Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Kobo eReader Review

Kobo is an anagram of Book
The last time I was in the field was 2008 and I wanted to try lightening my fieldgear then by taking an eReader.  However, at that time, the Kindle was the only one on the market and it wasn’t available in Canada.  Since then, there have been a few new eReaders released and I picked up the Kobo, which is available from Chapters for $149 Cdn. 
I like it.  I wanted something to replace a pile of paperback novels and so far I’m very happy with the Kobo.   It came preloaded with 100 classic novels and I’ve been working my way through “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes”.   The Kobo screen is 6” and the whole thing is very compact and slim – there’s not a lot of wasted space.  I still don’t like reading off of computer screens, but the matte look on eReader screens seems so much like paper that I forget almost instantly that I’m reading from an electronic device and not paper.
The thickness of a pencil
Kobo handles ePub and .pdf files quite nicely.  The ePub format is a little easier to read, because the font can be scaled up and down.  That’s the format that most books are released in.  I haven’t bought too many books, but the digital versions seem to be about ½ to 1/3 of the normal cover price.

Landscape mode works well for .pdf articles
The ability to save .pdfs to the device means that I can take a tonne of articles and reference books into the field that I wouldn’t normally bother with.  With .pdfs, the page elements are all locked in place so you need to zoom in and click up and down the page to read, but there is a landscape mode which makes them easier to navigate.  Still, they can be a little slow when you are dealing with documents or articles that have multiple columns on a single page.  Book length documents in the .pdf format are extremely slow to navigate, because you can only advance through a book or document one page at a time.  There is no search or find function to jump quickly around a document.  You can read them from front to back, no problem, but they aren’t convenient to extract information from quickly.  A 20-30 page article is fine to navigate, and the 8 level grey scale still produces a clearer image than a photocopy.   I have a couple banker’s boxes worth of articles with me that I would normally not have access to. 
6" is a good size screen for a small eReader
The battery life is supposed to be 2 weeks and we’re only one week into the project, so I can’t say too much about that, other than its still running.
Overall, the Kobo is a great substitute to taking paperbacks into the field, especially if you have access to electricity, or don’t plan on being gone more than 2 weeks.  It’s slow to find and retrieve information from long .pdfs, so I wouldn’t want to depend on it for that purpose, but for travel and end of day tent reading, its ideal.

Photo Credits: Tim Rast

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