Amazon Kindle or WHSmith Kobo eReader Touch?

Amazon Kindle or WHSmith Kobo eReader Touch?

Summary: Amazon's new £89 Kindle may be taking a lot of the e-reader limelight, but last week a new product from Kobo went on sale in WHSmith. The Kobo eReader Touch Edition costs £109.

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Amazon's new £89 Kindle may be taking a lot of the e-reader limelight, but last week a new product from Kobo went on sale in WHSmith. The Kobo eReader Touch Edition costs £109.99, which is significantly more than the new Kindle — but as its name suggests, it has a touchscreen.

I've got both the Kindle and Kobo running side by side. So, how do the two compare?

Looking at the Kindle first, Amazon has pulled off a rather clever trick in releasing a device that's less well featured than its predecessor yet apparently more desirable.

The new £89 (inc. VAT) Kindle is smaller than its previous model, primarily because it lacks a physical keyboard but also because the screen bezel is slightly reduced in size. The older product remains available as a 3G-plus-Wi-Fi unit for £149. The earlier Wi-Fi only version has disappeared.

The screen is still a 6in. E-Ink display. It's readable, and page turns are a little faster — although there's still a noticeable lag as you move between pages.

There is a soft keyboard, which you access via one of four buttons beneath the screen and navigate using a square D-pad. Entering search terms for the integrated dictionary and finding e-books to buy is a little slow, and on balance we prefer the physical keyboard.

The long, thin side buttons on the left and right edges remain the same too, and using these to move back and forward through texts is easy and quickly becomes intuitive.

We mentioned a reduced feature set. The battery is smaller and less powerful, delivering up to a month of life, according to Amazon, as opposed to two months in the older model. There is just 2GB of internal storage — enough for about 1,400 books — as opposed to 4GB (approximately 3,500 books-worth) in the previous model.

Mobile broadband has been omitted from the new Kindle, although Wi-Fi remains. You can order books over the air in the usual way as long as you are connected to a Wi-Fi network. Amazon has not altered the menu structures or Whispersync, items bought on this new device are accessible via the free Kindle apps on Android, iPhone, iPad, iPod, Mac and PC, and you can manage the Kindle online via the Amazon web site as before. Amazon has left its web browser on-board too, and although limited in terms of screen quality and feature support, it is usable in emergencies.

The new Kindle weighs 170g and measures 166mm by 114mm by 8.7mm. Its predecessor weighs 247g and measures 190mm by 123mm by 8.5mm.

The Kobo eReader Touch is more expensive than the new Kindle, at £109.99. WHSmith differentiates it by saying that once you've downloaded an e-book you can install it on as many devices as you want. That's because the Kobo family of e-readers supports a range of e-book formats such as ePUB, PDF and MOBI, as well as TXT, RTF, HTML and CBZ and CBR comic-book formats and JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP and TIFF image files. The Kindle e-book formats are proprietary, of course.

The Kobo eReader Touch shares the same screen size as the Kindle, and is very similar in size and weight at 165mm by 114mm by 10mm and 185g. It has a rather odd-looking sculpted back and is available with four backplate colours — black, white pink and blue, the latter three having a white front, the first a black front.

The Kobo's touchscreen is a pleasure to use. Moving through pages is a simple matter of sweeping the screen, and tappable icons give access to features. Its 2GB of memory has just 1GB free for storing e-books, but can be augmented with microSD cards. It has a month's battery life, just like the new Kindle.

Wi-Fi is on board and you can access the Kobo store direct from the device. There's even a link direct to thousands of e-books. We couldn't see how to search this, but you can search for items generally by title, author, subject or ISBN, and narrowing down to the any free versions this way is easy enough.

Amazon's cross-platform Kindle apps and Whispersync system are balanced by free Kobo readers for Android, iPhone, iPad, BlackBerry smartphones and PlayBook, and by cross-device synchronisation to the point last read.

The Kobo eReader Touch has a Facebook link through which you can log into your account and share information about your reading. This may have limited appeal, but might attract a younger audience.

Comparing the Kindle and Kobo side by side, we preferred the more substantial build of the Kindle. We did like the Kobo's touchscreen though. Any e-book reader these days has to allow for over-the-air purchase of books, as both these do. Using a computer is just too inconvenient, although you can use this approach with the Kobo and any new purchases are synchronised via USB. You can also charge the Kobo over USB.

We didn't hanker for a 3G connection on the new Kindle. It's easy to stock up with reading when you're connected to a Wi-Fi network.

Although it's quite appealing, there are two key obstacles for the Kobo eReader Touch. First, the Kindle already has huge mindshare and for many is the only e-book reader in town — even though it isn't. Second, those who are aware of a market for e-book readers may be put off by the relatively high price of the Kobo eReader Touch.

Sandra Vogel

Topic: Reviews

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21 comments
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  • I love the Kobo - it's very intuitive. My husband has a Kindle (which I bought him yolks ago) which he loves - but every time I've picked it up I've touched the screen to get it to do something which is, of course, pointless. So, just for being intuitive as well as totally lovely, light, easy to use, customisable, etc, I'd vote Kobo every time!
    anonymous
  • At the moment you cannot use the Kindle for downloading ebooks from the internet. Hopefully in time they will follow Amazon USA and allow this.

    So if you want to download library books you need the Kobo.
    blythburgh
  • If you use the freeware Calibre software it's a simple matter to download e-books in any format and convert them. Then either send them to your Kindle using a USB link or e-mail them to your Kindle's e-mail address and they'll be delivered wirelessly.

    The Kindle touch is available in the US and should be even easier to use than the £89 Kindle. It has the same memory as the Kindle Keyboard and is also able to speak e-books and play music files. The £89 kindle can't do that. The Kindle Touch will probably make it's way to the UK next year.
    anonymous
  • Not sure if the readers are aware but the Canadian developed Kobo can be purchased on line at indigo.ca for $119CAD (reduced from $139) until Christmas. This is equivalent to about 73GBP or $113US.
    Cobber56
  • I bought two kobo touch ereaders at WH Smith's in London just before Christmas for £99.99 each. They also sell the Kobo wireless for £69.99.
    This is cheaper than the kindle and more versatile.
    You can borrow ebooks for free from the bublic library and also find loads of ebooks on line and buy them from Smiths and Waterstones.
    For added functionality (being able to write notes with a stylus) the Soni ereader is best at just under £130.
    mgtdee
  • Well having just got the new Kindle for a Xmas present, I was a bit disappointed. I have been using the kindle app on my iphone, so thought I would love the Kindle, but the first disappointment is not having a touch screen. The other really irritating thing is no built in back light. I bought my hubby the Kobo Vox, which is brilliant compared to the Kindle. Admittedly, its quite a bit heavier but the functionality is amazing. I appreciate the Vox is a lot more expensive, but I think the Kobo Touch, at least (which is now selling for about £99) has got to be worth an extra tenner, just to have the touch screen. Although i can get on to the web using the Kindle, its quite painful having to scroll through the non qwerty keyboard and tap the mouse for each letter you want to type. Its quicker to fire up the laptop than go through all that, whereas the Vox has a touch sensitive qwery keyboard which is really quick and simple to use.

    The Vox has had a lot of bad press but I think its a fab piece of equipment for anyone who primarily wants it as an ereader, that does have other functions. Its far better than either of the Kindle options available in the UK at the moment.
    Legacy303
  • i got the kindle with keyboard and wifi in august and love it =] no it doesnt have a touch screen, nor does it have a back light, but i find that back lights make my eyes ache and cause headaches, just use it like you would a paper book under a lamp or with a book light. as for the touch screen, i have occasionally licked my finger to reach for the page turn, but i find the functionality of the buttons great. the kindle store is fab and fast, and with the use of an ebook manager like "calibre", any ebook can be converted and delivered to your kindle in minutes =]
    i wouldnt change my kindle for the world =]
    anonymous
  • I can see the advantage of the touch screen for things like web browsing, but I prefer the side-mounted buttons on the Kindle for page turning. In practice, you end up holding the Kindle with your thumb resting on the button; I'd find it annoying to have to swipe a screen.
    Admittedly you have to turn the pages of a printed book, but a typical book spread contains 3-4 times the amount of text as an eReader screen.
    Brian O'Blivion
  • "...the Kobo family of e-readers supports a range of e-book formats such as ePUB, PDF and MOBI, as well as TXT, RTF, HTML and CBZ and CBR comic-book formats and JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP and TIFF image files. The Kindle e-book formats are proprietary, of course."

    Where the Kindle is concerned, the above is partly true, and therefore a little misleading. Yes, the Kindle's own ebook format is proprietary (as, arguably, is DRM-ed ePub); however, the K can also read non-DRM MOBI and PDF files natively (i.e. without conversion - just copy the files onto the device via USB), and I believe at least some image formats are supported, although I have not tried the (hidden, but present) image viewer on the Kindle. Most other document formats can be converted and sent to the Kindle via the Calibre application, which I would warmly recommend to all Kindle owners with a computer.

    Oh, and the non-3G Kindle v3 (Keyboard) with WiFi only, should still be available from Amazon's "Warehouse" for £79, albeit as "refurbished". I bought one - it's basically new (cellophane wrap on the device, etc.), but just "end of line". Suppose they didn't want to draw too many folk away from the new models...
    anonymous
  • > The Kindle e-book formats are proprietary, of course.

    Ahh, Amazon have made the choice for me. Here's to freedom of information and the Kobo :)
    Jake Rayson
  • kobo received as a present. But having a nightmare trying to operate it and navigate around. Where can I get some clear cut basic instructions. My Home page does correspond to what I see on my computer.
    braighscot
  • Hi do you know if the kobo is compatible with the kindle books??? Would be a great help
    Thanks
    Matty040997
  • No, you would need to use a converter to be able to read Kindle books on your Kobo. As far as I can ascertain, Calibre is freeware and quite good, but not tested yet. Though you may save money and time by looking around a bit for content that already comes in a Kobo friendly format.

    Still can't decide what's best, but by b/f has a kobo and it's pretty nice and easy to use.
    joanne.e.m@...
  • The Kobo touch is currently on sale at £89.99 from WH Smith.
    anonymous
  • I have a Kobo touch and you don't actually need to swipe to turn the page. You only need to touch the right hand side of the page, which you can quite easily do with your thumb. I've only had mine for a few days but I'm really pleased with it so far. Occasionally there's a delay in registering the touch, but mostly it works very well.
    anonymous
  • I bought my Kobo before going on holidays. I noticed that occasionally the thing hangs when trying to turn a page but easily cured by holding the on button for 10 seconds.
    It may be useful to have books stored on a SD card as I accidentally did a factory reset and lost all the books that I'd stored on the device. It was an RTFM problem on my part.
    Overall, I'm very pleased with the Kobo.
    peter@...
  • This article is a rather strange comparison. The Kindle doesn't have touch capabilities, so in that context, the Kobo is a far superior product (particularly as it's now selling in Asda for £10 less than the Kindle. The Kobo Wireless, which is the equivalent product to this Kindle (and therefore should have been the subject of the comparison), was selling for £49 - nearly half the price of the Kindle. It's now out of stock with Asda, but WHSmith are selling it for just under £60, still far cheaper than the Kindle.

    Simply put, the Kobos are all far cheaper than the equivalent Kindle models; use an open-source file system, rather than the Kindle's closed system (and we all know how that turned out with Microsoft!); can use a far wider range of file types than the Kindle; can be used to access libraries outsde the US, which Kindles cannot; and can be used to buy books through WHSmith (which is now the largest ebook supplier in the UK), as well as from Kobo, Amazon, and anywhere else that sells compatible ebook files. The Kobo is now beating the Kindle with regard to market share in Canada, because the Canadians haven’t been taken in with all the hype surrounding the Kindle.
    mary6573
  • I had intended buying a Kindle by post but discovered that Amazon decreed that I was not allowed to if I was going to buy from anywhere other than Amazon, so I ended up with a Kobo. I Bought a Vox and what a superb piece of kit!
    One of the bonuses that no one has mentioned, is that they offer a 24/7 helpline, either by phone or email. I paid Just under £150 from Smiths.
    dwbhenderson@...
  • One benefit I have enjoyed with the 3G Kindle is being able to connect to the Amazon store from anywhere free and download a book or a newspaper. e.g. when waiting for the Plane in Alicante Airport. A few clicks and I have the latest UK newspaper. This came in really handy one time I spent a week in a hospital in Las Palmas Grand Canaries.

    In contrast I have now downloaded the Kobo software on my Blackberry Playbook, (there is no Kindle Software available for the Playbook) my Blackberry Phone, my Desktop PC and my Laptop. So far I just have five books and they are now available on all those platforms. I also have the Kindle software on those PCs but not on the Phone or Playbook with many more books so far downloaded. So it looks like the Kobo system works best for widespread availability of devices to read on but Kindle 3G is the ultimate for the ability to download content on the move anywhere in the world.

    So now I have the choice of readers but I have only paid out for teh Kindle 3G hardware.
    oldgraybeard
  • But you can download eBooks and newspapers etc direct in UK or anywhere in the world with a Kindle 3G for free and on a Wi Fi that you have access to.
    oldgraybeard