Kobo brings eBooks to the masses with new Arc tablets, Aura eReader

New Arc 7- and 10-inch HD tablets split between Android and eReading, 6-inch Aura eReader for true bibliophiles

Canadian eBook seller and eReader-maker Kobo has four new slates to show off to the public, part of a renewed push to target a wider market while also catering to faithful fans of the brand.

The Kobo Arc 10 HD tablet.
The Kobo Arc 10 HD tablet.

The hero of the new line-up is the $499.95 Kobo Arc 10 HD, a 10-inch tablet competing with the iPad, Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 and Nexus 10. It’s largely similar to its contemporaries, but is unique in offering both a standard Android tablet menu — complete with all the apps, notifications and distractions you’d expect — and a pared-down, reading-focused interface, which disables all distractions and offers access to Kobo’s growing library of graphic novels and interactive kids’ books alongside classic eBook fare.

A $249.95 16GB and $299.95 32GB 7-inch version of the Arc HD will also be available when the tablet line-up is released, as will a $199.95 8GB non-HD variant. All will use the same dual-mode interface. All Kobo’s Arc devices are designed to retain the entire feature-set of an Android tablet, with unrestricted access to the Google Play store and plenty of processing power, but the company is banking on its history as a book-seller to appeal to parents and occasional readers.

The Kobo Arc 7 and 7 HD tablets.
The Kobo Arc 7 and 7 HD tablets.

Part of this appeal is a move to offer more immersive and interactive content through the Kobo eBook store — including children’s literature like the Hairy Maclary series, and to further increase the appeal of its eBook library with curated, Pinterest-esque ‘Collections’ of related content, including author interviews, soundtracks, videos and audio tied in with traditional eBook titles.

Kobo’s Australian director of content acquisition, Malcolm Neil, told GoodGearGuide that the company asked its existing customers what they wanted in a new tablet. “They want a device that can watch films, that can listen to music, they want a crisp, clean screen — bigger than the 7-inch — and they want kids’ books, in particular, to be analogous to the size of an actual book.”

“There’s a whole market segment that was waiting for a solution. We’ve taken the Tapestry component of the previous Arc, and developed that further to something we call Collections — beyond the book.”

“It takes that guided approach that Tapestry had, but this is a curated enhancement to the book. It takes a stab at what a book might become in the future — there is a story, and this story will be told, but within this story is a whole lot of other ways to experience that story which is the conversation that the Web has with its users all the time. There’s already enhanced content available online, but nothing that’s put it together in this curated way — ‘Here’s the experience of the book, how deep do you want to go?’”

The Kobo Aura 6-inch eReader.
The Kobo Aura 6-inch eReader.

Far from switching its attention entirely to multimedia tablets, though, Kobo also has a new eReader in the Aura. With the Aura HD remaining popular, the Aura is a pared-down version of the existing flagship, transferring the HD’s 1GHz processor and 4GB of storage into a slightly smaller 6-inch eReader with a 212ppi Pearl eInk screen, with a Comfortlight screen light also built in. The Kobo Aura will be $189.95, $40 cheaper than the Aura HD’s recommended retail price.

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Campbell Simpson

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