 10:35 am

This is true.I don’t read much manga so I missed this point.

Hrafn April 7, 2015 um 10:36 pm

My impression was that it is considerably more easy to root an eReader with a microSD slot than one without. Given that I’m considerably less enamored about what I’ve heard about Kobo’s software than their hardware, this is a turnoff for me as well.

sdxmn April 7, 2015 um 11:02 pm

Given the low entry price, chances are that Kobo recycled the old Glo’s board design for the new reader, as was apparently also successfully done with the Aura HD’s board design for the H20. If the Glo’s board is used, it might use an internal SD card, but I guess that will only be known after somebody opens the device and posts pictures. Of course, it is very disappointing, that there is no externally accessible memory expansion slot, since the additional cost would have been ABSOLUTELY marginal.

Nate Hoffelder April 8, 2015 um 10:34 am

But didn’t the codename leak also suggest that the new devices had a later version of the hardware?

Anne April 7, 2015 um 12:04 pm

Yes, I am hoping they will reduce the price and then let me get some money back on the Voyage I got a few weeks ago. I am still making payments.

I will order the Glo HD as soon as it appears on the Chapters Indigo web site for pre-order to the US.

JImo April 8, 2015 um 9:50 am

I see Kindle Paperwhite is $99 this morning using the save $20 with promo code READING20 !

fjtorres April 7, 2015 um 12:04 pm

I think you’re letting specmanship get the better of you.
Premium products are not defined solely by the specs (screen resolution, in this case).

What Kobo has done is raise the ante for what mid-range reader resolution is (a worthy thing all by itself) but the casing looks pretty blocky and plasticy and we have no idea of how good the software will be or how good the user experience will be. This is still Kobo.

The Voyage still offers the page turn buttons, light sensors, and added reading features to justify a higher price. Amazon might drop the price to $179 but if they drop to even $149 they’ll easily blunt Kobo sales…
…and that assumes Kobo actually does some marketing to mainstream ereader buyers.

Nate Hoffelder April 7, 2015 um 12:14 pm

I could be wrong.

But the thing is, I find the Kobo software to be very adequate, and I am also content to read on the hardware. I was impressed by the Aura H2O last fall, and earlier this month I finished several books on the Aura HD.

So yes, I do think Kobo has disrupted the market.

fjtorres April 7, 2015 um 12:23 pm

Sure, they disrupted the midrange.
But making a higher resolution midrange reader is not the same thing as creating a cheaper premium reader.

Putting a high power engine in an econobox doesn’t turn it into a sports car nor does putting in a plush interior turn it into a luxury car. Remember the term "aspirational product"?

Airend April 7, 2015 um 1:41 pm

You might be an Amazon Kindle Vojage aficionado, no matter what the competition brings forward. That’s fine, it is your choice.

Nonetheless, as a Kindle and Kobo devices owner, I can guarantee you many software related problems by Kobo have been solved. My reading experience with Kobo Aura HD is even better than with the Kindle Voyage, because the Kobo screen is slightly bigger and I don’t have to turn the page so often.

The resolution is very good on both products.

Another problem with Amazon is the catastrophic customer service experience. Not to speak about the inhumane way they treat their blue collar employees in Europe, (possible in the US too).

fjtorres April 7, 2015 um 2:13 pm

Oh, Kobo has always solved their problems.
It’s the first six months or so that are the issue.

See, the thing is "Premium product" means more than "they always fix the problems". Premium products never *have* the problems. You pay a premium precisely so you won’t be a gamma tester.

Howsabout we wait until these hit the street and we see what pops up on the Kobo boards?

kurt April 7, 2015 um 12:21 pm

unless Amazon is releasing an 8″ reader with a resolution commensurate with its size, then no

Maria (BearMountainBooks) April 7, 2015 um 1:53 pm

Looks like it’s only out in Canada at the moment. Really pleased to see this new reader hit the market!

Jason April 7, 2015 um 3:05 pm

The cover on that looks really nice. I would so buy that. Oh, and the reader too for that matter.

Maria (BearMountainBooks) April 7, 2015 um 5:52 pm

I would like an SD slot, but at least they did provide a decent amount of storage.

Cassie April 7, 2015 um 11:09 pm

Unless they’ve made improvements on the Kobo OS, I’m sticking with Kindle…
I have both an Aura and a Paperwhite, and even with the font customization options on the Aura, I still prefer reading in my Paperwhite. There’s a lot of wasted space in the kepub books. I have to convert them using Calibre just to make the vertical margins better. And the Kobo keyboard is so much harder to use. The characters are teeny tiny and not as bold as the one on the Kindle onscreen keyboard.
I hope this lower price does make Amazon drop the price on the Voyage, though, so I can finally order one.
If Kobo releases a decent OS update, I might be tempted to buy the Kobo Glo HD, but till then, I’m okay with the ereaders I have.

jstar April 8, 2015 um 7:54 am

It’s great when someone comes along and actually competes instead of implicitly colluding (oxymoron?) around the price point that is the most consumers are willing bear!

Not trying to be snarky to the author, but it’s unfortunate that for this situation we use the negative term "disrupt" from the POV of the supply side. How about something positive and from the POV of the consumer like "brings sanity to"?

Nate Hoffelder April 8, 2015 um 8:08 am

I don’t see it as a negative.

But more importantly, I used that term intentionally and somewhat ironically. Amazon is often seen as a disruptive force, so the fact that someone disrupted them is newsworthy.

fjtorres April 8, 2015 um 9:53 am

It has happened before.
Nook did it with the STR and the Glowlight.
Got them a lot of press in the spring.
There was also the Aura HD, also released in the spring to much tevhie enthusiasm.
Of course, come fall and ereader buying season those "older" models were upstaged by the more recent "new and improved" Kindles and Sonys come comparisison shopping time.

Marketing is an art Nook hasn’t come close to mastering and Kobo isn’t much better. Given Kobo’s general lack of visibility in the US, outside the enthusiast blogosphere, it wouldn’t surprise me if Amazon did nothing until October.

I doubt there is much Kobo can do to move the needle in the US or UK by now; not with hardware. What moves the ebook market from here on out is content. Which is the way it’s been since the conspiracy kicked in, back in 2010.

Nate Hoffelder April 8, 2015 um 10:17 am

The disruptive factor here is the price, not the time of year.

And I wouldn’t call the Aura HD disruptive. It upstaged Amazon that year, but it wasn’t a disruption to the same degree as the Glo HD. It also wasn’t upstaged a few months later (you’re thinking of the Aura H2O).

The glowlight did try to be disruptive, yes. And then 5 months later we had new hardware from Amazon and Kobo to compete with a faulty design from B&N.

anothername April 8, 2015 um 8:16 am

Phew. Glad I didn’t lay out $200 for a Voyage.

DavidW April 9, 2015 um 9:24 am

Unless ebook prices drop in the kobo store to reasonable value (instead of 200-300% higher than Kindle and Google) I don’t see that it matters if they release a significantly cheaper ereader. In the long run it’s still more expensive.

Which is a shame because I really don’t like the Voyage (I find it uncomfortable for me to hold even with a case, and the flush bezel had led me to accidental turn pages), and end up spending all of my time reading on the new basic. And Kobo always had far superior typography and book covers for screen savers is awesome.

Maria (BearMountainBooks) April 9, 2015 um 9:31 am

I pretty much always use coupons at Kobo. But they don’t work on every book and you end up waiting for a coupon before buying a lot of times. Many, many books never go on sale and the coupons can’t be applied. For those, Google Play is generally the better deal.

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jupiter276 April 10, 2015 um 12:51 pm

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dfgvd April 14, 2015 um 1:06 pm

"And as for the Kindle Paperwhite, well, it is going to have to get a lot cheaper.
Is anyone else looking forward to Amazon’s response?"

Amazon’s first reaction might be the current $99 offer for the Paperwhite on Clearly, now is the time to collect customers who might not yet have heard that a Glo HD is coming.

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