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E Ink’s color displays have been showing up in eBook readers for a few years, but most of the devices that have used the company’s color display technology have been niche companies without much presence in the US, like Onyx, Bigme, and PocketBook.

Now it looks like Kobo may be planning to enter the space. Mobileread forum member Geared recently spotted product listings for several Kobo eReaders with color displays, and as the eBook Reader points out, the model numbers match devices that recently passed through the FCC website.

Kobo Clara 2e (This is a black and white eReader, but a color model could be coming soon)

Kobo is a Toronto-based company that’s a subsidiary of Japanese retail giant Rakuten. The company operates and eBook and audiobook store, offers mobile and desktop apps, and sells a line of eBook readers.

While there aren’t many details about the company’s new color eReaders, we can make some educated guessed based on their names: Kobo Libra Colour and Kobo Clara Colour.

Kobo’s current line of eReaders with black and white displays includes the $140 Kobo Clara 2E, which has a 6 inch E Ink Carta 1200 touchscreen display, an adjustable front light, 16GB of storage, and a waterproof body.

The Kobo Libra 2, meanwhile, is a $190 eReader with a 7 inch E Ink Carta 1200 touchscreen display, 32GB of storage, and physical page turn buttons on one side, as well as support for screen rotation, allowing you to read in portrait or landscape mode.

Odds are that color versions of these devices will keep the same basic features, while adding support for up to 4096 colors rather than just 16 shades of grey. They’ll also likely cost more though. And E Ink color displays do tend to come with some compromises.

They retain many of the things that make E Ink screens special, including their high-contrast, low-power displays that are easily viewable in direct sunlight and only consume power when the image on the screen changes. But since E Ink’s Kaleido color display technology works by overlaying a color filter on top of a black and white screen, you usually sacrifice resolution when viewing color content.

So a screen that’s capable of displaying 300 pixels per inch in black and white may only show 150 pixels per inch (or less) in color, depending on which generation of E Ink Kaleido Kobo is using.

And, like all E Ink displays, the refresh rates tend to be much, much lower than you’d get from LCD or AMOLED displays. So while color may bring more detail to pictures in eBooks, websites, or digital comics and magazines, you’re probably not going to want to watch videos or play games on these upcoming eReaders.

According to retail listings, the Kobo Clara Colour could sell for £131 (about $168) in the UK, while the Kobo Libra Colour is priced at £194 (about $248). But I’d take those prices with a grain of salt until Kobo actually announces these products.

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  1. No doubt a color display would be interesting, but I for one would would be most excited for e-readers with replaceable batteries. It would be fabulous–positively revelatory–not to be forced to discard a perfectly functional device simply because its battery is kaput. (Yes, I know about E.U. mandates. . . .)