Kobo Glo E-Reader — A Bookseller’s Review

ebook displeased catI am an ink and paper kind of girl, always have been.  However, many of my long-standing objections to e-readers were due to the limited availability of e-books for purchase from non-objectionable sources. No longer! Now that Kobo has partnered with international independent booksellers, readers can enjoy greater breadth of choice concerning where their e-book money goes. Many NZ book stores, Vic Books included, can now receive a portion of the profit from Kobo’s e-book sales if customers navigate to Kobo’s site from a link on the bricks and mortar store’s webpage. The link to Kobo from Vic Books can be found Here. Since you can also buy the devices in store (or on our website), Kobo offers a great new way to enjoy e-books while continuing to support your favourite NZ independents.

But, even though I can now buy e-readers and e-books through my favourite bookstore, I still wasn’t sure I would enjoy e-reading as compared with the paper and ink experience.

kobo reading onWhen I started using a Kobo Glo, I was pleasantly surprised. While I still prefer the feel of a traditional book most of the time (in part because my love of hand-writing marginalia borders on fetish), I found that it takes a surprisingly short amount of time for me to forget I’m reading off a screen. I also find the e-ink technology and soft screen illumination utilized by Kobo easy on the eyes in a way my computer and smartphone screens are not. (Click here to watch an interesting video on how e-ink technology works).

It also turns out that the Kobo Glo is perfect for compulsive readers (like myself) whose partners are light sleepers. The sound of turning pages and the brightness of a book lamp are more than enough to keep my partner awake, but the soft glow and soundless page turn of the Kobo don’t disturb. I also find the flat e-reader design  better for reading while lying down than trying to hold open the spine of a traditional book.

At first I thought it would be annoying that the Kobo doesn’t come with its own device charger but, rather, must be charged through a USB cable connected to a computer. However, the device’s charge lasts so long that this is a moot issue (according to Kobo’s website the battery charge can last for over 1 month with Wi Fi turned off or up to 70 hours of continuous usage while illuminated). I was also impressed by how quickly the Kobo charges, just chucking it on while I’m checking my e-mail/Facebook keeps it going for ages.

kobo font settings
Easy Font Changes

Most of the things that were initially troublesome about the reading experience with Kobo (such as distracting pop-up “awards” you earn for things like downloading and opening your first book) can be turned off in the settings menu. Other alterable settings options, such as where to tap the screen for page turns and what style and size font the text displays in, make the reading experience fairly customizable.

Another great feature of Kobo is its versatility, the e-reader able to display a variety of file types (EPUB, PDF, JPEG, GIF, PNG, TIFF, TXT, (X)HTML, RTF, CBZ, CBR) and Kobo’s software allowing usability of Kobo-purchased e-books across devices. Downloading Kobo’s software to your computer and the Kobo app to your smartphone allows you to access your Kobo-purchaed e-books easily on multiple devices. Provided you sync each reading device relatively frequently, this means you can pick up where you left off regardless of which device you are currently reading on. It should also mean that you can access your annotations and highlighting across devices, but I’ve found the usability of the annotation and highlighting features a bit unreliable; not always saving or syncing properly. This issue shouldn’t be an impediment to the casual reader, but might preclude using the Kobo Glo for the study of scholarly texts until such time as future software updates can eliminate the problem.

Unlike some other e-readers, the Kobo Glo also supports e-books from many non-Kobo sources, such as Project Gutenberg, allowing readers the ability to use their Kobo device with many e-books (of many file types) they either already own, or wish to purchase directly from another source.  While this is a huge advantage, it appears that Kobo’s software for PC and smartphone is unable to support non-Kobo e-books, meaning that while you can read these files on your e-reader, they will not sync to your other devices in the same fashion that Kobo-sourced e-books do.

Under “Extras,” Kobo Glo offers Chess, a Sketch Pad, Sudoku and a Web Browser. None of these seem necessary on a device of this type and, in truth, they don’t seem to work well enough to warrant their inclusion.

Kobo’s software, while clever, takes some adjusting to between devices, with certain features accessible in slightly different ways on e-reader than they are on a laptop or a phone. This is to be expected, given the disparities between these technologies, but could be a challenge for some users. Likewise, the lack of detailed instructions within the Kobo Glo’s packaging. However, basic features are introduced by the device itself when it is first powered up, and a detailed user guide .pdf is easily downloadable.

All in all, I’m very impressed with the Kobo Glo. I never thought I would enjoy e-reading, but Kobo has proven me wrong. In the Glo, Kobo has provided an impressive device that is far more versatile than many other dedicated e-readers and whose few weaknesses lie in features peripheral to the actual reading experience. If what you’re after is a dedicated e-reader that will allow you to comfortably make your way through a variety of books day or night, I’d strongly recommend the Kobo Glo. It’s pleasurable to use, even for paper book traditionalists like myself, and it’s produced by the only e-reader company whose sales can help support the local bookstores in our New Zealand communities.


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