Kobo has secretly developed a new web player which is currently in beta. They have been working on it for more than six months. It was designed to work on any major internet browser on your computer or mobile device. The Kobo Web Reader only supports books without DRM (Digital Rights Management); however, Kobo plans to refine the overall experience and unveil new improvements.
You can test the feature yourself by logging into your Kobo account on their website. You can search for free and click on the book and you will be redirected to the book description page. Click Add to My Books and then Show in My Books. You can also select My Account in the top right and click My Books. In your Books Library, there will be a list of all the books you’ve ever purchased from Kobo and which titles are compatible with the web viewer, as they have a Read Now button below them.
The web player is very rudimentary right now. The only option is to read the book over two pages, there is no one page option or infinite scrolling system. Text can be enlarged or reduced in size, but there is no way to select a different font type. There is a table of contents which has clickable links, which will take you to a specific chapter of the book you are reading.
It remains to be seen in which markets Kobo is currently beta testing it, but it is expected to be in select markets and not available globally. I have verified that it works at least in Canada and I will update this post if users can check what countries they live in, where this is available and if the web player is English only or supports other languages. I also contacted Kobo for a comment.
This isn’t the first time Kobo has developed an e-reader. In 2012, they made their first attempt to create an online reading system designed for Safari. This was created at a time when Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Kobo all sold e-books directly within their iOS apps, but then Apple unveiled a new policy of taking a commission for every piece of digital content sold. All of these gamers basically turned their iPad and iPhone apps into glorified player apps, but you had to make the purchase online. The original idea behind the Kobo Cloud Reader was to get people to buy and read, right in the browser. Of course, nobody really did that, and Kobo killed the project in 2016.
I think a modern online web reader from Kobo might be a good idea. There are all kinds of new mobile operating systems that people are using, such as Sailfish or Oxygen OS. On the desktop side, a growing number of people are adopting Linux. Not to mention that millions of people are still using older versions of Windows. There are hundreds of millions of people who don’t have a good modern smartphone or tablet. I have the sneaky impression that the average user will be at school or work and just want to read, when they should be doing something else.
Michael Kozlowski has been writing about audiobooks and e-readers for twelve years. His articles have been picked up by major and local news sources and websites such as CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and The New York Times. He lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.