A week with a Kobo

Sunday, May 23, 2010

I've been on the fence over an ebook reader (or ereader) for a while.  My friend has had one for a while (a Sony 505) but I just couldn't justify the $400 to buy one.  After watching the ereader space for a while, I was intrigued by the release of the Kobo (available through Chapters here in  Canada) for $150 limited time only.

After checking out the features, I preferred the specs on the $150 Kobo to the $199 Sony reader (mainly because the Kobo has an SD card feature) which overrode anything else the Sony could do *and* this coupled with the Kobo's ability to bluetooth connect to a smartphone to download content online (again the Sony's can't do this - the Kindle can but I ruled out the Kindle based on it's DRM issues meaning that if you upgrade your reader you can't take your books with you to a new reader).  So I bit the bullet and pre-ordered the Kobo before any release date was announced.

Of course, the Kobo was shipped 2 days before my vacation and as it turns out it sat at the post office for 2 weeks waiting for me to return.  I picked it up last Monday so these are my thoughts 1 week later.

I love the fact it's light.  Much lighter than the Sony which is metal and probably more sturdy but for something supposed to be portable, light is king.  The screen seems comparable to the Sony.  It has less buttons so doesn't have as many options for turning pages and finding stuff but these are minor points. You pretty much have to turn the pages using the big blue button and can hold the unit in your right hand to do this.  The thing I *hate* is that directly underneath the blue button (on the underside of the unit) is the USB connector. No big deal in itself except that the unit has a squared off section for the connector instead of the smooth rounded edge and you can feel it digging in when you hold it with one hand on the right side (like it's designed to do so).  What where the designers thinking? That connector could have been anywhere on the unit and they put it in the one spot that was going to cause discomfort. Duh!

User Experience
I've read a lot of comments about how difficult it is to upload books using the Kobo and Adobe Digital Editions software.  This may be true.  But why oh why aren't you using Calibre?  Download this free software (and make a paypal donation at the same time) and you can see the contents of your Kobo, upload new books at the push of one button and convert old books you might have in other formats to epub to go onto your new reader.  Simple.  Calibre.  Haven't tried to purchase any books from Kobo yet and I suspect that this might be where the issue will become a little more complex, but if there is a download option, there's no reason you can't add the book to Calibre and upload it to the Kobo.  What Calibre is missing is some kind of library option for downloading content from a library (that expires on a certain date) and lending books to friends (again expiring on a certain date).

The reader is a little slow.  Not when turning pages but to read you need to power up the unit (it goes through a progress bar with 7 segments, but when the 7th is reached there is still a lengthy wait), then you will see your "Books I'm Reading" list with the last book you read highlighted.  You still need to click it to open.  Again you'll wait, and this time you'll see a quote on screen with no progress bar.  Eventually you'll get to your page.  Why the unit can't simply open your book to the last page you were on is beyond me.  Aren't you likely to pick up reading the same book if you're 1/2 way through.  Isn't that the most likely option rather than opening a new book?  And for those people that were going to open a new book, they could still have that option once they got to the last read page.

Finally there is a bug in that the epubs I've read so far (2 - Scarpetta by Patricia Cornwell and Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel) don't allow me to change the font size.  I'm not sure why this is, but I think it's something to do with how they were compiled (they weren't purchased from Kobo).  I need to check into this more as the books that came free on the reader work ok.

And did I mention there are 100 free books on the reader.  Amazon/Kindle charges up to $6 for each of this out of copyright books (with most being $1).  I've provided the link above if you want to price out the value of these books.

Anyway, with about 1000 pages read in 1 week, I think the Kobo is a hit. If you're thinking of buying a reader then check out the Kobo which is now on display at your local Chapters store in Canada and coming to Borders stores in the US.

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