E-READER REVIEW: The Kobo by Curt Felder (@IceManStreetz)
From Paper to eBooks
Last year, I finally took the plunge and jumped into the world of WIFI e-Readers. I’m actually pretty surprised at myself that I took so long to get on board; I’m such a huge fan of new technology. I confess, I love new and shiny tech.
I’ve always been an avid reader (F. Paul Wilson, Stephen King, John Connolly, Jim Butcher, and Dean Koontz – just to name a few of my favorite authors). I like paperbacks, but the problem is that Borders and stores like that didn’t always carry my favorite authors, or their latest books. With an eReader, I knew that would no longer be an issue. Hop on line, buy a new book, download it, and I’m good to go. Sound great, right? No more frustrating trips to the bookstore!
So why the delay? For me, the problem with jumping into the world of e-Readers was I just wasn’t familiar with the tech. Like many busy folks, I didn’t have the desire to take on the learning curve involved. If I wanted to get an eReader, I had to choose between the Nook, Amazon Kindle, Kobo, and Sony, among others – all of which have different formats and features. Which one was best for me? Turns out the problem was kind of solved for me. Last Christmas, my wife got me a Kobo WIFI eReader. Now I was in (and didn’t even have to deal with buyer’s remorse)!
I have to say, the Kobo was very easy to set up and begin using. A few pages of information to customize it (email address, WIFI settings, etc) and I was all set. Next, I set up my computer with the Kobo eReader software, which enables you to purchase eBooks, manage your library, and transfer books to your eReader.
Note: I did have one small hiccup at first. Since Kobo (at the time) was distributed almost exclusively at Borders, I was directed to purchase eBooks through Borders’ website. The first kobo software I downloaded was Borders’ own branded version. It didn’t work very well. My first purchase never downloaded properly, and Borders’ customer service was never able to help me with my issue. I then went directly to Kobo’s site to download their software, which worked MUCH better. Since Borders has officially gone out of business, new Kobo owners shouldn’t have this issue to contend with.
The Kobo software (just like the eReader itself) is very easy and intuitive to use. I was up and running with my first eBook in just minutes. The Kobo uses a technology called eInk, which actually looks exactly like a printed page. This makes it very easy to read in an outdoor setting. It also has the capacity to read and store PDF documents.
The Kobo has 1 gig of onboard memory, with an SD card slot you can use to expand internal memory by an additional 4 gigs. Which you might need – the Kobo store carries about 20 million titles. The store itself is a huge positive. Every title and author I’ve ever searched for has been available, and
Battery life is pretty good. According to Kobo, a single charge is good for about 10,000 page turns. I don’t know about that, but I do know that I usually only have to charge it once every two weeks or so.
One of the best features of the Kobo is its simplicity to use. Not a lot of bells and whistles, but for an inexpensive eReader (goes for about $99 today), I don’t think most buyers would need them. It has a directional button on the lower right and corner for navigation, and additional nav buttons on the left side of the device (Home, Shop, Back, etc.). It’s very easy to use.
Another great feature of the Kobo is how sturdy it is, especially considering the low price point. I’ve spilled beverages on it, dropped it, even left it in a locked car in direct sunlight for hours – and it still works fine. Again, not too shabby for a device in the “under $100” class.
Other good features include an on-board Webster’s dictionary, a built in shop, and he ability to subscribe to newspapers and magazines. Page turns are pretty quick, and the device is pretty responsive overall.
The Kobo display is strictly grayscale, so although you can add magazines (and comics) to the Kobo, in some case you might miss out on color graphics. Another limitation of the eInk format – no backlighting. So don’t forget a nightlight if you’re a late-night reader.
Although the Kobo is pretty responsive as far as page turns when you’re actually reading a book, it gets pretty sluggish when you’re navigating the menus, or shopping online. Inputting text for searches in the store is pretty time-consuming – you have to use the directional button and a virtual keyboard.
My Kobo came pre-loaded with a ton of free eBooks. This might a pro for some, but in my case it just made it harder to navigate to the books I was actually looking to read – there’s no way to find “new purchases”, etc. I think the addition of a new purchase category could easily fix this problem. Either that, or maybe Kobo could make these purchases available as optional free downloads – just to clear up the clutter a little bit.
The last negative actually doesn’t have anything to do with the eReader, but rather with Kobo’s mobile version of their eReader software. They offer versions for Blackberry, Android, and of course, iPhone. When I first got the Kobo, I was a Blackberry user. I have to say, the software for the Blackberry is pretty awful. It actually isn’t even made by Kobo (or at least it wasn’t at the time), so it was impossible to get my eBooks actually downloaded onto my Blackberry for reading. It just wouldn’t since with my existing Kobo account. I’m not sure why this is, but it seemed to happen to me a lot with Blackberry third party software. So I’m leaning toward pacing the blame in RIM, and not Kobo.
Note: I’ve recently switched to the iPhone 4, and the Kobo software for the iPhone works great!
I have to say the Kobo WIFI eReader is a great buy for anyone who is looking for a nice, simple entry-level eReader. If you need more bells and whistles (color screen, Android apps, Facebook, etc.), there are a lot of new eReader/tablet options out there now that you could consider upgrading to – Kobo Vox, Amazon Kindle Fire, and the Nook Color are all very good options, and they all go for around $200.
I’ve been very happy with my Kobo, although I am looking to upgrade to a color reader sometime in the near future. Kind of got my eye on that Kindle Fire! (Is another review in the works???)
-Curt “Ice” Felder