The Kobo is an eInk reader, like the original Nook and the Kindle. This means it shares with them an impressive battery life (2 weeks or more) and a single minded dedication to reading, unlike more hybrid devices. Earlier versions of the Kobo had no internet access; the newest generation, which came out in fall 2010, can connect to wifi.
The Kobo is very reasonably priced. When ordered direct from the company, the price is $139 - the same as the entry level Kindle with an almost identical feature set. However, the Kobo can also be purchased elsewhere, often for far less. As of this writing, Borders is selling it for $100 and occasionally it's been spotted on sale for as little as $60.
The device itself:
The Kobo has a very minimalist design. Instead of having buttons scattered all over the non-reading surface, there are only a few: a directional pad in the lower right corner and a few buttons along the side which control access to the menus and settings.
In terms of weight and size, the Kobo is nearly identical to the Kindle 2. It's about the size and shape of a mass market paperback and comparable in weight.
- The light weight means it's less likely to lead to wrist fatigue than some of the heavier eInk readers.
- eInk technology means the battery (with wifi turned off) can easily last for a couple of weeks -- or an entire vacation -- without requiring a charge.
- The screen is very clear, mimicking the colors and contrast of a paperback and theoretically making reading easier on the eyes.
- I found the lack of extra buttons a big plus, because there was plenty of place to hold it without worrying about accidentally pressing something.
- The location of the directional pad (which is used, among other things, to turn the page) is very right-hand centric. If you prefer to hold the device in your left hand, the layout may be awkward.
- eInk is grand, but it isn't for everyone. The nature of the technology means that the screen will flash every time the page is turned, while the ink redraws itself. This turned out to be a bigger issue for me than I expected, and I found I couldn't read as long or as intensely using an eInk device.
- The minimalist design can be a plus, but it also turns into a drawback if you have to enter any information, such as a Wifi password or a search term. Input is incredibly cumbersome as you use the directional pad to arrow around a list of letters and numbers.
- If you intend to read a lot outside or where there's plenty of light, an eInk screen reduces glare to about the same amount as would be experienced with a paper book.
- If you intend to read in the dark or the dim, the Kobo is not backlit, meaning you will need an external light source to read (just like a paper book.)
Using the Kobo with Library eBooks
The Kobo works well and very easily with Library eBooks, but requires the use of a computer as intermediary, much as the Nook and Sony Readers.
- Follow the instructions to download and install Adobe Digital Editions, including entering (or creating) your Adobe ID to authorize the computer.
- Check out and download an eBook to your computer from the NH Downloadable Books site.
- With Adobe Digital Editions open, use the Kobo's USB cable to connect the device to the computer. Select "Manage Library" on the Kobo.
- If this is the first time you've used the Kobo with Adobe Digital Editions, the Device Setup Assistant will appear and ask if you want to authorize the device. Click "Authorize Device". (This only happens once - after it's authorized it will remain authorized.)
- KOBOeReader will be listed in the left hand "Bookshelves" column.
- In library view, click on the cover of the book you want to transfer to the Kobo and drag it over to where it says KOBOeReader. The book will copy over to the device.
- Once the transfer is complete, disconnect the Kobo from the computer. After the Kobo processes the new content, the new book will be available to read.
We've all seen the news and we've all seen the stores going out of business. Borders may not be long for this world. What does that mean for the Kobo?
Unlike the Nook, which belongs to Barnes and Noble, and the Kindle, which belongs to Amazon, the Kobo is not actually owned by Borders. The device is made by a Canadian company and they've made a deal with Borders to have the device sold in their stores and to allow the Kobo with wifi to order books directly from the Borders online store. They have a similar deal with a bookstore chain in Canada. So even if Borders goes belly-up, the Kobo will still have support and updates coming.
On top of that, the Kobo is designed to work with ePub format eBooks. This means it's already compatible with eBooks purchased from Barnes and Noble, Borders, and a number of other eBook vendors.
In other words, don't let worries over the future of Borders affect the decision about whether or not to buy a Kobo.