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Kobo e-reader: Enough with the Kindle knockoffs!

Oh, Borders...I love your Seattle's-best-coffee-serving stores, but apparently you missed the memo: the black and white e-reader has been done already.
Written by Christopher Dawson, Contributor

Regular readers will know that I love cheap tech that enhances teaching and learning. Not only am I a full-on gadget nut, but there are so many great opportunities to inexpensively get tech into kids' hands and better engage them in learning that cheap tech is hard to resist. I had no problem resisting the Borders Kobo e-reader, though. It might be cheap, but apparently someone at Borders hasn't figured out that that particular racis over, much less accepting new entrants.

ZDNet's resident gadget guru, Matthew Miller, was enthusiastic about the inexpensive devices from a consumer point of view, citing the low price, innovative Bluetooth connectivity, and its "disconnected, focused reading experience." This is, of course, all well and good if you like to read novels and other text-rich, media-poor books. Unfortunately, most students don't fall into that category any lonxger and rich, multimedia content is just around the corner from textbook publishers who have finally solved the chicken/egg problem.

The chicken/egg problem, in this case, is that hardware developers aren't willing to invest in innovative reader devices that could support rich educational content when no content exists. At the same time, publishers aren't willing to invest in creating rich content when no appropriate hardware exists. Fortunately for all of us, the iPad (whether you like it or not) solved the problem for us (along with a bit of help from the likes of Intel with their convertible Classmate and the OLPC XO) and now publishers are finally beginning to lay eggs.

Those eggs are going to require more than 8 shades of gray.

If I want cheap, then I'll quite happily download Kobo's e-reader application on my iPod Touch or phone. Same goes for students. They can use Kobo's software and access the bookstore on netbooks, PCs, Macs, and even existing e-readers if they use Adobe Digital Editions.

However, if I need to access books (and I mean all kinds of books) in an educational setting, then I'll be breaking out a tablet (Kobo supports WebOS, so the new HP Tablet should be ready to go), a netbook, or a full-blown computer where, for very reasonable prices, I can access not only the e-reading content but a web browser and a variety of applications.

I would say that the Kobo e-reader will be relegated to bookworms who are unfortunately few and far between among our students, but then I realized that I'm a bookworm myself and use my phone and iPod almost exclusively to access ebook content now. Sorry, even at $150, the Kindle knockoffs aren't going to get much traction with consumers, let alone in education, where the content will drive much more sophisticated hardware requirements.

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