Kindle vs Kobo

October 7, 2011

As those of you who follow my blog will know, I am a strong advocate of e-reading and in particular, Amazon's Kindle.

I have had a Kindle now since January 2010, and have built up a significant library of ebooks.  However, I've recently become very frustrated with Amazon's US-centric focus and am beginning to wonder if the Canadian Kobo might be a better way to go.  With this in mind, today I purchased a Kobo Touch e-reader and plan to take advantage of Chapters' two week return policy to review it and decide whether that is the way to go.

I believe both of them are good, reliable e-readers and I don't think a purchaser would be disappointed in either.  Both have the eInk display which is easiest on the eyes.  

At the point where I was considering going into ereading, before I bought my Kindle, I did experiment with both Kobo and Amazon stores and customer service and was equally happy with both.  At that point the Kobo ereader was not yet on the market.  As of yet, I have not unboxed it, but from what I understand, the following are the relative merits of Kindle and Kobo.  

Kindle pros:

Whispersync: this is the functionality in the Kindle which allows you to start reading on your iMac over breakfast, pick up the book on your iPhone while commuting, and read on your Kindle at lunchtime all without losing your place.  Amazon tracks that for you automatically and syncs the book.  If I switch to Kobo I think this is one thing I will really miss.

3G Connectivity:  most models of Kindle come in two flavours; Wifi and 3G.  With WiFi you need to find a WiFi hotspot to download books, with 3G you're always connected.  Again, I believe this is something I believe I will really miss if I switch to Kobo.  You can also use this on the current model to have free, if basic, internet access via the Kindle.  Interestingly, Amazon has reportedly turned off 3G web access on the new Kindle Touch 3G.  

Ease of purchase: one-click purchasing.  This works like an absolute dream.  Click "purchase" on the Amazon website or your Kindle and 60 seconds later the book is there for you to read, exactly as the ad promises.  No messing around with USB cables.  

Collections: Kindle provides the functionality to sort your library into Collections to make it easier to navigate.  This is a godsend if you have a library as large as mine. 

Kindle Cons:

No ePub support.  ePub is one of the major ebook formats supported by most other ebook publishers.  This means that it is very tricky to read books by any other supplier on your Kindle.  It also means that, outside the US at least, you cannot read borrowed library books on your Kindle.  

US-centric focus: Amazon has a strong tendency to ignore its customer base outside the US.  Many of the new functionalities available to the Kindle are US only; these include lending of Kindle books and borrowing from local libraries.  All purchases are done through the US Amazon.com site, so prices are in US dollars.  When a new model is released, Amazon refuses to sell it to its international base until US orders have died down.  On a more petty level, when signing into your Amazon account with a non US address many of the "recommended for you" Kindle ebook offers are " not available in your country."  

Kobo Pros:

Canadian company: Naturally, any new products or services are available to Canadian customers immediately.

Touch screen navigation: of course, the Kindle Touch is not yet available to Canadians.

ePub support: hence support of library books and also books bought from Archambault.  This significantly increases the amount of French books available.   

Reading Life: this is a mini app built into the Kobo reader and apps which I believe tracks your reading habits and provides statistics and awards.  That looks pretty fun, actually.

Kobo cons:

No 3G:  it will be interesting to see how I find the lack of 3G, to see if I find it limiting.  If I decide to return my Kobo to replace it with a Kindle Touch when available, it will help me to decide whether 3G is worth an extra $50.

 No Whispersync.  I'm really going to miss this sucker.  I understand you can manage it the same way with bookmarks, but it's easier to have the ereader do all that for you.  

As I say, this is all from research and from what I've seen.d I will be keeping you up to speed with my Kobo experience over the next few weeks, so please stay tuned!


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