Writing Life" will launch in just a few weeks at the end of June, offering the now-standard 70% royalty rate for titles with a retail price under $12.99 (and presumably over $2.99, although this was not mentioned in either the blog post or press release).
Kobo has a significant share of the international market, with 46% of Canadian ebook sales (compared to Amazon's 24%) and 50% in France. Figures released by the company today show ebook downloads up 400% over last year, while sales of Kobo e-readers grew 160%.
More importantly, Kobo's ebooks are based on open ePub standards, making them readable on any device that supports ePub. This is important for self-pubbed authors, as it means that although this is one more avenue to manage, you do not need to format a separate ebook file for the upload. Kobo provides free conversion to ePub (and accepts ePub directly), so if you're already publishing to Barnes & Noble via PubIt the same file should work just fine. Also like B&N, Kobo does not require an IBSN, although they recommend one, as some international markets require it.
An additional feature of Kobo Writing Life is that you will be allowed to set your title's price to free, something other e-tailers either do not allow or severely limit with promotion codes or windows. The platform also features a wide range of useful features such as integrated social networking and detailed analytics in real time across multiple markets. And they make some really nice devices.
In preparation for the launch I've purchased a Kobo Vox and removed my titles from Kobo distribution via Smashwords. Thus is Smashwords, that great disintermediary of the traditional publishing arena, itself being disintermediated.