Wednesday, December 8, 2010

In-House Kindle vs Kobo Review

Kindle (L) & Kobo (R)
Six weeks ago, Lori got a new 6" Kindle Wireless eBook reader (US$139). Tim has had a Kobo since the start of the summer and really liked it. At the time it was one of the most affordable, paperback-sized readers on the market and seemed like a good entry into eReading. The model we have is the first generation Kobo, without Wi-Fi.

The new Kindle Wireless eReader meets all of the cost and size advantages of the Kobo and blows it out of the water with its keyboard, search functions, speed, and design.

The Kindle is a little thinner and longer than the Kobo, but they're pretty much the same size.
Screen Resolution

The Kindle's screen is the same size as the Kobo, although it has a 16 level grey scale screen, which is imperceptibly better than the 8 level grey scale on our old Kobo. The Kindle's screen has a sharper contrast than the first generation Kobo, which Lori appreciates at night.  Since Tim purchased the Kobo in July, a new Kobo version has come out. Apparently the new generation Kobo has much better screen resolution with 16 level grey scale and improved background contrast. Our comparison would be fairer if we were comparing the new Kindle Wi-Fi to the new Kobo Wi-Fi, but this is what we’ve got. 

You can shop without plugging in
We like the wireless option on the Kindle for searching and downloading new books. Our Kobo needs to be plugged into a laptop, which really didn't seem like a hardship until we saw how easy it is to search for new books wirelessly on the Kindle. It takes about 10 seconds to download a new eBook to the Kindle and we don't even have to get out of bed to do it.

Navigating through books

Navigating through a book with the Kindle is much easer than with the Kobo. There’s no competition. The Kindle is much faster. Whether you’re turning on your Kobo or waiting for it to come out of sleep mode, it takes 30-60 seconds depending on the size of the document. The Kindle loads in 3 seconds. It seems instantaneous compared to the sluggish Kobo response time.
Comfortable to hold and turn pages
The Kobo has one button in the lower right hand corner below the screen for turning pages forward or backward. The Kindle has a pair of forward and back buttons on either side of the screen, which gives you more options for how to comfortably hold the device while you are reading. This makes for perfect one-handed reading, and is Lori's favourite feature.

The Kindles are also much quieter. Its not something that you'd notice right away, but the Kobo button starts to sound like a pop-o-matic dice popper when you are trying to get to sleep next to someone reading The Hunger Games at 2 in the morning. The Kindle is barely audible when clicking through pages. The Kobo’s button is annoying.

More search options on the Kindle
The search function on the Kindle is far superior to the Kobo. You are able to view the Table of Contents on the Kobo and jump between chapters. The Kindle offers "Go To" and "Search This Book" features where you can navigate the Table of Contents, search specific words or phrases, as well as jump to specific “locations” within the book.  This is a great feature if you want to quickly jump back and see what was scribbled on the note that Holmes found clenched in the dead man's hand at the beginning of the story.

Tim finished reading his first book on the Kindle on Monday and it made him mad how much quicker and quieter the Kindle functioned, especially now that he has to go back to his Kobo.


Neither eReader indicates the exact page number within the book, as this depends on the font size you're currently reading at. Instead, the Kobo screen indicates your position in the book by showing your page number within the current chapter (which can change if you change the font size midway).  The Kindle design has a progress bar at the bottom that indicates your overall “location” and percentage, rather than chapter, in the book. 

Keypad for notes, navigating

The Kindle has one, the Kobo doesn’t.  Some people may prefer the simple one-button design of the Kobo, but the keyboard opens up the Kindle to many more features and it makes shopping for books wirelessly much simpler.  The Kindle also allows you to add bookmarks, highlight text, and add notes to a book or document. However, we haven’t explored these options yet.

Speakers for audio enabled books

The Kindle is outfitted with a headphone jack and speakers on the back.  It offers a Voice Guide with spoken menus and it will even read your book to you if your book comes text-to-speech enabled.
Be warned, it's a robot voice and isn't very soothing... but it works!

Canadian Content and shopping for eBooks

Kindles shop through
One of the drawbacks for Canadian Kindle users is that eBooks are not available through - you need to purchase them from the US website.  We're still familiarizing ourselves with the differences in availability of eBooks for the Kobo and Kindle. Kindle's prices are cheaper on average.  The few titles that Tim searched for on the Kobo (Chapters) and Kindle (Amazon) websites have been consistently $1-$2 cheaper in the Kindle/Amazon format. With the Canadian dollar near parity with the US Dollar, that difference in price is meaningful. Tim is happy to keep reading fiction on the Kobo, but in order to do that he will need to pay slightly more for each title, which is definitely pushing him towards the Kindle.

If given the option we'd choose 'Canadian content' but in most cases it's only a difference in cover design, if any, between the Kobo and Kindle versions. However, Lori did experience a couple of instances where Kindle responded, “the book is not available in your location (Canada)”.. but for the life of her, she couldn't tell you what those titles were.

Kobo did release a new wireless version this fall and it stills come bundled with 100 free public domain classics. Although once you get into eReading - its pretty easy to find and download those same titles for free.

Purchasing and Shipping
Streamlined for speedy delivery

There's no store in St. John's where you can pick up a Kindle, or even try one out, so we had to order it from Amazon.  The shipping was surprisingly quick. We don't know what it will be like with Christmas approaching, but we ordered Lori's on a Tuesday evening and by Friday morning it had arrived. Including shipping, import fees, and exchange on the US dollar - we paid CAD$179 for the Kindle - only a few dollars difference from the Kobo (CAD$149 + HST).

The Kindle Isn't Perfect

Some people may prefer the simple one-button design of the Kobo and not want some of the Kindle's bells and whistles like having a robot voice read you the New Oxford English Dictionary while you highlight your favourite nouns.
Kindle has a keypad, Kobo has a button

Lori like the quilted back of the Kobo and found it more comfortable in her hands. But now that she's bought leather book covers for both our Kobo and Kindle, that difference is moot.

The Kobo is a good basic eReader, but so is the Kindle and the Kindle does so much more for practically the same price.  Even if our Kobo screen was slightly brighter, the load time a little faster, and included Wi-Fi, we’d still pick the new Kindle Wi-Fi. Hands-down. 

Photo Credits: Tim Rast


  1. Great review! I've been looking into the differences between the two readers for some time now. I'm a self-published writer looking to go digital, so I'm curious as to whether or not converting to kobo is worth my time.

    I'm blogging about the attempts to publish my next book, Hanlan's Point, at

  2. Thanks Jake -- your self-publishing efforts look very interesting. I'm sure there'll be lots of ups and downs for you over the next few months!

    I'm an eBook convert because of my good experience with the Kobo, so I've got a soft spot for the device. I really was mad when I realized how much better the Kindle was for basically the same price. I wanted it to be a closer race, but the Kindle does so much more that I won't consider getting another Kobo until they add a keyboard or comparable interface.

  3. Thanks for this Tim. We were considering a Kobo for Emily because she reads so much, but we knew next to nothing about the Kindle. I think, if we get one of these eventually it will be the Kindle for sure.

  4. Eventually is right... we heard from Elaine last night that Kindles aren't shipping to Canada before Christmas. Another 5-7 weeks before the supply catches up and they'll send them across the border.


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