Kobo Books has made its e-book reader available for Windows Phone 8.x this week, and while this offering is a bit basic compared to the company's iOS and Android apps, it's still an interesting alternative to Kindle. I'll be using this app regularly on both Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 in the weeks ahead to see if it has what it takes.
If you read this site regularly, you may be familiar with my growing disenchantment with Amazon, a company that has forsaken Windows and Windows Phone in recent years in favor of Android and iOS. Check out The Sad State of Amazon Apps on Windows if you're not sure where I'm at: Nothing has changed since I wrote that.
The problem with Amazon, of course, is that it's unavoidable. And in some cases, like the Kindle e-book platform, the company's offerings also happen to be the best available. And Kindle is of course available on both Windows 8 and Windows Phone. The problem is, those apps suck. They're a shadow of their Android and iOS siblings, rarely updated, and never in any meaningful way.
So I look around. I toyed around with the notion of using Barnes & Noble Nook for digital magazine subscriptions since, after all, their Windows app is fantastic, and they had promised a Windows Phone version any time now. Problem is, the day after I recommended this route publicly, Barnes & Noble revealed that they had halted development of their Windows and Windows Phone apps. They'll never be updated again (or released at all in the case of Windows Phone).
This week, however, an unfamiliar (to me) entity called Kobo Books released their own Windows Phone 8 app, and they already have an app for Windows 8 too. In fact, Kobo Books is better represented than even Amazon Kindle: You can get its app on iPad, iPhone, Android phones and tablets, Mac, PC (Windows desktop), and even Blackberry 10. Hm.
I am not anywhere close to stating, it's time to leave Kindle and adopt Kobo. I may never get there. But I'm looking. I'm thinking about it.
This will require a bit of an investment on my part, both in time and dollars. I will need to willfully ignore Kindle and buy and read books and magazines in Kobo instead, across multiple devices, and see how it goes. I'll need to compare the Windows and Windows Phone experiences in these apps vs. the experiences in iPhone, iPad and Android, to make sure Kobo keeps things reasonably fair and consistent. Compare it to Kindle on those platforms too. There are a lot of ifs. A lot to do.
But right off the bat ... It looks good. At least acceptable. The store seems voluminous enough, with 4 million book titles. There are magazines, though you can't access them on Windows Phone, as with Kindle. (A device like the Lumia 1520 surely begs for such content; and you can read magazines on iPhone, as with Kindle. Irritating.) Prices are in the ballpark. Etc.
It's not all good. The Windows Phone app is not as full-featured as the iPhone app. It has fewer reading themes, less accessible options, and no pop-up help. I don't see things like "Beyond the book" or even search. It's sort of basic. It's a first release. But come on. Windows Phone users have been burned a lot. We're a bit twitchy.