Text and photos by Gadjo Cardenas Sevilla
Toronto-based Kobo has come a long way since its first eReader with the eReader Touch Edition. A diminuitive, fast and well-priced eBook reader that doesn't only meet its competition feature by feature but also offers a number of unique features besides being the one of the smaller yet most capable eReader devices around.
The Kobo eReader Touch Edition ($129 available in Indigo Bookstores and Future Shop) will surprise users who have seen Amazon's Kindle or Sony's Reader since it is smaller and has only two buttons. Smaller and way thinner than a pocket book and tinier even than Amazon's slimmed down Kindle 3, the Kobo eReader Touch Edition has provent to be the most totable eBook reading device we've tried and can be held with one hand for longer than any tablet or competing eReader we have tried.
The reason why there aren't any buttons on the Kobo eReader Touch is because the eInk display is completely touch-enabled. This means you interact with the screen directly so there are no clumsy navigation bars or odd Next and Back buttons to deal with. The new pearl eInk display is one of the best 6" inch 16-shade grayscale display's in the market today. Definitely an improvement over last year's kobo eReader WiFi.
Users can turn the page simply by pressing or tapping on the screen. This is a more natural way to navigate back and forth. This is a feature that other, more expensive eReaders sold in Canada do not have. Aside from this, the new eInk technology used in the Kobo eReader Touch refreshes faster and is clearer than previous reader we've used.
We also like the device's design. We were skeptical about that quilted rear but found it to be oddly comfortable and gave the eReader a fair amount of grip. The device is well built and sturdy despite its small size and Kobo offers an assortment of unique carrying and protective cases for the device.
Compared to the Amazon Kindle 3, the Kobo eReader Touch has the same screen size, improved screen technology, the touch control and way fewer buttons as well as lighter weight all around. For Canadian users, Kobo's huge 1.5 million eBook library is a no brainer since a lot of the titles are available straight away. There are also magazines and the ability to transfer PDF's. Other outstanding features include the ability to add even more memory via microUSB cards as well as built-in web browser which is a nice-to-have feature.
Kobo has also spiced things up with the Reading Life application which earns users badges and achievements based on their reading frequency and also allows some social interaction since you can share the information with your friends on Facebook or Twitter.
For users that have an iPad, Android or PlayBook tablet, you can access your eBooks on those devices as well or on any of the major smartphones out there today thank's to Kobo's applications. We were thrilled to find a Game of Thrones 4-book bundle for $18.00 as well as a number of recent bestsellers that we put on our wishlist.
Moreover, Kobo has a range of available newspaper subscriptions including all the major local and national dailies and most have a 15-day trial period. We signed up for a few and found that the service does work quite well and there's nothing like getting the meat of the day's news appearing on your device early in the day.
The downsides that we found were mostly that typing on the eInk touchscreen isn't as instantaneous as typing on a tablet or on a physical keyboard.
There's a bit of a delay which means you need to type slowly to avoid errors. Reconnecting to a saved WiFi hotspot was also hit or miss but we were happy to see that the Koboe eReader Touch does pick up more hotspots than many of our tablets or notebooks. Initial eBook purchases from the device bring you to a "Billing Address" form that you need to fill up for tax purposes which is something we would have preferred to deal with on the Kobo website once we set the device up (see comment on typing).
The Kobo eReader Touch Edition offers so much for the asking price that it is one of this year's outstanding bargains. We have memberships on almost all the eReader services but are frustrated by the fact many of the titles we like aren't openly available because we are in Canada. No such inconvenience with Kobo. Battery life is outstanding and will give week's worth of reading on a single charge.
The limitation is that the eInk screen is not backlit (neither are real printed books) but you can always get inexpensive reading light accessories. Our one wish is to see devices like the Kobo eReader Touch replace costly, heavy and environmentally wasteful textbooks. Students can carry tens of thousands of pages on a slim device and the cost of printing, binding, shipping and storing the textbooks could all be diminished bringing down the price of the textbooks themselves. That would be a revolution in reading.
The Kobo eReader Touch Edition is a vary compelling eReader specially with WiFi and touch as standard features. Kobo's great ecosystem, constant innovation make this a serious player and it is going International starting this July. Check out their Kobo's library and if they have the books you want then this could be an awesome Summer gift for yourself or someone who loves reading.
Rating: 5 out of 5