eBooks are gaining in popularity despite naysayers’ predictions that “most” consumers still want to touch and hold a real book.  The NEW Kobo eReader Touch Edition ($200) is an eReader that attempts to satisfy the tactile sensation of holding a real book, yet is all-electronic.

The tactile issue is addressed with Kobo’s quilted look and feel on the back as well as the ability to swipe to turn pages, similar to what one might do with an actual book.  Have a look at the back, pictured below in the available colors’ black, blue, lilac and silver.

       

Let’s explore more!  I know you’re familiar with the big brands of products in the eReader category – Kindle and Nook, and of course iPad has to be in the mix, but you might not be familiar with Kobo. I learned they are no also-ran, no “newbie” to the eReader market.  Rather, they are quite substantial.  According to the company, Kobo has more than 3.6 million users in over 100 countries.

This new eReader, the Touch Edition, is available for pre-order today, with wide distribution starting in time for Father’s Day.  If you would like to jump ahead and pre-order, go here.  When it is widely available, the Kobo eReader Touch Edition will be available for purchase at Borders, Best Buy and Wal-Mart.

In my brief hands-on, I was impressed with the technology allowing this eReader its book-like feel.  Start with zForce infrared technology from a company called Neonode.  Add to this the latest Pearl E Ink technology (the screen itself) that presents an easy-on-the-eyes image.  The screen does have a paper-like look, even in bright sunlight.  The infrared technology provides the means by which users may swipe to turn pages as well as multi-touch operations. This technology is different from what you already have experienced in iPad or any other touch screen.

How is it different?  iPad, for example needs capacitive resistance, the actual touch of a finger, for example, not pressure.  Others, however, require pressure because there are tiny switches that detect the pressure as well as where the pressure is applied in order to cause a reaction, that is, an action to take place. zForce relies on an overlay of infrared technology that can respond to a finger, a stylus, or almost any other method, without pressure. The infrared “reads” where the device contacts the screen and responds, so even if wearing a glove, this eReader responds to the gentle touch of a gloved finder, again, without pressure.  It is a satisfying experience!

So you’ll know, Kobo has been around since 2009 and quickly garnered fans. Now, with more than 2.3 million books and magazines in their store, they compare favorably to competitors. And, of course, there are FREE apps for iPhone & iPad, BlackBerry, Android devices and even for Palm Pre, as well as for Mac and Windows PCs.  And everything in the user’s library can be synced across all platforms so you can, for example start reading on your Mac, then grab your Kobo eReader Touch Edition, launch it, so to speak (yes, there is also built-in Wi-Fi) and sync it with your account online.  Now, you’re synchronized and can resume where you left off at home while on the go, with bookmarks saved and all the rest.

The screen is 6-inches, so the device is also travel-friendly, and it features 16 levels of grey scale as well as two font styles in 12 sizes.  The interface underlying the product is all Kobo’s.  Users will notice and like that the buttons are gone and that the interface is highly intuitive. I’m going to stop my own words here and insert some of the information supplied by Kobo about this new product.  It’s bullet-pointed for easy absorption, and there is also some surprise info for those new to the Kobo name. Pay particular attention to the section about awards for reading and the social aspect of what Kobo is doing.

 

AMAZING NEW REAL TOUCH™ EXPERIENCE – Now with new Infrared Touch Technology, eReading just got easier!  You can swipe to turn pages, just like a real book!  With our intuitive new Real Touch™ interface, you can highlight a phrase, lookup a word, zoom into an image, increase the font size, or quickly navigate through a book as well as your entire library.  Finding your next read is also quick and easy with a virtual keyboard.  We’ve taken the buttons out, so you can focus on reading.

  • New zForce™ Infrared Touch Technology – Uses Neonode’s patented touch-screen technology, zForce, to deliver market-leading finger navigation including gestures, multi-touch, sweeps and much more
  • New Pearl 6” E Ink Screen – Equipped with the newest E Ink Screen featuring 16 level grey scale, the Kobo eReader Touch is a highly responsive and intuitive experience designed to help you forget about the device and focus on reading
  • High Performance Engine – Powered by Freescale™ i.MX508 for ultra fast page turning and low power consumption
  • Tap or Swipe to Turn Pages – Easily read and turn pages by swiping or tapping the screen – it’s just like reading a real book
  • Beautiful Home Screen – A beautiful, geometric mosaic of your most recently opened and newly added reads lets you easily find and open what you’re looking for with just one touch
  • Long Press for Highlights and Look Up – Long press on a word to bring up the highlighting tool – save favorite passages or look up a word using the built-in Merriam-Webster Dictionary
  • New Search and Virtual Keyboard – The Kobo eReader Touch Edition virtual keyboard makes it easy to find the book you’re looking for. Plus, the new predictive search feature automatically offers suggestions that match your query – before you’re even done typing
  • New Browse Experience – Navigating the new Kobo eReader Touch Edition is an intuitive experience – use the book browser to easily navigate through an entire chapter in a book; use simple page controls to move quickly through your library of books
  • Customizable Fonts – 2 font styles and 12 font sizes allows you to enjoy a read that is suited to your preferences and easy on your eyes
  • Bookmark Where You Last Left Off – or book mark several places. Plus, read across devices and pick up from the last page read with Kobo’s synched bookmark technology
  • PDF Zoom and Landscape – Zoom in 200% on image-intensive PDFs with a simple double tap. Drag to pan around images or touch Rotate to change from portrait to landscape and back

 

BEAUTIFUL NEW DESIGN – With design partner IDEO, Kobo spent months listening to users to build a truly advanced reader that delivers a ‘true to life’ experience.  With the Kobo-signature soft quilted back and travel friendly size, the new Kobo eReader Touch offers the ultimate reading experience.

  • Iconic, Striking New Design – Now with latest 6” Pearl E Ink screen, Kobo’s latest edition introduces a contemporary design that puts the focus on reading
  • Single Home Button –With our new touch experience, we’ve eliminated the clutter so you can focus on reading.  The Kobo eReader Touch Edition has just one button, making navigation easy.  Books don’t have keyboards – neither should your eReader
  • The Ultimate in Reading Comfort – With our signature quilted soft-touch back, you can read for hours, plus the Kobo eReader Touch Edition is lightweight and thinner than most paperbacks, weighing just 200 grams (7 ounces)
  • The Perfect Size for Readers – Fits in your pocket easily, so you can take it with you everywhere
  • Read in Style – Comes in an assortment of stylish new colors for any occasion. Choose from Lilac, Blue, Silver and Black

 

ACCESS MILLIONS of TITLES: Easily connect via Wi Fi or USB to access more than 2.3 million books, newspapers and magazines from the Kobo Store.  Also borrow and read books from your local library.

  • Get Free Book Previews – Comes pre-loaded with 15 hand-picked FREE previews of the hottest new books – browse and preview millions of other titles in the Kobo store
  • One of the Largest Stores Worldwide – More than 2.3 million eBooks, with titles ranging from the New York Times’ bestseller list, the hottest new releases, thrillers, romance, Oprah’s Picks and more – there is an eBook for everyone
  • Popular Newspapers and Magazines – Enjoy free 2-week trials of the most popular newspapers and magazines
  • Over 1 Million FREE Titles – Kobo offers over 1 million free and engaging classics from Anna Karenina, to Pride and Prejudice, to Dracula!
  • Visit Your Local Library – With the new Kobo eReader Touch you can easily borrow and read eBooks from your local public library
  • Supports the Most Content – In addition to reading eBooks from the Kobo bookstore, you can also read eBooks from other eBook stores that use the ePub format – plus read PDF documents, and books
  • Buy and Download in Minutes – With just a few quick taps, you can browse, buy and download eBooks to your Kobo eReader Touch over Wi Fi
  • Shop and Read on Any Device With Kobo: Visit kobo.com, use the Kobo Desktop or use an AndroidÔ phone, iPhoneÒ, iPadÒ, Blackberry® Smartphone or Blackberry® PlayBook to browse and shop the Kobo store.  Your library will always be kept up to date with Kobo Sync

EARN AWARDS JUST FOR READING:  Kobo extends Reading Life to the new Kobo eReader Touch Edition – Reading Life is the most comprehensive social eReading experience and an industry-first social platform.

  • Discover Your Reading Style – Gain insight into your unique eReading fingerprint with Reading Life Stats – you can track the minutes per reading session of your current read, the number of pages you’ve turned, plus see an overview of books completed in your library
  • Celebrate Reading with Awards – Earn fun and exciting awards!  Connect and share your Reading Life with friends on Facebook.  The Twain: read daily for 2 weeks; The Juggernaut: read over 10,000 pages; Kill the Commute:  read during your morning commute.  Coming soon – users can earn awards and rewards just for spending time reading!
  • Available for iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch and Android in addition to the Kobo eReader Touch

Love Reading Life? You can sync with your Android-enabled phone, iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch and experience your Reading Life across devices

THE FIRST INTERNATIONAL EREADER: To bring eReading to people around the world in their own language, the Kobo eReader Touch Edition will be available in multiple languages:  English, French, German, Spanish and Italian.  Readers will enjoy a localized user experience, local content, recommendations and a local store.

Lots to like, right?  For those new to the eReader community, it will be an eye-opening experience, starting from the moment of first touch, holding the extremely lightweight Kobo eReader Touch Edition.  Worthy of note is that it is much easier to hold, for example, while in bed, than is an iPad. Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE iPad, but I realized I like the lack of bulk in this eReader that did not fatigue my hands and arms as does iPad when holding it.

I wondered about the price of books. I learned that the Kobo store sells books for the same price as the others with rare exception. The publishers control the prices and the Amazons, Barnes and Nobles and Borders of the world follow along. As with the others, you will note there are loads and loads of public domain titles available FREE. As well, public libraries are making available their titles in formats compatible with these devices, so be sure to visit your local library to learn about their efforts in this regard.

What have we learned?  The new Kobo eReader Touch Edition is well designed, fun and functional, easy to use and encourages readers to read more.  That’s pretty remarkable!  I only wish I could have had more hands-on with this product before going off on my annual Dads ‘n Grads tour.  I would have wanted to give you more of my personal perspective.  However, even though brief, I am pleasantly surprised to the degree that I can comfortably recommend it to you.

Now, just think about who in your life would love one, and would cherish this gift.  Maybe one for you, but also how about dad, the graduate or other special someone that loves to read?  This affordable and different all-occasion gift is going to be appreciated by any recipient.

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