Photo Dec 09 5 19 14 PM 225x300 Kobo Makes eBooks Social with New Facebook ConnectionRemember when asking “what are you reading?” or “read any good books lately?” wasn’t a strange thing? The funny thing is, come to think of it, now that lots of us have eReaders it should be a lot easier to ask that. Heck we should be able to share the books we’ve been reading, buying, even sharing quotes as we go. So, why aren’t we?

I guess because all the eReader makers forgot the social aspect of reading. That is until now…

This morning Kobo updated their iPad app to add some pretty nifty new sharing features. I read about all the coolness on Macgasm this morning, but it wasn’t until this evening that I could actually play with it. It’s actually cooler than it appears at first blush. Maybe not because of the features that it has now but the features that it could have in the future. For the time being, the new features are just in the iPad version, Kobo is plans to roll out the features to the other platforms later. Before I get into the meaning of these changes, here are the highlighted new features from the Kobo press release:

Sharing Books and Passages:  Users can tell their friends what they are reading or highlight favorite passages in books they are reading.  This is a great way to get a book club started, or update your bookclub friends as you read.

Statistics:  Users can track their reading life with interesting statistics, including how many books they’ve read, pages turned, how fast they read, and times of day they read.  Statistics help users track their progress, earn awards, as well as discover and learn about their own reading styles and preferences.

Activity:  An activity panel shows the timeline of a user’s reading life, highlighting important events and milestones.   Users have an at-a-glance view of their reading life, including new books opened, read and finished, passages shared, awards earned and more.

Photo Dec 09 6 05 34 PM 300x300 Kobo Makes eBooks Social with New Facebook ConnectionCheck-Ins:  Another ground-breaking feature called Check-Ins, enables readers to check-in with characters and locations inside books, enabling them to mark important milestones and win awards.   For example, readers reading Alice in Wonderland can check in with or meet Alice for the first time, or check-in to the Rabbit Hole and tell their friends on Facebook.

Awards and Rewards:  Readers can unlock fun and surprising awards that celebrate achievements in their reading life.  Awards like ‘The Papillion’ which is earned by the power social sharers, ‘The Twain’ earned by those that read daily, and ‘The Witching Hour’ for readers who read into the wee hours of the night – once an achievement has been earned the reader can than publish and share with friends on Facebook.   Award winners can also be rewarded with special offers from Kobo or its partners, just by reading!

Personal Book Cover:  As your personal Reading Life evolves Kobo creates and automatically updates your own personal book cover – a mosaic of your reading life that you can easily share with your friends on Facebook.

Awards! Just like in school when you got stickers for reading books! Hey don’t laugh I think the idea is great. The one feature that I haven’t played with much yet is the “check-ins” that connect with characters and places within your books. I saw one in Dracula … and okay I found Budapest … not much there in the information. For now. There is a lot of potential here for being able to pull in a lot of additional information about the books your are reading. Instead of going whole hog at first, I think Kobo has done the smart thing and started with incremental changes that might tantalize readers.

Photo Dec 09 5 19 48 PM 225x300 Kobo Makes eBooks Social with New Facebook ConnectionThe characters and places connections are just one of the innovations Kobo is shooting for. Now that Kobo connects with Facebook, I don’t see why creating virtual book clubs wouldn’t be next. If you can connect what you’re reading, you can share quotes with each other, I’m sure Kobo might even be into creating badges and awards for larger groups. If you’ve built the software connections to get to Facebook and share things, what would be the difficulty in being able to work with groups? Maybe it’s just an API issue…and those can often just be resolved with time.

As for starting to use Reading Life on the iPad, the first time you launch Kobo on your iPad your settings and such will be updated and then there is a nice, slick introduction to the new features. Oh for people who like to jump ahead, you can swipe up and down with two fingers to get to the end or beginning of a chapter and left-right to skip between chapters.

I know that Google eBooks are garnering a lot of our attention, and Amazon certainly rules the eReader roost, but looking at Kindle, iBooks, and Kobo (sorry I can’t get a Nook up here) I think Kobo are the only folks who are truly innovating in eReaders. I think they see that the physical eReader is just one facet of the whole ebooks picture, the desktop, mobile apps, and (maybe) a web app…this is where you can do really cool and interesting things.

Kobo put together a short video on the features of this new version … take a gander. Then maybe give Kobo a shot. It is free and it can read all the book formats out there (yes, except Kindle and iBooks)…I think you’ll like it: