From the Toronto Sun, By STEVE TILLEY, QMI Agency:
Unless you’re referring to your significant other’s state of dress, “stripped down” tends to have pretty negative connotations. It suggests something that’s had all its good stuff removed, leaving just the boring basics behind.
But when it comes to technology, there’s something to be said for ditching extraneous features and concentrating on doing one thing well. That’s the case with the Kobo eReader ($149), the latest arrival in the growing realm of electronic book-reading gadgets, which includes the Amazon Kindle ($259 and $489) and the Sony Reader ($199 and $299).
Looking at those prices, the Kobo eReader’s chief advantage is apparent off the top: it’s cheap. It also happens to be really easy to use. (“Cheap and easy” have their own connotations, except you probably don’t want these ones applied to your significant other.) Added bonus: It’s Canadian.
At just 10 mm thick and 221 grams, the Kobo eReader is the slimmest and lightest of the major digital book readers available. It also feels very durable, thanks to a rubberized back that makes it effortless to hold in one hand. I had to resist the urge to fling it like a Frisbee.
The eReader’s six-inch screen uses the same E-Ink technology as the Sony and Amazon devices, which gives it the same advantages (wickedly long battery life, no eye strain) and disadvantages (very limited graphical functions beyond displaying static text.) The front of the device is completely devoid of buttons aside from a squarish, rubberized directional pad used to turn pages and navigate the eReader’s built-in menus.
Books can be purchased online at the Chapters/Indigo-operated Kobo bookstore (www.kobobooks.com) – the eReader supports the versatile and widely used ePub format – with bestsellers going for about $10. The software you need to install on your PC or Mac to transfer books to the eReader is right on the device itself, and it works great.
The Kobo eReader has 1 GB of built-in memory, good for about 1,000 books, and is expandable to 4 GB with a separate SD memory card. It comes with 100 public domain books pre-loaded, offering everything from James Joyce to Mark Twain to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Elementary!
Reading books on the Kobo eReader is pretty much what you’d expect from similar devices, with two typefaces and five font sizes available, as well as the ability to navigate through chapters and so on. Loading books is a bit slower than on other e-readers I’ve used, and the screen flashes annoyingly when turning pages, as with every e-reader that uses E-Ink displays. But these aren’t dealbreakers.
That’s what the Kobo eReader is. What it isn’t is a device that allows you to wirelessly download books directly to it, like the Amazon Kindle. You can purchase books using a BlackBerry or iPhone app and transfer them to the eReader via Bluetooth, however. It’s a bit of a hassle, but it works.
You also can’t turn pages by touching the screen, as with the Sony Reader Touch, nor use the eReader to surf the Web or play MP3 music files or display photographs, as you can with some of its competitors. But really, if you want an all-in-one device like that’s also is a great e-reader, buy an Apple iPad when they come out here next month. If you want a lightweight, inexpensive and easy device that can get you into digital books for just $150, this stripped-down gadget has raw appeal.
Kobo eReader; Price: $149
Verdict: It lacks the bells and whistles of its more expensive competitors, but the Kobo eReader is a slim, inexpensive digital book device that’s easy to use. A great entry-level e-reader.
As small and light as the new Kobo eReader is, sometimes you just don’t want to carry even one more gadget around in your man-purse. Err, not that I have a man-purse. No sir.
Luckily, Kobo takes a page – pun intended – from some of its competitors, offering software and mobile apps that let you read your e-books on a variety of devices you’ve probably already got with you, including a PC or Mac, a BlackBerry, an iPhone and the soon-to-be-available-in-Canada iPad.
I tested the software on each device, and they all worked just great. The iPad offers the most book-like experience, of course (although not as good as you’ll get with the device’s native iBooks), but reading on the iPhone’s small screen wasn’t half-bad. The BlackBerry Kobo app works fine as well, though book-reading on a wee ’Berry would be a last resort.
Sadly, Kobo doesn’t mark the last place you left off as you switch from device to device the way the Amazon Kindle mobile apps do. Can’t win ’em all.