December 16, 2009, 8:02 AM — Amazon has the Kindle, Barnes & Noble has the Nook. But what does Borders have? Until now, they've had a very loose partnership with Sony, at least to the extent where they sold Sony Readers at Borders.com and some brick & mortar stores.
This situation is about to change. Borders (US) is partnering with Kobo (known as Shortcovers until yesterday) as the basis of a new e-book ecosystem. Kobo is live now as a stand-alone e-book store but Borders will also incorporate it into Borders.com in Q2 2010. Shortcovers was 'device neutral' and Kobo will continue this trend; already there are apps available for reading Kobo content on the iPhone and Blackberry, and older Shortcovers apps for the Palm Pre and Android devices will work with Kobo content (updates for these devices are expected soon). You can read Kobo content on a computer using Adobe Digital Editions. Kobo content also works on a number of dedicated e-readers, including the Sony Reader series, the Nook, the IREX, the COOL-ER and a number of others. Full list here.
So what about a dedicated Borders-branded e-reader? That seems less certain. Kobo mentions on its website "We expect to bring dedicated eReaders to our customers and partners starting in the first half of 2010 and will release more details soon." That sounds vague in terms of a Borders-branded e-reader (Kobo has a number of partners other than Borders) but the New York Times says that yes, Borders "is developing a new e-book reader and e-book service in partnership with Kobo" and cites this press release. I've read that press release several times and if it says anything about hardware, I'm missing it, but perhaps the Times has other sources it isn't mentioning.
A Borders-branded e-reader to support as open a system as Kobo seems unnecessary and in fact would dilute the 'platform agnostic' message that Kobo (at least) is so strongly behind. It'll be interesting to see what, if anything, a Kobo/Borders e-reader can offer that other existing e-readers don't. Firming up their relationship with Sony and pushing the Sony Readers seems more sensible to me, but we'll see.