Kobo brings the Forma form factor to a cheaper model – gpgmail


I’ve long had a soft spot for Kobo for a few reasons. First is the simple fact that the company (now part of Rakuten) was one of the last few competing with Amazon in the e-reader market. Second is features like Pocket integration. Third is the device’s openness to file formats like ePub that don’t require the device to be tied to a single store.

Kobo’s also never been afraid to experiment. Last year’s Forma was the perfect example. A direct shot against Kindle’s high-end Oasis, the reader combined a contoured form factor and physical page-turn buttons with an 8-inch screen. That last bit was probably enough to keep the device firmly in the niche category, even without the $280 price tag.

The new Libra H20 is a far more utilitarian product, applying the Libra’s form factor to a 7-inch screen device that retails for a more reasonable $170. It’s still not cheap in the world of e-readers, of course. That’s about $40 more than, say, the Kindle Paperwhite, but it’s nice to see some of these features start to trickle down into more accessible products. The world of e-readers is notoriously slow to innovate — thanks likely to the fact that there are relatively few players left.

I’ve come to appreciate the “handle” design adopted for these devices by e-reader makers. It’s perhaps a bit less satisfying than the more traditional symmetry, but it’s a lot more focused on how these products are used. After the demise of the Nook, too many companies took an entirely minimalist route. The inclusion of the side panel and pair of physical page buttons is a welcome shift toward function over form.

With the cheaper price tag, of course, comes cheaper materials. The Libra H20 is pretty plasticky — especially after using the Oasis. The buttons, too, don’t feel quite as solid as the Oasis’s, likely owing to less premium material. Also, this is more of a strange quirk than specific critique, but the functionality is inverted with the buttons, by default, with the top moving backward and the front going forward through the book. This is an easy fix in the settings, though Kobo refers to that as “inverted.”

Kobo

The form factor works well, with the ability to read in both landscape and portrait, autorotating using the built-in accelerometer. The back has a textured grip, coupled with a large power button. On the right side (or bottom, depending on your perspective) is the microUSB for charging and file transfer (USB C is basically non-existent in the world of e-readers for the time being.

Kobo’s also tweaked the software to include better menus, improved book scrubbing and previews. Other touches include the ability to adjust the front light intensity by swiping the side of the screen.

As the name implies, the device is waterproofed, with an IPX8 rating — that’s about up to 60 minutes in two meters of water, so yeah, you can take it in the bath. Storage is 8GB (~6,000 books), paired with 512 MB of RAM and a 1,200 mAh battery that should provide you’re standard weeks on a single charge.

The Libra goes up for pre-order on the 10th. It will be available in stores a week later.


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Data-driven events discovery and planning startup Fever raises $35 million led by Rakuten – gpgmail


Fever, a startup that uses proprietary algorithms to help companies plan events, announced today that it has raised $35 million led by Rakuten Capital, the investment arm of Japanese internet giant Rakuten . Other investors in the round, which brings Fever’s total raised to $70 million, included Atresmedia, Accel and Michael Zeisser, the former chairman of U.S. investments for Alibaba Group. Zeisser will also join Fever’s board.

Based in Madrid and London, Fever’s app generates personalized events listings for users and feeds into its Secret Media Network, which also collects user data from the company’s social media channel. The anonymized data is then analyzed using Fever’s algorithms to help companies plan events like “The Alice in Wonderland MaddHatter G&T” in Hollywood, the Halloween-theme “House of Spirits in Los Angeles and “Candlelight Concerts,” classical music shows aimed at young audiences.

The company now claims 25 million unique users per month across its main markets in London, New York, Paris and Madrid, and plans to use its new funding to expand into new cities.

In an email, Fever CEO Ignacio Bachiller told gpgmail that Fever plans to expand into Chicago and Barcelona next (it launched in Paris, Los Angeles, Lisbon and Manchester last year). Then it will launch in new markets every couple of months, mostly in the United States and Europe this year and also in Asia next year. He added that one way Fever differentiates from other event discovery platforms is that it does not focus on discount-driven events and that there is no other platform currently “using firsthand discovery behavioral data to inform what new experiences to create by predicting demand. Basically, there is no Netflix for experiences.”

Bachiller also says that Fever may potentially collaborate with other Rakuten portfolio companies to help SMBs increase engagement with their customers.


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