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Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

May 23, 2011 at 10:06 AM

Kobo launches touch reader, expanding in Seattle

Kobo today announced a new touchscreen version of its reader that will go on sale for $130 in June.

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The device uses an E Ink display like Amazon’s Kindle, which has yet to introduce a touchscreen version, and has Kobo’s “Reading Life” software with social sharing features and a gamelike reward system.

It has a 6-inch diagonal screen, a software keyboard, a quilted back and a single “home” button a la the iPad. It connects to the Web and Kobo’s bookstore via WiFi or a USB cable.

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Kobo has been selling e-readers since May 2010 and initially allied itself with Borders. The company has extended its software platform, which is now bundled with tablets from Samsung and Research In Motion. It claims to have 3.6 million users in 100 countries.

Kobo is based in Toronto, Canada, but it established a Seattle presence in 2010 when it hired Todd Humphrey, a former Amazon.com director of business development, as its executive vice president of business development.

The company recently raised $50 million in funding and is now planning to open a full office in Seattle. Humphrey said it should be established by the end of the year.

“Whether it’s five or 15 or 20 people, we’ll see,” he said.

Humphrey said the new Kobo eReader Touch Edition will be a serious competitor to e-reader made by his former co-workers at Amazon and the Barnes & Noble Nook.

“I think this device puts us ahead of them from a device standpoint,” he said.

Humphrey said major retailers are very interested in selling the touch reader and it will help the company as it begins an expansion in Europe.

Comments | Topics: Amazon.com, e-readers, Entrepreneurs

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