Kobo, the Japanese ereading company, has announced that it is going to be opening up Kobo stores within 100 WHSmith shops across the UK.

Kobo hardware has been sold through WHSmith on the high street, with the bookseller recently moving its online ebook stores under the Kobo banner as well to forge a closer alliance.

This latest step comes after successful trials and in the future we'll see Kobo stores, with dedicated Kobo experts, ready to guide you through the Kobo ecosystem from hardware to accessories and how ebook readers and digital downloads actually work. 

"We value our partnership with WHSmith and are excited to have dedicated, knowledgeable staff members who will educate WHSmith customers and introduce them to the benefits of Kobo," said Mike Serbinis, CEO of Kobo.

Kobo stands as a natural rival to Amazon's Kindle, offering both hardware and access to book titles through its online Kobobooks.com store. Unlike the Kindle, however, Kobo offers universal format ebooks, so you could just as easily move your purchases to any other device supporting Adobe DRM. 

Kobo's hardware, however, integrates rather well with its stores and stands as possibly the closest current rival to the Kindle. Highlighting the brand on the high street may well help raise the profile of the company with UK customers, and follows on from wide and prominent marketing in 2011. 

The hardware on offer includes the Kobo Wi-Fi, a 6-inch ereader (£59.99) the Kobo Touch, a 6-inch touch-enabled ereader (review) now priced at £79.99 and the Kobo Vox, a 7-inch tablet (review) at £149.99.

Of the selection we'd take the Kobo Touch, as the Vox struggles to be competitive as a tablet device alongside much better Android devices or the iPad.

However, there are Kobo apps on just about all platforms too, including Android and iOS, meaning that, like the Amazon Kindle, you'll be able to access your purchases just about everywhere.

The announcement comes as Amazon prepares to launch the Kindle Touch in the UK and Sony has opened up its Reader Store in the UK. Over the past year, Kobo appear to have moved themselves from Android phone bloatware to a service that's effective, presenting welcome choice in the end-to-end ereading market.