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Kalahari gives gobii WiFi wings

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Kalahari.com has upped the ante for the e-reader market, releasing a version of its gobii eReader equipped with WiFi.

One of the key criticisms in Gadget’s review of the original device last week was the absence of wireless options. This meant that it could not interact directly with an e-book store, and that an owner of this device also needed a computer. (Check out the review here.)

While Kalahari.com were the first South African online retailer to offer a catalogue of international and local eBooks and magazines, the first to develop an eBook Reader application for PC, Mac, iPad, and Android devices, and the first retailer to provide an eReader for less than R900, the device itself was a disappointment.

Now, with WiFi added to the gobii 7‚ colour LCD eReader which, it may be more compelling, but also comes at a higher price: the new WiFi model will retail at R1,299.

The original model was priced at R899, with R160 in vouchers. Kalahari.com says it sold out within 21 days of launch in August.

Both devices are available on pre-order and will be available for purchase from early November, making them the perfect stocking filler this festive season.

Says Gary Novitzkas, CEO of kalahari.com says: ‚2011 has been the year of the tablet and eReader as these hotly demanded electronic devices fly off kalahari.com’s shelves. eReaders are starting to enter the mainstream as customers look for the ideal device on which to consume their content.‚

Novitzkas says the motivation for the WiFi enabled gobii 7‚ eReader came from a snap analysis of the buying patterns of the more than one million registered kalahari.com shoppers.

‚Some interesting statistics came to the fore: we saw that our female shoppers clearly preferred eReaders while our male counterparts favoured the Tablet. The launch of gobii provided the perfect opportunity to cater to that need: while the WiFi enabled version of the gobii 7‚ eReader will be valued by the more itinerant consumer looking for increased access to eContent.‚

Novitzkas confirms that kalahari.com has seen a 100% year on year growth in the sale of eBooks for the last six months. This growth can be attributed to increased consumer familiarity with the format of eBooks, greater product availability, and the proliferation of affordable devices which have been spearheaded by the online retailer.

‚We saw massive uptake in eBooks with the release of our eReaders for under R900. Moving into hardware manufacturing was a bold step to take forkalahari.com, but it has ultimately benefited the consumer by driving down prices and pushing up the demand for eBooks locally. kalahari.com is working hard to make eContent and eBooks more accessible to all South Africans and to that end the Gobii range of eReaders continues to drive adoption locally.

“We believe that, ultimately, local demand will emulate the growth we have seen in the US where the sale of digital reading devices jumped fourfold from three million in 2009, to 12.6 million in 2010,‚ says Novitzkas.

A major worldwide trend is that consumers are not as interested in owning content as much as they are interested in having access to it. The Internet makes this possible.

‚What this means is that the way we interact with literature is changing as we begin to include this new technology into our lives. kalahari.com alone has more than 350,000 international and local eBooks, leaving consumers spoilt for choice.The WiFi enabled gobii makes that entire library available with the flip of the on-switch, wherever the customer is online.‚

The gobii 7″” Colour LCD eReader with WiFi accommodates about 5,000 eBooks, several eMagazines, a few digital photo albums, digital movie clips and music.

‚Digital content allows for more connected experiences. In the future, opportunities exist for publishers to provide more than just their print content by enriching the reader’s experience through rich media with links to the Internet, embedded video, sound clips and other interactive features such as applications.‚

The gobii range of eReaders, and other electronics, are available exclusively through kalahari.com.

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