Kobo eReader

It may not get up to all the fancy-schmancy shenanigans that more expensive e-readers do, but it does what it does very well indeed. The Kobo eReader is a sleek and simple device that performs excellently with a minimum of fuss.


9.0
CNET Rating
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User Rating

About The Author

CNET Editor

Michelle Starr is the tiger force at the core of all things. She also writes about cool stuff and apps as CNET Australia's Crave editor. But mostly the tiger force thing.


The e-reader has been slow to take off in Australia; between high costs for devices, an absence of information and marketing, and a lack of local content, Australians for the most part have been reluctant to purchase yet another device that, after all, only does what books do already anyway.

The Kobo eReader, newly launched by REDgroup Retail, the retailer that operates Borders stores in Australia, may just turn out to be the tipping point. The first reason for this is, of course, its price point: it's the first e-reader on the Australian market to come in at under AU$200.

The second reason is the Borders ebook store, which offers over 2 million titles (many of them free) from over 100 publishing houses worldwide — the largest ebook resource in the country. But what about the Kobo itself?

Design

The Kobo is a minimal-looking device, with a six-inch screen dominating the facade, a single navigation pad on the front, a power button on top and four option buttons tucked away on the side. While these four buttons are awkward to access, they do leave the front of the device looking clean and uncomplicated. This in turn means that it also looks unintimidating and easy to use, and the buttons themselves are difficult to press by accident.

The rubber nav pad on the front, on the other hand, seems to be in exactly the right position, making turning pages and resizing text comfortable and easy, and the quilted rubber back feels surprisingly pleasant in the hand. Add to that the weight of the device — 221g, the lightest e-reader available here — and you have a highly portable and enjoyable device.

Like most of the high-quality e-readers available, the Kobo uses E Ink technology for the display. Unlike most LCDs, which you will find in televisions, computer monitors, phones and most other screens, E Ink is not backlit. While this means you cannot read the device in the dark without an external light source, it also reduces the eye strain associated with staring at a bright screen; in fact, it's as close to reading a printed page as it can get without actually being a printed page itself, and its 6-inch display is comfortable to read, if not quite the size of a paperback page.

Features

The Kobo takes quite a different direction to other devices on the market. Where other e-readers are packed with features, the Kobo is a relatively pared-back affair. It can't connect to the web directly, so it doesn't have a browser, email access or direct purchases; nor does it have a built-in dictionary, or support annotations or MP3 files.

Unlike the Kindle, however, the Kobo supports open format, which means you can purchase and read ebooks from any source, not just the Borders ebook store (although you will need a program called Adobe Digital Editions to load them onto your Kobo). According to REDgroup Retail, the idea is to offer consumers "control and choice", and the Kobo and the Borders ebook store are not locked in to each other; books purchased on the Borders store can also be read on multiple devices. In addition, the Kobo comes preloaded with 100 free royalty-free titles, such as Alice in Wonderland, Dracula, Jane Eyre and a whole bunch of others.

The device supports ePub and PDF files, although you can't load external downloads through the free Borders desktop application, which you use to purchase and upload books to the Kobo. Because the e-reader doesn't have Wi-Fi, you need to have it plugged in to your computer via a USB cable. If you're used to making off-the-cuff purchases while on the train, you might find this irritating; by and large, though, the absence of Wi-Fi scarcely matters — it's a simple matter to upload a bunch of books in the background while the device charges.

Performance

Overall, the Kobo is sleek, concise and simple to use. The front nav-pad allows you to turn pages back and forward with ease by pressing left and right, and pressing up and down allows you to resize the font; for the vision-impaired, this is marvellous. You can even select, from the Display menu, between two different fonts, serif and sans serif, depending upon which is easier to read.

The Kobo has 1GB of memory, which means it can hold up to 1000 ebooks — certainly not a number to sniff at! — and an SD card slot allows you to increase that number to 5000 with a 4GB card. One thing we didn't like, though, is that you cannot choose where to place bookmarks, or even mark passages. When powered down, the Kobo remembers your place, but you can't skip back and forward through a book, which makes accessing footnotes and appendices a pain in the proverbials.

Another thing you can't do is mark a book as read to move it to your main library, which can be irritating; sometimes the device doesn't remember that you have read a book and will put it back in the "I'm Reading" menu, which can clutter up your not-yet-read list. You can enter the last chapter via the table of contents and skip through to the end of the book and mark it as read that way, but it's a circuitous way to move it from one place to another.

Overall, though, these are minor quibbles; the Kobo makes reading a smooth and pleasant experience and, thanks to the clearly-marked menu buttons down the left-hand side, navigation is easy — you can search for books by title or author, and once reading a book, you can easily locate chapter lists, skip through chapters and return to the home page.

The other neat thing about E Ink, too, is that it only uses power when it's turning a page, so you can leave your Kobo switched on between reading sessions. This is great, because the time it takes an e-reader to power on and load a book can seem like an awful long time when you just want to curl up with a cup of tea.

The Kobo e-reader may not get up to all the fancy-schmancy shenanigans that more expensive e-readers do, but it does what it does very well indeed. It is a sleek and simple device that performs excellently with a minimum of fuss.

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kik11e
8
Rating
 

"A great device is DEAD"

kik11e posted a review   
Australia

The Good:reliable convenient light

The Bad:book costs breakdowns and customer service

I have had my KOBO for three years it is 3 weeks short of it third birthday and mine. Its fabulous - wouldn't recommend any other.
But alas - despite its cover and the fact it is well cared for it has a number of KOBO quirks.

The fact that from time to time its needs to be rebooted is a pain.
I hate the fact you don't always get book covers and don't start me on how much some books cost (Grrrrrr)
Mine holds over a thousand books with no problem - but purchase is a lucky dip - I went through three KOBO's to get my gem.
I doesn't like you have a preview and will often cause double chapters to download IF you purchase the whole book.
I hate the way that they (KOBO) are always playing with the program and the dictionary is **** My KOBO is dead - it died last night - it was charging and when i returned the screen was scrambled - there is no fix for this. I will contact KOBO support even so.

I am in terror of starting over as stated previously KOBO is great until things go wrong and they can go very wrong.

But three years service is a long time .
I WILL MISS MY KOBO, I do miss my KOBO and the new version I don't like

ubute2000
5
Rating
 

"Great device until things went wrong"

ubute2000 posted a review   
Australia

The Good:Easy to use, light, portable

The Bad:kobo support

I had had my kobo for 6 months, had a cover for protection from the start and was very happy with it and would have recommended to family and friends, but 6 weeks ago I had problems with the screen and was unable to reset it. I have been in touch with kobo customer support, it took them a month to agree that I needed a replacement unit but am still waiting on it. 0/10 for support

Gabemc
2
Rating
 

"Disappointing"

Gabemc posted a review   

Iam really disappointed since purchasing my ereader in April. The battery is lucky to last 1 day and when travelling this is not good enough. Now were I have purchased has closed down - so what next. Will never get another kobo - ereader again

lejay5
3
Rating
 

"Poor design, slow and noisy"

lejay5 posted a review   
Australia

The Good:Light and portable

The Bad:Button noisy and needs a bit of pressure, unit slow to respond,

I was given a Kobo eReader similar to the above as a birthday present as I am a real "bookworm". I love the weight and size of the device but unfortunately there are a few design faults. The page turner button needs a bit of pressure to turn and makes a noisy click which gets very annoying after a while. If you do not press the button in exactly the correct spot, you will get the side menu coming up or the font may go smaller or larger! The unit is also quite slow to respond. The USB socket is at the bottom right edge, just where you hold it and can cut into your hand after some time. Sometimes when the unit is switched off, in sleep mode or you recharge it, it doesn't return you to the chapter you were reading. Occasionally some of the pages on the reader look faded on one sideof the page only. Overall I was very disappointed with the eReader and voiced my opinions to Kobo who just said if it was returned (at my expense) they would give me a re-furbished unit! It will still have all the design faults so the problems remain! Maybe the new touch models will be better but I certainly won't be buying Kobo or recommending them.

corsarius
9
Rating
 

"Excellent ereader that does what it says"

corsarius posted a review   
Australia

The Good:Functional, Flexible, Fun

The Bad:WiFi browsing clunky

Having owned a Kobo now for about 5 months, it continues to impress me as a piece of kit which does exactly what it says on the label. If you want a simple, no-fuss ereader without unnecessary bells and whistles, the Kobo is the way to go.

Screen clarity on the Kobo is excellent, easily matching other popular ereaders in the same price category (and many above it), the page turn speed is quite good, and does not interrupt reading, the unit is robust and simple to both use and care for.

Battery life has been excellent, and the wide variety of formats supported make the Kobo flexible and useful.

Furthermore I have nothing but praise for Kobo customer support. After the screen on my Kobo craced (through no fault but my own, having left it bouncing around in my bag), Kobo promptly sent out an entire replacement unit free of charge.

It may not have some of the trimmings of other readers (MP3 playback, dictionaries, etc), but I purchased this for one purpose only: to read books. The notable addition to this version of the Kobo: WiFi, I have found to be not particularly useful: browsing via an ereader is a less than stellar experience, and while it has been useful occasionally to buy books when a desktop PC was not available, it is a secondary feature only, and far from a deal clincher.

I have recommended the Kobo to friends and family, and all of them have found the Kobo to be a pleasure to use. I would definitely buy this device again.

STEVE
1
Rating
 

STEVE posted a review   

I received a KOBO ereader for christmas.It had poor batteriy life ie 6hrs,
After three books it crashed. I contacted Borders(31/1/2011} and was referred to KOBOS HELPLINE for warranty. After numerous emails (7) all with conflicting details as to how they were to handle the return of the reader. I have two CEL No's and two other warranty no's from KOBO but still have not had the address to send the reader.
TERRIBLE ETHICS AND POOR SERVICE.

 

caitlyn posted a reply   

well my kobo ereader is very good, the battery is very strong and i can read it all day (which i have done), maby it was just yourd that was like that...

 

Lizzie posted a comment   

On top of the 100 pre-loaded books, I have downloaded just over 100 additional books and it states it has reached its capacity. A far cry from the 'can hold around 1000 books' touted in the blurbs. If the SD card which states 4GB works on the same stats I am wondering if it is worth purchasing?

DJ
9
Rating
 

DJ posted a review   

The Good:Very light, easy to use, long battery life, excellent service

The Bad:plastic screen

I bought ereader and after a month the screen was damaged in my bag - not sure how. I would highly recommend getting a hard cover. Kobo was awesome though. Sent someone (TNT) to collect my ereader, free shipped it to Canada and sent a replacement. Hoping this new one will last longer with a protective cover!! I buy books through Borders or Kobo - whichever is cheaper and I've never had to pay more than $14.

 

Yug posted a comment   

The Good:easy to use

The Bad:The battery is very poor. I recharge and less than a day later it needs to be charged again.

It reads fin but am disapointed with the battery life. Any suggestions?


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User Reviews / Comments  Kobo eReader

  • kik11e

    kik11e

    Rating8

    "I have had my KOBO for three years it is 3 weeks short of it third birthday and mine. Its fabulous - wouldn't recommend any other.
    But alas - despite its cover and the fact it is well cared ..."

  • ubute2000

    ubute2000

    Rating5

    "I had had my kobo for 6 months, had a cover for protection from the start and was very happy with it and would have recommended to family and friends, but 6 weeks ago I had problems with the screen..."

  • Gabemc

    Gabemc

    Rating2

    "Iam really disappointed since purchasing my ereader in April. The battery is lucky to last 1 day and when travelling this is not good enough. Now were I have purchased has closed down - so what nex..."

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