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An initial look at the Kobo eReader

Yesterday afternoon, I received a provocative tweet from my husband. “I have a surprise for you”, stated the first tweet.

“Is it a good surprise?”, I asked.

“Depends”, was the answer.

“Do I get more clues?”, I asked.

“It’s white, and textured and not a cat” was the reply.

Shortly after, I was picked up from work and I got to see my surprise – it was a brand new Kobo eReader from Borders book store! Here’s a brief initial review of the Kobo eReader, based upon my short use of it.
An image of my Kobo eReader

About the Kobo

The Kobo eReader is an ebook reading device based on E Ink technology. The thing to note is that this is an eReader – it’s not an iPad. It does one thing – display books – and it does it well.

Things I like

  • The stylish and clean design
  • The lovely quilted backing – it stops the eReader from slipping from your hands
  • It’s lightweight at 221 grams and fits easily in my hands
  • Cheap – at $199 at Borders book stores, it’s one of the most affordable eReaders around
  • It comes preloaded with a hundred books and holds up to 1000 books (more if you use an SD card)
  • You don’t need any additional devices or chargers to charger this – just plug it into a USB port with a standard mini USB cable
  • It supports open formats – ePub! It also takes PDF and Adobe DRM.
  • I can drag and drop books straight onto the Kobo once it’s plugged into my computer (so quick and easy)
  • It retains the cover of the book when the device is off (just like a real book!)
  • The D-pad is located on the right hand side, similar position to where you expect to turn a page

Things I don’t like

  • It takes a while to power on
  • It takes a while to load each book
  • When the Kobo is plugged into my computer, I can’t use the eReader at all
  • There are very slight delays when ‘turning’ pages (I don’t think this is the fault of the Kobo, as it’s likely due to electronic paper technology)
  • I had some issues with the way I had to navigate the PDFs I transferred to the Kobo but I need to do more experimentation to determine if it’s the source PDF or whether it’s the Kobo’s interpretation of the PDF

Things to note

It doesn’t come with 3G or Wi-Fi but that hasn’t been a problem for me so far.

The battery life is supposed to last up to two weeks (I haven’t had it long enough to test this).

eBooks from Borders Australia look fairly affordable. Take one of my favourite books – Pride And Prejudice And Zombies – the ebook is currently available for $7.95 (Australian dollars).

The verdict

On the whole, it’s a good affordable device, with a few minor quibbles. It supports open standards and books purchased can be read on other devices that have the Kobo mobile app. Is it the Kindle Killer? Only time can tell, but it looks like a real contender. I’m liking it so far.

Published inGadgets


  1. I had a look at Kobo e-reader because there was an email about it from Borders. I also own the Kindle. I am actually interested by the Borders’ ebookstore because of a variety of things – and the Kobo e-reader also looks good.

    Although, judging from the few screenshots I have seen of it, it seems that it’s like a black and white version of the iBookstore that will launch with the IPad.

    In comparison to the amazon store, just so you know, it seems that more books are available to australians than there are from amazon. Furthermore, there’s many books that are cheaper too! considering that it is epub format, they are readable across quite a number of platforms – all +s for it.

    However, I do already have the Kindle. If I didn’t, I might just go for it just so I can have a “local” e-reader.

    May I also suggest visiting a book reading forums with lots of “free books” suggestions. yes they are kindle oriented, but free books can come from anywhere. :)

  2. Ruth Ellison Ruth Ellison

    Thanks for the suggestions Cheryl. I’ve been tempted by the Kindle for a while, but the prices and proprietary format were really off-putting.

    What I’m looking forward to is a multi-touch tablet that also has colour electronic paper capability! But in the mean time, my Kobo eReader is a great little single-function device. I’m looking forward to putting it through its paces.

  3. Thanks for the review Ruth.

    One question, do you think the Kobo is too small? I saw one in Borders on the weekend and it was smaller than I expected. Maybe I’m just getting used to the iPad!

  4. Ruth Ellison Ruth Ellison

    @Patrick – I find that the size is comparable to most fiction books. Prior to the Kobo, I was doing a lot of reading on my iPhone. Compared to the iPhone, the Kobo feels like a good size!

    I’ve also read books on my tablet PC (12″) but found it a bit large (in terms of number of words on a single line). On the other hand, reading comics on my tablet PC is great.

  5. Tom Tom

    Hi, I met you briefly at TAM! I recommend the site They have free books either out of copyright or released to the public domain. The site lets you download books in many formats, including as a custom PDF, so you can have the typeface, page size and margins to suit your preferences. They have a *lot* of good books on that site!

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