Following a long posts on books, I’d like to toss up a few thoughts on the kobo. I have heard a number of friends mention thoughts about buying an e-reader. Here are my two cents that might be useful to anyone who is considering buying an e-reader and who wants to know about this particular type.
Why do we even have an e-reader?
Our kobo was very generously given to Matt by his parents as a gift. However Matt's working/transit schedule is not so suited to regular reading times so I have been the main user of our new gadget. Its been lots of fun – but also had its super frustrating moments.
Things I heart about the kobo
Well for starters it comes with 100 free classic books. And they aren’t all your regular everyday classics either – there are a lot of books buried in this free catalogue that I would never even have considered reading but now I have easily accessible at my fingertips. They are very good! Free books are nothing to sneeze at! And you don’t just have to read books! The kobo is also comfortable with .pdfs – very handy.
The size, weight and feel of the thing are lovely and convenient, but the best physical attribute of the kobo is its screen. The kobo website makes a huge fuss about how awesome their screen is, and after using it I understand why. It is cleverly designed to have no glare, and I have read it for hours without my eyes feeling sore at all.
Kobo also has very respectable battery life. Long live the kobo.
Finally, Kobo cares. They have a very generous warranty scheme going on, but more on this later…
Kobo: What’s not to love?
Actually, a few things. They’re not too problematic, but pedantic people may find these traits annoying:
– Kobo is slow! Turning a page or doing anything else (like for example setting the time) takes much longer than you would expect. In fact, turning a page on Kobo takes about the same time as it would if you were reading a book where all the pages were sticking together and you had to wear a rubber thimble or lick your finger everytime you turn a page. (Don’t I sound like spoilt Gen Y now? Speed is everything!) Seriously, reading on a kobo is definitely not the seamless kind of experience that you would expect from other electronic devices, like scrolling on a computer screen or swishing your finger across an iPhone.
– Reading pdfs can be so painful! If it takes that long for the screen to reload when you turn a page, imagine how long it would take you to read one A4 pdf page if you had to zoom in to read the text and then keep moving across and up and down. Ugh. I hear many students say “An e-reader would be awesome I won’t have to print off any of my readings”. Sorry to break it to you but that is not how it works. Pdfs are only worth it if you can get hold of the original text and resave your document in size 36 font.
– Kobo has the power to break for no reason. Here is a secret: We have actually had three Kobos since the start of the year. Our frist Kobo inexplicably died and we had to send back to Canada for a replacememtn and negotiate with a corportae courier company. It nearly wasn’t worth the discomfort. Fortunately the Kobo people are very nice with their warranty and they were happy to replace it.
It’s not really just kobo: e-readers are generally frustrating
– An e-reader is not actually a book! I learn this the hard way when I was reading in bed and put the kobo on the floor with a pile of other books. Of course you can guess what happened: when I got out of bed I accidently stood on the kobo and broke it. Mistake! If I had done that with a real book no one would have even noticed and life would have continued without the stress of breaking an expensive pieve of machinery. Fortunately the Kobo people are very nice with their warranty and they were happy to replace it. That’s right – Kobo screen warranty now covers all damage, even damage caused by the stupidity of users! (That is why we are now on our third kobo…!)
– Paying for e-books feels like a rip off. We have lived through two broken kobos but one day our kobo will die and it will be beyond the help of warranty. When that day comes, how would we be able to read the e-books we’d bought without paying even more money for a new e-reader? I don’t like the idea of books being dependent on a fancy machine. These thoughts have stopped me spending any money on e-books. For now the only e-books on our kobo are the free ones it came with!
E-readers: The way of the future?
Over at Design*Sponge, Grace Bonney recently made this comment on e-readers in an article about web-based magazines:
In a world where printing on paper becomes increasingly expensive and environmentally questionable, the iPad lets us hold on to the idea of having something physically in our hands that we can flip through with a finger.
It’s a great and believeable vision. I can imagine a world where people consume their media through electronic devices instead of print. The iPad appears to be a great platform for this kind of thing, but I don’t think that our Kobo will cut it. However there is an even newer touch screen version of Kobo. Maybe the new one is the way of the future.
But regular Kobo is still just sweet, slow and gentle. It has a soft back and an easy-on-the-eyes black-and-white screen. It’s like the friendly Grandma of the e-reader extended family: really good at cooking classic family recipes but not very good at mastering new technologies. Poor Kobo is not an iPad – so don’t go expecting it to be behaving like one or you will be bitterly disappointed!