Kobo Aims to Make E-reading More Social

Of all the digital media segments that have exploded in popularity in recent years—in part due to their social nature—reading books on an e-reader or a tablet has remained fairly antisocial.

But Kobo, a Canada-based startup backed by Borders Group, is looking to make e-reading less closed and more social. The company has launched Reading Life, an iPad application that melds elements of blogs, Facebook and Foursquare with digital book reading. 

For example, Reading Life can log what books consumers have read, allowing them to share favorite passages with friends on Facebook. Plus, users earn rewards for reading books and even “check-in” à la Foursquare when reaching important milestones in books, such as the introduction of specific characters or plot elements within books.

Kobo executives believe that readers—even those that use digital devices—are natural sharers, as evidenced by the book club phenomenon.

“People who are making the switch to e-reading and building their lifetime libraries want an innovative social experience to go with it,” said Kobo CEO Mike Serbinis.

While Reading Life is currently available only on the iPad, Kobo, which launched last year, has introduced e-reading applications for multiple devices, including the Sony eReader and the Barnes & Noble Nook. The company also manufactures its own budget e-reader.