Canadian ebook store Shortcovers has changed its name to Kobo, an anagram for “book”, and revamped its online store www.kobobooks.com as part of its plan to expand its international coverage.[Update: 16 Dec, 11:47am. REDgroup which has Australian and New Zealand book chains A&R, Whitcoulls and Borders ANZ, is a minority investor in the new company formed for this initiative. They expect to launch an ebook store using Kobo by May 2010. See story: Whitcoulls, Borders, A&R to launch ebook store by May 2010.
Also, Borders Inc is an investor and have announced an ebook store on the Borders.com site powered by Kobo. The broad geographical spread of the partners should be a big plus in sourcing content and dealing with territorial restrictions.]
Since it launched in February this year, the unit of Canadian bricks-and-mortar bookseller Indigo has done an impressive job of building its ebook offering, concentrating on the smartphone opportunity rather than waiting for the somewhat glacial development of the dedicated ebook reader market.
In his blog posting announcing the name change, Indigo vice-president Michael Serbinis focuses on the site’s international aspirations, claiming the new name “is a name that will appeal to readers around the world”. I didn’t think the old name was too bad but it was presumably too closely tied to the bookseller’s early, misconceived, plan to offer ebooks as part-works sold by the chapter. Thankfully they rapidly figured out this wasn’t going to fly and changed tack to put together a more conventional and increasingly credible offer. It includes their own ebook reading application, originally launched for the iPhone but now available for the Blackberry, Palm Pre and Android.
Accessing the site from New Zealand, I can buy a few titles but most are still blocked by territorial restrictions. The Kobo team are quite upbeat about their prospects for getting more international territorial rights and Serbini’s blog posting states they’re planning to offer more currencies. So it seems this name change really is part of a larger push to become a serious global ebook retailer.