At a time when the bigger names in eReading like Kindle and Nook are probably a little bit nervous about the future of their place on Apple’s devices, Kobo comes along and introduces an interesting and fun new set of features specifically for them that might be exactly what they need to attract new users. Reading Life, as they have named the feature, is a combination of social networking and a game-like achievement system that should provide an interesting contrast against other similar platforms and their offerings.
For those who haven’t seen it yet, and I’ll assume that’s most of you, you do have the same ability to share passages from your current read over Facebook that you get with the Kindle and Kindle apps. You also get to share, in detail, when you start reading a book, when you buy a book, when you annotate a book, etc. You also get some measure of progress withing the book in terms of progress in the form of both percentage completed and total page turns.
What I found most intriguing, however, were the introduction of “awards” that you earn by reading and discovery of things within the substance of the book. In Reading Life enabled books (making the untested assumption that you don’t get completely similar experiences from just any book you buy), you can keep track of where the action is taking place, or when you meet a character for the first time, and post these to your Facebook page as you read. Sometimes this even results in coupons, to judge by what I’ve seen so far. Coupons are always good, right?
Anyway, I like this as a general trend. The big problem I see, however, is the heavy insistence on Facebook as the medium of choice. I get that it’s pretty much the default for everybody wanting to do anything in any way with anybody these days, but that still means that the whole system is reliant on a single service that is completely outside the control of the app developers. Now, I really don’t think Facebook is going anywhere any time soon(and whether or not that’s a good thing is up to every person to decide for themselves), but this strikes me as limiting. I would prefer to have some degree of linked networking inherent in the Kobo service that just piggybacked on existing Facebook features where applicable. This would have the added benefit of making it easier, one would assume at least, to integrate the actual Kobo eReader along with any other apps all into a cohesive system.
Depending on how things go in the current Apple vs Amazon/Barnes & Noble/Anybody who sells eBooks situation in the near future, I can definitely see something similar popping up on the Kindle and Kindle apps as well as the Nook line. If there’s anything that the gaming community has learned over the years, it’s that people love to be able to look at tangible progress and compare notes on who has achieved what and when. I could honestly see this being used as a teaching tool under the right circumstances. Let’s hope it takes off in some form.