Review: Kobo eReader Touch may best the Nook as the top ebook reader

Review: Kobo eReader Touch may best the Nook as the top ebook reader

Summary: Kobo's new touchscreen-enabled ebook reader may actually beat the new Nook as the best dedicated ebook reader.

SHARE:
TOPICS: Mobility, Hardware
28

Three weeks ago I posted my review of the new Barnes & Noble Nook and explained why I thought it was the best dedicated ebook reader. A few readers asked if I had checked out the new Kobo eReader Touch Edition and at the time it was not available in the stores, but the folks at Kobo sent one along for me to check out and after several days with the black model I have to say I think you can choose either the Nook Second Edition or the new Kobo eReader Touch Edition and experience the best in dedicated ebook reading. I will explain what differences I found below and why you might choose one over the other. Make sure to check out my image gallery showing both ebook readers and my video walkthrough below.

The Amazon Kindle still has a large majority of the ebook market and I do think they are fine devices. However, I personally find little need for space wasted on a dedicated QWERTY keyboard and am not a huge fan of buying books just from the Amazon marketplace. Both the Nook and Kobo devices let you read EPUB books purchased from various online stores and those checked out from your local public library through Adobe Digital Editions DRM management software. The new zForce touch technology also gives you an ebook reading experience similar to a paper book without compromising the clarity of the display.


Image Gallery: A walk around the new Kobo eReader Touch Edition ebook reader device and the screens available. Image Gallery: Kobo in hand Image Gallery: Home screen

You can purchase the Kobo eReader Touch Edition at Borders or Best Buy and before getting too far into the review, I wanted to assure you all that there is nothing to worry about concerning the Borders store closings. Borders has often been associated with Kobo, but they only have a minority share of Kobo and are just one part of the distribution channel. Kobo powers their ebook store and Kobo eReader customers can rest assured they will be able to continue using their devices.

Kobo issued the following statement:

As one of the early investors in Kobo, Borders has a minority stake in our company and serves as part of our distribution in the U.S. along with Walmart, Best Buy, Sears and other retailers. As a member of the broader book publishing and retailing community, we are watching Borders' story with interest and send our best wishes to all the people of Borders.

In June Kobo and Borders began transitioning Borders' customers' eBook accounts to Kobo to provide direct access to the most up to date eReading functionality, apps, and devices. Kobo owners will continue to use their eReader devices as usual and browse and shop for new titles in the Kobo Store with no interruption in service. Kobo continues to grow in the U.S. and around the world and we're very pleased with progress of the launch of the new Kobo eReader Touch Edition and European office with Kobo Germany.

In the box and initial impressions

The Kobo eReader Touch Edition comes in an attractive box with English, French, and Spanish details on each side. You can purchase a Kobo eReader Touch Edition for $129.99 in Black, Lilac, Blue, or Silver. Inside the box you will find the eReader, USB cable, and a Welcome Guide. There is no A/C adapter or carrying case for the eReader.

When I pulled the Kobo eReader Touch Edition from the box I was at first struck by how narrow it was compared to my new Nook. One thing I don't like about the new Nook is that it is a bit too wide to be comfortable in one hand while reading and that is not the case at all with the new Kobo eReader. Like the new Nook the Kobo is completely covered in soft touch material and on the back has the same quilted pattern back that other Kobo readers have that gives it a nice feel in your hand.

Specifications

The specifications for the new Kobo eReader Touch Edition include the following:

  • 6 inch Pearl eInk display with 16-level grayscale
  • microUSB port
  • 1GB internal memory for approximately 1000 eBooks
  • microSD card slot for expandable memory options
  • 802.11 b/g/n WiFi
  • Dimensions of 6.5 x 4.49 x 0.39 inches and 7.05 ounces

The dimensions of the new Nook are 6.5 x 5.0 x 0.47 inches and 7.48 ounces so as you can see the Kobo eReader Touch Edition is the same length, narrower by 1/2 inch, slightly thinner, and almost half an ounce lighter. Like the new Nook, the Kobo eReader has no 3.5 mm headset jack or 3G wireless radio so you can focus on the reading experience. As you can see in my video walkthrough there is a web browser on the Kobo eReader, but I doubt I will ever use it since I don't find much utility in having a web browser on an eInk device.

Hardware

The bezel around the top and both sides of the front is only about 0.4 inches wide with the excellent 6 inch Pearl eInk display taking up most of the front. There is a single silver button centered below the display that is used to get you back to the home screen.

There is nothing on the right of the Kobo eReader while a microSD card slot is found on the bottom of the left side. There is a microUSB port on the bottom that you can use to charge and transfer content to the eReader. The on/off slide button is found on the top right side.

There is a very small hole found towards the bottom of the back that you can use to reset the Kobo eReader Touch Edition if you ever have an issue. The back has a great quilted pattern texture to it that adds some style and feel to the device.

Software and user experience

Kobo has been actively working to improve the new eReader Touch Edition so you should first install the free desktop software on your Apple or Windows computer by visiting kobosetup.com. There was a firmware update available for the eval unit that greatly enhances the device so to make sure you have the optimal experience connect to your computer first before getting too far with your new ebook reader.

The Kobo eReader Touch Edition supports more formats than the new Nook, including EPUB, PDF, jpeg, gif, png, bmp, tiff, txt, html, rtf, mobi, cbz, and cbr. You can load content view the store or via a USB cable and a computer.

Navigating the Kobo eReader Touch Edition

Pressing the silver home button takes you back to the Home screen where you will see options up top for Library, Store, and Reading Life. Tapping the word Library shows a pop-up with options for books, news & magus, previews, and shortlist. Tap on of these to view your loaded content in list or grid views. Tapping the word Store pops up options for store front, categories, free eBooks, top picks, and search. You can then browse around and purchase books to read.

You can also search through your library or the store by tapping the Search option. A keyboard will pop up that you can then tap on to enter text. The keyboard is quite responsive and easy to use on the Kobo eReader.

At the bottom of the Home screen you will find icons for settings, help, and sync. Tapping on settings (gear icon) takes you to the settings page where there are various settings for the following:

  • Account: Login to your Kobo account and Facebook account. You will also see your Adobe Digital Editions authorization.
  • Sleep & Power: You can control the sleep and power screen settings.
  • Date & Time: Set the date and time on this display.
  • Reading Life: This is where you toggle on or off the Reading Life functionality and notifications.
  • Device Information: This leads to a page showing you the details of your device with an option to perform a factory reset.
  • Wireless Connection: You can toggle on airplane mode and edit your wireless networks. There is also a button to launch the Kobo Web Browser, but it is still a bit of a beta feature.
  • About Kobo Touch: This simply shows some licensing information.
  • Extras: There is a Kobo Sketch program where you can draw on the display and save as a jpeg file.

You can check out these displays in my image gallery. The help button takes you to the help section with several sections to read if you have any questions. Tapping the sync icon syncs your eReader with your latest Kobo books, bookmarks, and account information.

Controls while reading

There are also some specific controls and options while you are reading ebooks. After opening up a book you simply tap the right or left side to turn a page. You can also swipe from right to left or left to right just like a regular book to turn pages. To access more controls tap the center of the display and once you do status icons for battery and signal appear at the top with other options at the bottom.

These bottom options include a home button and icons for menu, go to, and text options. Menu options include the following:

  • Table of Contents
  • Update bookmark
  • Highlights
  • Remove from shortlist
  • Mark as finished
  • Dictionary
  • Advanced settings: These options include selecting when to have the screen refresh. On the Nook this defaults to every 6 pages, but on the Kobo eReader Touch you can choose from 1 to 6 pages. You can also toggle the margin page numbers in Adobe EPUB books.

The go to button lets you slide your finger along a line to jump to a different page or you can jump all the way to the beginning or end.

Tapping the text options button takes you to a page where you can choose from seven different font styles, several different font sizes, line spacing, margins, and justification. There are more options here on the Kobo than there are on the Nook.

You can also tap and hold on text to select it for highlighting or choose to share it with your Facebook friends. Twitter is discussed on the website, but is not yet supported by the available firmware. I imagine it will be coming in an update though.

When the device goes to sleep the book cover appears on the display. The Nook shows a different famous author, but I actually prefer the Kobo since I can quickly see what book I last had open.

Kobo eReader Touch Edition or Nook 2nd Edition?

I honestly thought the new Nook 2nd Edition device was the best dedicated ebook reader, but the more time I spend with the Kobo the more I prefer it over the excellent Nook. The Kobo eReader Touch Edition offers these advantages over the 2nd Edition of the Nook:

  • Narrower design so it fits better in the hand
  • More font styles to choose from
  • More font sizes to choose from
  • Achievements/badges are earned similar to the way Xbox games has achievements
  • Easy to access web browser

The 2nd Edition B&N Nook offers these advantages over the Kobo:

  • Physical buttons for turning pages
  • Twitter social networking support, in addition to common Facebook support
  • Barnes & Noble enhanced store support with free WiFi access

Both of these ebook readers are good choices and the real differences come down to physical page turn buttons and width of the devices. These two physical aspects and the more selectable fonts are what keep me using the Kobo eReader Touch Edition.

Topics: Mobility, Hardware

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

28 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • RE: Review: Kobo eReader Touch may best the Nook as the top ebook reader

    in 1.9.6 you can add your own fonts by creating a fonts folder on the mass storage and simply drag/dropping whatever fonts you like into that folder.
    ereaderfan
    • Thanks for the tip!

      @ereaderfan Cool, I did not know this. So far I am happy with the font selection, but it is nice to know you really are not limited when it comes to fonts.
      palmsolo (aka Matthew Miller)
  • RE: Review: Kobo eReader Touch may best the Nook as the top ebook reader

    I looked at both devices and settled on the Kobo pretty much for the same reasons you state in your review. It's a great e-reader.

    Kobo just needs to do a better job marketing this great device.
    bcas400g
  • Fonts?

    Aren't fonts a rather ephemeral advange? Why even mention them since they're a software feature that's easily updated?

    As for fitting in the hand better I'd say for some that could be an advantage, the problem is--being narrower means less text on a line for a given point size.

    Besides, Kobo has that whole Borders thing hovering over it...
    wolf_z
    • Nope and nope...

      @wolf_z Fonts are not easily updated if the manufacturer doesn't provide them. As a reader above mentioned though, you can actually put your own fonts on the Kobo eReader so that gives it even more of an advantage.

      The display size is the exact same so there is no impact on less text being on a line. The device is narrower since there are no physical page turn buttons.

      As I tried to make clear, Borders really has no impact on the Kobo eReader or the service provided by Kobo. It was a very small part and people need to understand your Kobo is not really affected by what one small investor happens to do.
      palmsolo (aka Matthew Miller)
    • RE: Review: Kobo eReader Touch may best the Nook as the top ebook reader

      @wolf_z <br>The screen width on the Kobo is the same as on the Nook - the case design is narrower - so there's no impact on the how much text is displayed on a line - sb. the same on either device.<br>I do think the Nook's physical buttons would be nice to have - but haven't used it to know...<br>Also Kobo is majority owned by a Canadian company - in Canada the B and N products are not as viable an option. Kobo also seems to have a much better book selection than Kindle here in Canada.
      vp_jd
  • kobo

    Settled on KOBO for the same reasons you mention.

    I did have an error pop-up on the Kobo -but the company support took care of it and new version of the software was dispatched and all works fin now.

    I love it.
    lpdes
  • Message has been deleted.

    winddrift03
  • RE: Review: Kobo eReader Touch may best the Nook as the top ebook reader

    Have 2 of the original KOBO's and love them there has been a constant upgrading of the software since their inception and they have matured to become an excellent ereader,
    wizardb9
  • RE: Review: Kobo eReader Touch may best the Nook as the top ebook reader

    I have the original kobo, and my wife has the WiFi - which has the physical buttons (instead of touch). We bought a touch for my Father in law.

    My wife cracked her screen, and we are trying to replace it with the Wifi (none touch) mode, because she prefers it over the touch - buttons are more "definite" than touch, and there is nothin so annoying as having to tap or swipe twice to get the page to turn.
    dimonic
  • RE: Review: Kobo eReader Touch may best the Nook as the top ebook reader

    My only comment is that a Kindle can get books anywhere not just in WiFi locations, I don't have one but that would be a selling point for me. I have a tablet and when I travel I often finish a book and want a new one..looking for wifi is sometimes a pain.
    eas_trader
    • RE: Review: Kobo eReader Touch may best the Nook as the top ebook reader

      @eas_trader
      not trying to be mean or rude, but the point of an eBook reader is that you can store hundreds or thousands of books on it, there is no need for instant web access, unless you are waiting on a specific new release and happen to be travelling when it is released. if this is the case, there are "There are 13,381 McDonalds in the United States and still counting!" "McDonalds opens a new place about every 4 hours." (not the best reference, but it was the #1 result from google when asked. EVERY McDonalds has free wifi, on average one "could" say that there are more than 275 McDonalds in every state. if you cannot find one you must be indoors. 3G is not a valid reason to buy any device these days that does not require a constant internet connection. (but I agree, it really is convenient!)
      aiellenon
  • RE: Review: Kobo eReader Touch may best the Nook as the top ebook reader

    "The Amazon Kindle [...] I do think they are fine devices. However, I am not a huge fan of buying books just from the Amazon marketplace."<br><br>Ever heard of the MOBI format - supported by Kindle - and of the many free utilities that convert just about ANY non-DRA file into MOBI or the Amazon proprietary format?<br><br>Please be more informed before publishing a review.
    avrwc2
    • RE: Review: Kobo eReader Touch may best the Nook as the top ebook reader

      @avrwc2 Still doesn't work for DRM'd files. If you get a DRM'd book from Amazon (pretty much any book you pay for I would guess), you'd have to strip the DRM first which is generally considered a bad thing to do at best, and piracy at worst.

      Otherwise you can't read it on any other device. However, if you buy a book from Kobo, you can download the Adobe DRM version of it which can be read on any device that supports Adobe DRM including Nook, Sony, etc etc (but not Kindle because Kindle doesn't support the standard Adobe DRM).
      ereaderfan
      • RE: Review: Kobo eReader Touch may best the Nook as the top ebook reader

        @ereaderfan

        Yes, the Adobe DRM standard was one of the reasons I bought the Kobo reader, in favor of the Kindle.
        bcas400g
  • The Nook advantage

    I just bought a Nook and it was easily rooted to install touchnooter. In plain english - I turned it into an Android 2.1 tablet. I still have all the "native" e-reader functionality - unaltered. I also have the Android Market, Gmail, numerous web browsers and thousands of apps - including the Android Kindle app - which means I can buy Amazon books if I so choose or read the ones I already bought for the Kindle I purchased last Xmas.

    Granted rooting the device is not for everyone - but I'm loving it.
    nemasket.net
    • RE: Review: Kobo eReader Touch may best the Nook as the top ebook reader

      @nemasket.net

      How are you finding the web browsing experience on an eInk device? Personally, I found it almost unusable mostly due to the screen refresh on the device I used. The resistive touch screen didn't help much either since it was a lousy touch screen and made the eInk display harder to read. I don't know what the manufacturer name is since the 4 page manual doesn't mention it, however for $50 Cdn. whne I picked it up in Hong Kong, it was fun to play with.
      DNSB
    • RE: Review: Kobo eReader Touch may best the Nook as the top ebook reader

      @nemasket.net
      I did the same thing the other way around, I bought (and paid too much for) an Android Tablet, and put the kindle app, the nook app, and the Aldiko app book readers. I am pretty well covered in all formats, and since I bought a Notion Ink Adam with PixelQi screen, I get the benefits of having eInk also!

      Now I have looked into getting and rooting a nook color as well, and will also look into the Kobo now. I am trying to find good all purpose devices. I have already successfully made several tripns with my Adam where I left my laptop behind and survived quite well! no if I can get my wife to take to a tablet and stop bringing her notebook we'd all be better off! (two tablets can be carried in a bag smaller than one laptop bag... space matters with a 65lb dog that looks like a 90lb dog, and baby on the way when the nearest family is 6 hours by car.)
      aiellenon
  • RE: Review: Kobo eReader Touch may best the Nook as the top ebook reader

    I wouldn't use an e-ink reader for general web browsing, but the ability to, say, look something up on Wiki while reading, or pull up a newspaper website, could be handy.

    I like that the Kobo has more font options, but I also like the physical page turn buttons on the Nook. Decisions. . .
    DJKuulA
  • RE: Review: Kobo eReader Touch may best the Nook as the top ebook reader

    6" not too big. Market is flooded with tablets and ebook readers, Kobo is a decent device but Kindle to too strong for it.

    Luke
    <a href="http://www.alliedhealthcareer.org/medical-assistant">medical assistant</a>
    Luke_G