Wednesday, January 18, 2012

My eReader: The Kobo Touch


As you may know, I suffer from a malady called Gadget Lust.  I try to keep it under control and make sure when I purchase a gadget and have the means and I will actually use it.  Well, I love reading so it wasn't hard to justify an eReader although it did take some time to save up for it (I do have a strict budget you know).

Initially I wantedI a Kindle.  In fact, I've wanted a Kindle ever since they came out.  The whole eInk concept is amazing and I do get eye strain from regular monitors.  Unfortunately, I have since learned that they are limited to Amazon's store and little else (yes there are tools for getting other ebooks but they're not supported natively).  This put a real damper on things since I prefer to check books out of the library vs purchasing them, although, if they are really good then I might just purchase them.  The other thing I've become hooked on is the touch interface.  The Kindle currently does not have a touch interface and doesn't support checking out books from your local library.  These things were deal breakers for me and I decided I would have to look elsewhere.

I looked around at several and finally settled on either the new Nook Touch or the Kobo Touch.  They both have touch interfaces, they both support checking out ebooks from the library, and they both support loading ebooks from outside of their bookstore.  I read some reviews and comparisons and they all scored the two ereaders very close to each other.  I was leaning toward the Kobo when I went to check out my soon to be out of business local Borders store.  They had the Kobo for 20% off (just over $100) and I couldn't resist.  So, now I've had one for 3 days and here's what I think:

First of all, eInk is truly amazing.  It really is like reading a book.  No eye strain and no issues with sunlight.  The sunlight is pretty important as I live in Arizona and there is a lot of sunlight here :)  It is truly a joy to read.

The interface on the Kobo is simple and while I would suggest reading the included tutorial for some of the less obvious tricks, you can get started without any help (or, at least I could).  The Kobo store has a fair selection of free books as well as most of the ebooks that any other store has.  By that I mean that the titles I couldn't find on the Kobo store were also unavailable on the Kindle store and the Nook store.

I also found that checking out books from the library is very simple.  You simply have to get Adobe Digital Editions.  You download the book from the library, drag it into Digital Editions, and drag it onto your Kobo (plugged in via the USB cable) and you're done.  Simple.

The Kobo itself is lighter than most of the books I read so I don't have any issues with my arm getting tired from holding it.  It fits comfortably in my hand and is easy to use one-handed.  All in all, a very nice ereader.

That said, it's not perfect.  There are a couple of things that I was not expecting that disappointed me.

First, it treats non-Kobo ebooks differently.  It calls them sideloaded books and one of the first ebooks I downloaded is the LDS standard works (free from lds.org).  This has the Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price all in one ebook.  It has a hyperlink-based table of contents which worked fine in the Adobe Digital Editions software but doesn't work at all in the Kobo Touch.  With over 4000 pages, the Kobo interface for finding a specific spot in the book is very difficult and time consuming.  That was my big disappointment.

Other things that would be nice are the ability to have collections (like labels for your books so that you can find titles easier) and the ability to share an account with two ereaders (so if my wife gets one we can share books we might purchase from Kobo but it would share our bookmarks, progress on books, etc.).

So, there are a few drawbacks but, overall, it's a very nice ereader.  I also would not be surprised if my list of gripes was shortened in the near future.  The Kobo developers are very active and have already improved the handling of sideloaded books (not up to where I need it but getting there) and continue to improve on things.  In fact they actually read the forums on MobileRead.com and respond to them.

In the end I have to say that I'm happy with my Kobo Touch.  It was a good price and it's great for reading books.

UPDATE (8/2/2011):  Kobo latest software update enabled hyperlinks in sideloaded content.  You simply need to double-tap the link.  Go Kobo!

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