Rakuten Kobo has a simple mission: We strive to make reading lives better. One guiding principle we always keep in mind is that, as a reader, there should be a time before you started reading with Kobo, and there should be a time after. And the time after should be better.
A device designed by Readers
To do that, we turn to the most avid readers in the world, our customers, to learn from them what obstacles they face, or what we can do to make their reading experiences better. We look at reading patterns and customer experiences to discern areas for improvement, to add features that may not be top-of-mind, but once made, make the experience easier or more pleasurable. We were the first to bring a premium waterproof device to market; we were the pioneers of Comfort Light Pro technology, to reduce the effects of blue light on sleep quality. Customer insights help inform our entire design process, from the way a device looks and feels, to the way it functions. If we do our jobs well, the technology becomes invisible; there should be nothing between you and the story.
If we do our jobs well, the technology becomes invisible; there should be nothing between you and the story.
Research and customer insights were the inspiration for our latest device, the Kobo Libra H2O, which strikes the perfect balance of form and function — it’s waterproof; light, at just 192 grams; ergonomic, with page-turn buttons; easy on the eyes with blue light reducing Comfort Light Pro technology; one-touch buy or borrow for the easiest access possible to our catalogue of 6 million eBooks and library books.
Reading: The great escape
To celebrate the launch of the Kobo Libra H2O, we zeroed in on one of the reasons our customers tell us, time and again, they choose digital — travel. To help tell that story we used data points like 94% of eReader users read to escape everyday life; that 90% choose digital because it’s easy to read in the sun; and 84% because they can read worry free at the beach, in the bath or by the pool. Another telling stat that helped lead us in this direction is that 93% of eReader users prefer digital because it gives them instant access to new books, without waiting, from wherever they are.
“Much like time away, reading nourishes the spirit. It rejuvenates; de-stresses; helps center the mind.”
In fact, our research goes on to find that nearly three-quarters of eReader users choose digital reading because it enables them to fuel their travel with an infinite number of great, easily accessible books.
Reading restores: The health benefits of a great book
But the research showed us something else, too. Reading a great book, much like taking a vacation, can itself be restorative. Much the same as there are health benefits to a calming getaway, there are health benefits to great books, and they’re grounded in research. With that notion in mind, we thought, “Why can’t reading be the vacation?” Much like time away, reading nourishes the spirit. It rejuvenates; de-stresses; helps center the mind.
Dr. David Lewis, based at the University of Sussex in the UK, reports that reading has astounding cognitive benefits in relation to relaxation, and that just six minutes of reading can reduce stress levels by a staggering 60%. A study published in the medical journal Neurology suggests that reading is also among the activities that greatly reduces the risk of cognitive impairment in old age — no drug will do that, but reading will.
Reader in Residence program kicks off
To empower this notion of the “reading vacation,” and to encourage readers to snatch time for themselves in an effort of self-care, Kobo partnered with the Annex Hotel in Toronto, Hotel Viu in Milan, Laz Hotel in Paris and with a growing list of destinations in the pipeline, to launch the Reader in Residence program. Guests of Reader in Residence destinations will have access to the Kobo Libra H2O as part of the amenities of their stay, and the device will feature a rotating list of curated titles. The notion of the program is simple — create opportunities to read — but the effects are monumental. Carving out time to spend with a book, whether it’s during a week-long holiday or a night’s stay at a beautiful hotel, can heal the body and the mind.
About the author: Michael Tamblyn is CEO of Rakuten Kobo, one of Canada’s great startup success stories. From its founding in Toronto in 2009, Kobo now operates in 24 countries as one of the world’s largest eBook retailers and device manufacturers. A member of the founding executive team in 2009, Michael became President in 2014 and CEO in 2016.
Driving growth, profitability, acquisitions and international expansion in a fiercely competitive market, he combines a passion for reading with a deep focus on hardware and software experiences and building a global eReading ecosystem that allows Kobo to collaborate with the world’s best retailers.
A passionate and engaging presenter, Michael speaks internationally on innovation in Canada, digital media and surviving the transition from startup to scale-up. He advises startups focused on aging+technology as Chief Entrepreneur of Age-Well NCE and is on the board of the Law Commission of Ontario, Ontario’s law reform body.