Text and photos by Gadjo Cardenas Sevilla
Its clear that the age of the eReader has arrived. Ushered in by the Sony Reader and defined by Amazon's Kindle, ebook readers aren't just a hip fad but a vital industry that's reshaping the business of books to the tune of $1Billion. Kobo's new Wireless eReader improves on an already good idea with some new features.
Kobo is a distinctly Canadian eBook company. Not only was it one of the first to come out with a modern eBook reader solution, its presence in local Canadian bookshops enabled Canadians to get in on the eBook trend while Amazon was still figuring out its Canadian launch. Kobo was also proactive enough to offer Kobo apps for numerous mobile devices and was even one of the first companies to develop an iPad application that was suited to that device's specific screen size.
Following up the original reader, the Kobo Wireless Reader ($149) improves the devices overall design while improving a number of features. Expansion via SD card has expanded and Kobo claims it can now handle 32GB (translating to 10,000 books, a veritable library!).
Improved battery life and a built-in dictionary are also new with this version which touts wireless (Wi-Fi) connectivity as the major feature. This allows the perusing and buying of new book titles anywhere a usable Wi-Fi Internet connections is available. Kobo also gives users the added convenience of allowing them to use Bell's Hotspot network, free of charge which is great for users who frequent coffee shops and the like that are covered by Bell.
You don't really need a constant wireless connection for an eBook reader. Searching for and downloading books doesn't take too long, we've downloaded around five books in less than 10 minutes. Shutting off the Wi-Fi also ensures that the battery lasts a bit longer.
The Kobo Wireless eReader is encased in grippy rubber and the rear features a quilted design, it is suitably lightweight and perfect for one-handed operation although better if you are right handed because that's where the 4-way navigation pad is located. We found the Kobo Wireless eReader to be substantially quick in redrawing pages, navigation was fairly intuitive and battery life was good for around 8 days between charges.
Kobo also has 100 free eBooks available to new users, these are mostly classics that are in the public domain and copyright free. Kobo also says that you should be able to access books from your library's free eBooks. There is also the added benefit of being able to choose 5 font sizes and two font types which should cover the range for most users. The Kobo Wireless eReader is available in three colours; Onyx, Lilac and Silver.
With any eReader format, we suggest that interested buyers check out the books and titles available before they decide to buy the reader. The good thing with most of these devices is that there are free apps for the PC as well as for smartphones, so you can check them out beforehand. Is Kobo better for Canadians in general? Again, that depends entirely on how you plan on using the reader and what you want to read on it.
Kobo has more than 1.5 Million titles right now, Amazon has 650,000 for Kindle while Barnes & Noble's Nook is said to have over 2 Million books available. Of course, this is meaningless if the books you like can't be found in your specific eReader's store.
The Kobo Wireless eReader offers good value, great convenience and a no frills way to get into reading eBooks and saving trees.
Rating: 4 out of 5