Case study

Rakuten Kobo reinvents e-readers with MyScript SDK

In an exemplary collaboration, Kobo and MyScript united to deliver the revolutionary Kobo Elipsa, an e-reader integral with cutting-edge handwriting recognition technology, illustrating the profound impact of strategic partnerships on product innovation.

Beyond the page: Kobo’s vision for a multi-purpose e-reader

Rakuten Kobo, a pioneer in the e-reader market, is renowned for its unwavering commitment to innovation, constantly striving to enhance the digital reading experience. Since the launch of its first e-reader in 2010, Kobo has grown rapidly and established a strong presence, catering to millions of readers worldwide with its cutting-edge reading devices and extensive digital content library.

As Kobo grew, the company wanted to expand its market and redefine its product lineup. Users who had once been comfortable owning a device devoted only to reading now expected more power and value from their purchase. This set the team at Kobo thinking: what if the company’s devices could also offer content creation options? Instead of juggling multiple devices for reading and jotting notes, why not empower users to do it all on their e-reader?

“We believed that our devices had the potential to offer our users even more, becoming an integral part of their personal and professional journeys,” says Ramesh Mantha, SVP Product of Rakuten Kobo.

Expanding horizons: bringing e-readers into the professional world

The e-reader market was becoming increasingly crowded, with several companies competing for users – so Kobo knew that any step forward would need to offer something truly new and unique in the sector.

At the same time, their data showed that most users were using their devices in their private life, and that the e-reader market had not yet penetrated the professional sphere. “We not only wanted to encourage adoption by offering a larger set of tools, we also wanted to bring e-readers into the professional world,” says Ramesh Mantha.

Kobo started to investigate potential partners, looking for a company whose expertise could help them to achieve their goals. Primary requirements were an SDK that runs on Linux, and a solution that could seamlessly integrate with their existing UI – without requiring significant hardware changes.

A readymade solution: MyScript SDK’s note-taking technology

Enter MyScript, leader in the field of AI handwriting-recognition and digital note-taking, with a global reputation for technological innovations geared toward professional users. Kobo saw an opportunity for a perfect partnership and contacted us in October 2019 with a clear idea of what they needed: a solution focused on interactivity, productivity, and writing comfort.

“We were not looking to be someone’s customer, but rather to work as close partners towards the same goals,” says Ramesh Mantha.

After a few preliminary meetings, the two companies decided that the most efficient route forward was for MyScript to provide its SDK and support Kobo in developing a proprietary note-taking app similar to Nebo, MyScript’s own acclaimed consumer app. Weekly meetings were established where dev and support teams would advise on how best Kobo could embed MyScript tech in their software.

“MyScript’s SDK provided us with the flexibility to tailor features to our devices, and dev teams stood ready to help devise custom solutions where needed,” says Ramesh Mantha.

Pioneering through challenges: the strength of collaboration

But the journey was not always a walk in the park. As with any innovative venture, the road was dotted with technical hitches and software bugs. “We hit some bumps along the way, inevitably. Code glitches cropped up like mischievous gremlins, threatening to delay our ambitious timeline,” recalls Ramesh Mantha. “But each time, the MyScript team was there, armed with bug spray and a can-do attitude.”

On-demand builds were delivered on schedule every time, ensuring the project stayed on track. At one point, Kobo reported a slowdown when a user tried to close a page; within 48 hours, MyScript had provided a patch to fix the issue – with an 80% reduction in the time it took to perform the operation. “Responsiveness is one of our key assets: we understand how crucial it is for our partners to work to tight deadlines”, says Pierre Laporte, CEO of MyScript. “In a way, Kobo helped us be more effective. They would spend time identifying and reproducing an issue – it was really a two-way relationship.”

Then Covid struck. But MyScript, with its established infrastructure and a company culture promoting remote work, was well-prepared: their cross-platform architecture and Qt integration ensured they were able to test and debug on any platform, without even touching a Kobo device.

The resilience and efficiency exhibited by MyScript during these challenging times played an instrumental role in successfully overcoming any obstacles, and was a testament to the power of the partnership. The combined determination of the two companies to deliver groundbreaking innovation resulted in a product that truly redefines the e-reader experience. “We couldn’t have dreamed of a better relationship,” says Ramesh Mantha. “The teams at MyScript are responsive, reliable and efficient. It made our job so much easier.” 

User acclaim: the launch of revolutionary Kobo e-readers

The Kobo Elipsa was released in August 2021 – the first e-reader offering integrated, pen-based interactive digital note-taking. It received great reviews from industry commentators and users alike, and was soon followed by the Kobo Sage and Kobo Elipsa 2E.

MyScript’s technology allowed for background handwriting recognition, handwriting conversion, and global search of both handwriting and typeset text – features that users were eager to use.

The feedback for each device was overwhelmingly positive, with users praising how Kobo’s note-taking app broadened the scope of their devices and set new standards for e-readers. At MyScript, this is cause for celebration: we understand the many incredible applications of digital handwriting tech, and we’re always happy to see our collaborations making a meaningful impact in the marketplace.

Kobo and MyScript: a collaborative future

Kobo and MyScript remain committed to pushing the envelope for digital note-taking. Their shared vision of the future centers on enhancing interactivity, refining editing gestures, and expanding the potential of cloud sync to offer seamless access to content regardless of location or device.

The two companies’ continued partnership is the best testament to their successful collaboration. And for a brand as focused on innovation as Kobo, the next step is never about simply creating a product. It's about offering people amazing new ways to learn, work and create.

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