Review of the Kobo Touch e-reader

I recently bought a Kobo Touch, which is not a new piece of technology. Here, I review it anyway, since it’s new to me. I’ll start with the negative and work my way to the positive.

For the non-initiates out there, a Kobo is an “e-reader.” That means it’s a handheld piece of electronics for consuming media—mostly books/magazines/things that would have otherwise been print media. A Kindle is also an e-reader, but made by a different company. I refuse to get a Kindle because of the sorts of things that Amazon does to customers who own Kindles. You could also put the iPad into this category, but it’s more of a tablet than an e-reader, I think. Anyway, a Kobo is a kind of e-reader that doesn’t have a back-lit display.

Things that the Kobo doesn’t do well

  • PDF documents—if the PDF wasn’t formatted for a Kobo or something, you’ll have to zoom and scroll all over, which will get really annoying really fast.
  • Apps—if you want to play games, don’t get a Kobo. You will be disappointed. It doesn’t do apps at all. There’s sort of an app where you can draw with your finger, but it is terrible.
  • Web browsing—there is a browser. No, don’t try it. You’ll be happy you didn’t.
  • Social integration—it keeps trying to post things to my Facebook. I really don’t like Facebook all that much. I would actually be okay if it offered to tweet things, but there’s no Twitter integration on the Kobo.
  • Annotations—entering text using the touch keyboard on a Kobo is slow, inaccurate and frustrating. Highlighting text is similarly difficult, but not as bad as annotating. Selecting text takes a while, and it sometimes can’t figure out where your finger is on the screen.
  • Discoverability of features—it took me a long time to figure out that I can bookmark a page by just tapping the top-right corner of a page. I’m still not sure if there’s a way to know how many pages in a book on my Kobo.
  • Buying books from the Kobo store sucks. It sucks pretty bad. It’s hard to browse for books on the Kobo e-reader, so I tried finding a book on the website and adding it to my “wishlist” so I could buy it. But it turns out that my wishlist doesn’t sync between my Kobo e-reader, the Kobo web store and the Kobo desktop app. Not only that, but it’s hard to get things onto your wishlist from the desktop app in the first place. This is something I hope they figure out soon, because it’s a fairly essential part of their business model—getting people to pay for their content.

Things that the Kobo does really well

  • It’s excellent for reading in direct sunlight. Due to the nature of the e-ink screen, the Kobo is perfect for reading outdoors. I have tested this extensively in the park near my house this summer. It’s wonderful, and it’s something that you can’t really do with an iPad.
  • Further, the Kobo doesn’t cause much eye strain. first off, the Kobo formats EPUB books so that the text is a nice size for reading. Also, the e-ink screen has no back-light, so it’s way easier on the eyes. Reading from a Kobo screen is really no more tiring than reading from a book.
  • There are lots of free books. this is not exclusive to the Kobo. Come to think of it, I always had access to these free books through Project Gutenberg, which you should check out if you haven’t yet. There are thousands of free books to be downloaded. These are largely classic works of literature whose copyright has expired, putting them in the Public Domain. But really, I never read these books before I had an e-reader, because it sucks to sit in front of a computer screen and read, even a laptop.
  • It’s “tossable.” I feel like I can throw it across the room, shove it in my bag, etc. There’s no glass screen, and it’s not very heavy. I feel like if I dropped it, it’s not heavy enough to break itself when it hits the floor.
  • Last thing is battery life, which I regard to be one of the biggest assets of the Kobo. I charged my Kobo for the first time on Tuesday July 24, 2012. Since then, I had the wifi turned off, except on three occasions during which I downloaded new books. It has now been just over four weeks since the last charge, and the battery indicator is around the one-quarter mark.
    To give you an idea of how much use I made of the Kobo during that time, I used it at least twice a day, every day, having taken up the habit of reading while using the stationary bicycle at the gym, and reading before bed each night. And because it was something new and shiny, I used it much more than that, just out of novelty, at the beginning of its life.

Overall assessment

All in all, I’m pretty happy with the thing. It was a fraction of the price of an iPad, and for reading books, at least, I think it does a better job. I’m enjoying it thoroughly and I’ve got about a million books I plan to read on it. Well, no more than 1 GB at a time, anyway.

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The Grey Literature

This is the personal blog of Benjamin Gregory Carlisle PhD. Queer; Academic; Queer academic. "I'm the research fairy, here to make your academic problems disappear!"

2 thoughts on “Review of the Kobo Touch e-reader”

  1. How do you feel about ‘owning’ books that don’t sit on your bookshelf? To me it’s cool how you can look at someone’s book collection and gain a fairly complete picture of that person’s interests. I fear that would be lost if I only bought e-books. You have a pretty substantial personal library if I recall… how do you feel about this?

  2. I think I feel about books now the way that I feel about photos.

    I do appreciate the value of decorative books: If you put a Malcolm Gladwell on the coffee table, suddenly you look intelligent, but not too highbrow. If you put a Harry Potter book on your shelf, people think you’re a geek with a heart of gold. In fact, I own both a dictionary and a copy of the Complete Shakespeare that I keep purely for decorative purposes—they are big reference volumes that look good, but are way too unwieldy for actual use.

    But in the same way that I don’t need to carry around a huge printed 8×10 of my family when I can have a whole photo album’s worth of photos in my smartphone, I don’t need to carry around a huge printed nuisance of a book when I can have a whole library in my e-reader.

    In both the case of books and photos, of course anyone would want to have some printed to put around your house, but I think it is irrational, costly and inconvenient to have the bulk of either my photos or my books be non-digital.

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