The Kobo eBook Reader: Simplicity Has A Place

By now you have undoubtedly seen someone sitting on a bus or at an airport reading away on some flavour of eBook.

I have been using a Kobo reader (available from Chapters/Indigo). It is about as vanilla and basic a reader as the market offers, but it still has found a place in my life.

I am a big fan of the idea of eBooks, but to be fair they are a polarizing concept. Some people have an emotional tie to paper books that is almost a religious attachment. They feel some special relationship with the paper and feel of a real book. I thought I had a similar bent, but it turns out I am far more shallow than that. I am happy to read away on an eBook, and in fact, after just having one for a little over a month, I prefer it. Time for an ex-communication from the book snobbery club!

The Kobo will set you back about $150, and comes loaded with some 100 classic books to start your eBook library. All those books and more can be stored in the main memory of the Kobo, which also boasts a SD memory card slot so you could literally store thousands of titles on your Kobo.

The display (crucial for an eReader) is a 6” passive E-ink display. The term passive means no backlight, and this is important from several perspectives. First, no backlight means a far lighter and energy efficient unit is possible. The Kobo is only 221 gm (a tad under 8 oz to you old time non-metric thinkers). It makes the Kobo light enough to comfortably hold in one hand while you read. (By comparison, the Apple iPad, at just over a pound, is too heavy to do this.)

Battery life on the unit is measured in weeks – two to be precise as opposed to hours for a traditional display, so you could pack a Kobo on a week long holiday, read to your hearts content at the beach and still have plenty of juice! Ah the beach! Another benefit of the passive E-ink display is you can read in outside conditions since glare is not an issue. In fact, you need an external light source for the Kobo to read –just like a real book.

The E-ink display is also easier on the eyes than a backlit display, something I appreciate after spending hours on a computer each day. You can adjust the font size to suite your preference. When I say the Kobo is bare bones I am really referring to the operating and navigation systems. You use a multi-directional pad on the bottom of the Kobo to navigate through menus, select titles and turn pages. The system works well enough — while the Kobo is a tad sluggish in response, this is something that only really bothers me when I am in maintenance mode, not when I am reading. But in this age, with the awesome operating systems offered on the iPad and Android pads, it does seem a bit, shall we say, underwhelming. However, one has to consider that this is an eBook, not a web browsing, email reading, video watching entertainment device.

Don’t think you are limited to just books on the Kobo. You can also use the eReader for papers, magazines, newspapers or business documents. And managing your content on the Kobo is pretty straight forward. You can use a free app from Kobo or any of several 3rd party applications. I use an app called Calibre that allows me to manage the library on the Kobo and convert documents into ePub format. Alternately, you don’t need to use a computer application at all as the Kobo has built in WiFi allowing you to shop and download books directly, anywhere you have WiFi access.

All in all I am very happy with my little eBook reader. It is simple, easy to use, light, has a long battery life and all my books there for me taking up almost no space. Ah, progress!

Steve DobbsSteve Dotto is Canada’s most respected geek. For over 15 years, as host and executive producer of Dotto Tech, a nationally syndicated TV show, Steve has entertained and educated millions of Canadians on all aspects of technology. Steve has a passion for understanding the social impact of technology. His DVD Cybersafe with Steve Dotto , teaches parents and caregivers about the opportunities, dangers and challenges of social networking.