Kobo inks $50 million round for electronic reading gadgets, digital bookstore

Amazon.com’s Kindle may have a leadership position right now in electronic reading devices and digital books. But the market continues to heat up. Today, Toronto-based Kobo is turning a new page in its history, announcing a whopping $50 million investment from Fidelity and existing investors. The company also announced that the Kobo eReader application has been pre-loaded on the BlackBerry PlayBook, a 7-inch tablet computer that went on sale today.

Kobo launched in 2009, and while it is not as well known as the Kindle or iPad it has attracted a following with its open platform. The company now boasts 2.3 million eBooks, newspapers and magazines in its digital storefront, with more than one million users of the offering added in the past three months.

The company also has its own eReader devices.

Kobo plans to use the new funds to expand internationally, and the company already has retail partners overseas. Those include Angus & Robertsons (Australia), Whitcoull’s (New Zealand) and Swindon (Hong Kong). In the U.S., the Kobo eReader is available at Walmart, Borders and Best Buy.

Backers of the company include Indigo Books & Music and Cheung Kong Holdings.

In addition to the competition with Kindle, Kobo has other ties to the Pacific Northwest. Seattle startup veteran Todd Humphrey (formerly of CleverSet and WishPot) serves as the company’s executive vice president of business development, overseeing the company’s global sales efforts.

As part of the new funding, Kobo plans to bolster its staffing in Seattle, including the hiring of new people for the business and development teams.

John Cook is co-founder of GeekWire. Follow on Twitter: @geekwirenews and Facebook.