Kobo Touch eReader First Impressions

October 8, 2011

So, I have unboxed the Kobo Touch and have spent my first few hours with it.  My first impressions are generally positive.


The Kobo Touch has the same 6 inch eInk display as the Kindle.  From what I could see, there was no discernible difference in contrast between the two, but as they use different fonts, it was tricky to say.  In any case, both are clear and easy to read.  I found the IR touchscreen reasonably responsive and easy to use.  In comparison to the Kindle 3G Keyboard the Kobo seems tiny; of course this is because it doesn't have a keyboard.  

I found the Kobo comfortable and easy to hold, and page turns were easy.  I did miss being able to turn back a page with my right hand – the Kindle has page back buttons on the same side of the case as the page forward one.  Personally, I found I had to use two hands – not easy with a cat purring in your lap.

One thing the Kobo does slightly differently to the Kindle is the screen refreshes.  By default it will only refresh the screen fully on every sixth page turn,  minimising the black flash.  Some users have commented that this has led to ghosting, but that is not something I noticed on my Kobo.  

User interface:

I found the user interface to be intuitive and easy to use.  The touchscreen keyboard works fine, even if it did take me about 10 minutes to find the underscore!  I like the home screen with the covers of the last few books you were reading.  The Reading Life section with your reading stats looks fun, too, although I haven't read enough yet on my Kobo to build that up.  I'm not sure if that will become annoying after a while.  The various views of your library are nice looking too, with the covers.  I found myself wanting to scroll as I do on my iPhone Kindle and Kobo apps!  I am not so fond of the way you can only view your library in one huge long list or one short list of your currently active items.  The Kindle's ability to split your list into collections is something I've really liked about it.

Ease of purchase:

The Kobo was super easy to purchase.  I simply went into my local Chapters bookstore and walked out 10 minutes later with my Kobo – for inquiring minds, I chose the silver coloured one.  I understand the Kindle is now available to purchase in store in Canada, but when I bought my last one, I had to order online, wait THREE MONTHS (delayed international shipments) and then it finally arrived.  

Ease of setup:

Setting up the Kobo wasn't particularly complicated.  I had to download the Kobo software, plugin my Kobo and then it was ready to register.  It asked if I had an existing Kobo account – I do – and when I entered my ID and password it registered it to my account.  I connected easily to my WiFi network and the Kobo downloaded the books I had on my account.

Of course, this is complex compared to the Kindle setup.  When you purchase it through the Amazon website on your Amazon account it comes pre-registered.  As soon as you hook it up to WiFi or 3G, it recognises you and is ready to download your Kindle library.

Book purchasing:

As I have mentioned, I had purchased a few books on Kobo prior to purchasing my Kindle when I was exploring the ebook market.  They were all there for me to download.  I picked up a free book and purchased one yesterday via the Kobo website and after a quick WiFi sync both books appeared in my Kobo's library.  No need to sync with a cable.  I also downloaded a sample on my Kobo and it's also available to me on my computer via the Kobo website.

Library/non Kobo books:

I borrowed a book from the BAnQ here in Montreal and was able to side load it to my Kobo via Adobe Digital Editions with no problem.  I'm now quite happily reading it.  It was in ePub format.  I did notice that some of the library books are in PDF format.  The other non Amazon book I had that I was keen to try on the Kobo was Les Chevaliers d'Emeraude by Anne Robillard.  The copy I purchased from Archambault was in PDF, and unfortunately neither the Kindle nor the Kobo are that great at handling PDFs.  

Other points:

When Kobo goes to sleep mode, it displays the cover of the book you're currently reading.  I really like that.  No more creepy dead authors staring back at you.  The Kindle owners amongst you will know exactly what I mean!

I may be mistaken, but as far as I can tell there is no option to pre-order books through the Kobo website.  That is something I do fairly often on the Kindle.  I love that when I wake up on the release day of a new book it will be waiting for me on my Kindle without my having to do anything.  

In general:

I believe the Kobo is a decent e-reader and I could see it working well for me.  I am trying to borrow more from the library, for which the Kobo is great.  However, I'd prefer not to have my ebook library split over two incompatible systems.  Both the Kindle and Kobo have pros and cons for me personally, and I will be reviewing carefully over the next couple of weeks to decide which direction I want to go.

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