Saturday, October 9, 2010

Review - Kobo eReader

I've been looking at e-readers for about a year.  In the beginning, the price was prohibitive.  But now many of them are hovering at around $150, which makes e-book reading a lot more accessible than it used to be.  After a lot of hemming and hawing, I decided to take the plunge.  Kobo has just announced a new wireless version of their eReader, so the original USB-connected version was on sale.  (I prefer to have the non-wireless version.  It helps reign in my purchasing of books.  I'm afraid that if I could wirelessly download books at the touch of a button, I'd bankrupt myself!)

Here's what made me decide to get a Kobo instead of another type of e-reader:
  • support for multiple formats, including EPUB -- Unlike the Kindle, the Kobo can read the popular EPUB format (as well as PDFs), which means that you can buy books from places other than the Kobo store (the first e-book I ever bought was actually a PDF that I bought from Dymocks in Australia... and it works fine on my Kobo).
  • expandable memory -- The Kobo has a slot for an SD memory card, which means that you can carry lots more books on your reader.
  • weight -- This is actually one of the lightest readers on the market right now.  The only other e-reader I've held in my hands is the Sony Pocket Edition... and that felt heavy in comparison.
  • simple, intuitive interface -- There's really no instruction manual to speak of with the Kobo, but you don't need one.  There are only 6 buttons on the whole thing, and their function is very straightforward.  Turning pages is done with the big blue button on the front (which is actually a 5-direction keypad).
  • easy on the eyes, easy on the hands -- There is little glare on the screen, and the E Ink is nice and clear.  You can also change the size of the text.  The front is uncluttered with buttons, so you don't hit anything by accident.  It also has a nice "quilted" back, which makes the reader easy to hold without slipping.
  • great selection of books -- I've actually found books for my Kobo that aren't even available for the Kindle (such as Catching Fire and Mockingjay).
  • books are available to those outside the U.S.A. -- Ultimately, this was what swayed me away from the Kindle and toward the Kobo.  There are some instances where, for whatever reason, Amazon will not sell a Kindle book to a non-American... even though they have no problem selling the paper copy outside their borders.
I've been reading a few books on my Kobo, and I like what I see.  The EPUB format, in particular, is great.  You basically page through the e-book as you would a normal book, and even changing the size of your text doesn't screw up the page layout.  PDFs are a little trickier, since the text size and page layouts are set.  To read a PDF comfortably, I had to change the orientation from portrait to landscape (which, luckily, you can do) and use the directional buttons to "scroll" down the page as I read.

I have no idea if I'm going to get near the 8,000 page turns per battery charge that the Kobo claims.  I did my best to wear out the battery when I was reading Catching Fire, flipping back and forth a few times on many of the pages (apparently, the battery only drains when you're doing things like loading books and turning pages).  Even after all that, the battery icon was still at about half when I plugged the device back into my computer to download some more books.  (When you connect the USB cable, the Kobo automatically starts recharging itself, so it's now fully charged again.  I've got enough books on there now that I'm going to let it fully run down next time and see how long it takes... but I think it's going to take a while.)

Another nice feature is that the Kobo puts itself to sleep if it's idle for long enough.  I'm not sure how long this takes (I've never sat there and watched it), but I can put it down, still turned on, when I go to bed, and when I wake up, the Kobo will be asleep.

I've yet to read any of the 100 free e-books that came with the reader, but I think that's a bonus, too.  All of Jane Austen's books are on there, as well as other classics such as Dracula, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and The Picture of Dorian Gray (which I'd like to read sometime).  You could potentially keep yourself busy with those free classics for months without ever having to buy a new book from the Kobo store.

The only thing that bothers me is the limited features of the Kobo.  You can't use multiple bookmarks, for instance (although the device will remember where you are in each particular book).  There's also no dictionary or word look-up feature, which would have been nice.  But, really, what the Kobo does offer far outweighs what it doesn't.

All in all, I'm pretty happy with the Kobo eReader so far.  I haven't had any problems with the unit freezing or not displaying books properly.  There's a good selection of books out there that are compatible with the technology.  And the price really couldn't be beat.  Plus, it's a great option for international customers who might not have access to all the Kindle books.  So I'm going to give the Kobo .


  1. This was a really comprehensive review that I found to be extremely helpful. I am glad that you went through all of the features and the pros and cons of the reader.

    I am glad that you like your Kobo! Now I just have to get an e-reader! :)

  2. I just got the Sony's the newest version out there. I love it! I can hilight, write on the screen, make notes and multiple bookmarks. I am in Canada and what I don't like is that there are many books that I try to buy at the Sony store and I can't because it's US only. I have to see if I can purchase from other I will have to look at the type of file that you are talking about. Thanks for this review...very helpful. I am now following you. Come and see me at