Not many consumer electronics devices get away with a backside that looks like your Grandma’s quilt. Like a grandparent, however, it’s not the aesthetic that counts for the Kobo eReader, but the stories it tells. And the Kobo tells stories very well.
Looking beyond the quilting, the Kobo Touch interface is both simple and simply beautiful. Turn it on and you’re greeted with the covers of your most recent books, so that you’re just one tap (it’s touchscreen!) away from your stories.
Opening a book will take you to your last opened page, with tabs to the left or right of the screen scrolling you through the pages. You can also make a swiping gesture to change page, if you’re fixed on the tablet experience.
The fact that the Kobo uses a touchscreen means that, combined with the unit’s matte -white finish, you’re faced with an extremely unobtrusive reading experience. You’ll only find two buttons on the device – and only one on the front. It boats a 6″ Pearl e-ink display – the very same one you’ll find on the Amazon Kindle and the Sony Reader series, so there’s no disparity there.
Hold your finger on a word and you’ll bring up an iPhone-style selection cursor, which then allows you to save your highlighted section, add a note, look up the definition, translate the word or search the book for another occurrence. We found that this was much better that using the Kindle’s d-pad to look up words, but the touchscreen was sometimes unreliable and highlighted the wrong area. Annoying.
You can also share it on Facebook, although we didn’t feel inclined to share our reading progress.
A tap on the centre of the screen brings up the options menu, where you can access the built-in dictionary, translation tools, search the book, view your annotations or jump to the table of contents. You can also access the device’s settings and – uniquely – change the font.
While other devices let you change fonts on the device, the Kobo actually allows you to add a new font to the eReader when you plug it into your computer. Simply create a “fonts” folder on the unit and draw your favourite TrueTypes onto the system, then select it from the menu. You can also edit font size, line spacing, margins and justification.
There are three main navigation options, Library, Store or Reading Life. Library lets you see your books, news & magus, previews and your shortlisted items, while the store lets you download books through the devices wifi from the Kobo store. There are also free eBooks, top picks and a search option.
Reading Life is the most interesting feature, however, as it shows you your reading stats and awards. We thought that the awards were a bit of a pointless gameification addition for people who want to boast about their reading achievements on Facebook, but really enjoyed browsing our reading stats.
For your current books, you can see how long your average reading session is, as well as the total hours you’ve spent reading and the number of pages turned. You can also see the number of books you’ve finished, your total time spent reading and the percentage of your library you’ve finished.
The Kobo supports EPUB, PDF, MOBI, KPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP, TIFF, TXT, HTML, RTF, CBZ and CBR, with a 2GB storage capacity and a microSD slot for a 32GB card.