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App Friday: Kobo gives e-books a social gamification twist on iPad

E-books aren’t very social, are they? If you’re using the apps and stores of big guns like Amazon and Apple, they’re very much solo experiences: you buy e-books and read them.

That’s in contrast to the social features around other areas like music (Ping) and gaming (Game Center). Yet back in the real world, reading is often a social experience, shown most obviously in book groups.

Well, Kobo just stole a march on its bigger rivals by launching something called Reading Life in its iPad e-reader app. And it’s a very, very interesting idea.

The Kobo app – which like iBooks and Kindle doubles as an e-book store and e-reader – now tracks your reading history, and lets you sign into Facebook to share details of what you’re buying and reading with friends.

However, it’s also got Foursquare-style gamification elements. You can ‘check-in’ to characters and locations within individual books – Alice or the White Rabbit’s Hole in Alice in Wonderland, for example. Plus there are achievement badges to earn for individual activities, and usage habits like reading every day or late at night.

All of this can be shared on Facebook too. What’s lacking – for now – is a layer more akin to those real-world book groups – for example, the ability to share comments on the books that you’re reading with friends, or see what other people are saying about the e-book that you’re currently reading.

This may come in time. For now, Reading Life is a glimpse at how e-reading is going to become more social. Your move, Amazon and Apple (and not forgetting Google, which has just launched its own e-books service in the US).

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