I purchased a Borders-discounted Kobo Reader for my father at his request and set it up for him a few weeks ago. Now he has contributed a review of his experience with the device. –CM

I have been using my new Kobo electronic book reader for a month now, so it is time for me to ponder what I do and do not like about it and how it compares with reading the old fashioned way from a book with paper pages.

Apparently the e-book reader has evolved from more primitive forms. I have been exposed to various e-readers which our e-book son has brought home over the past few years, and yes, they were more primitive. I cannot remember the names of any of them, but they were exceedingly unsatisfactory to use and hard on the eyes. When this same son brought home a Kobo, I read a trial Trollope story on it and immediately demanded, “Please buy me one of these!”

The print on the Kobo is just as plain and easy to read as the words on a paper page, and the user has the added advantage of being able to enlarge or diminish the size of the print—something not possible with paper copy. I have never seen a Kindle, but I believe that they are also as easy to read as print on paper.

The Kobo feels good in my hands. It is thin and handy to carry about at home or on outings. In fact it is less tiring to hold and read than a large hardbound book. And when I carry a traditional book about with me, I have one book. When I take the Kobo with me, I have a couple of hundred books. If I tire of reading “The Woman in White,” I can spell myself with a Sherlock Holmes story or two before going back to my novel. And if I am reading a more than one novel at one time, the Kobo keeps track of where I am in each book.

Now I must mention a few disadvantages that the Kobo has.

Obviously, being an electronic device, it is more tender and fragile than a book. When I rise from my chair to go to the bathroom or get a glass of wine, I usually leave my book in the chair, since if I accidentally sit down on it, no harm is done. With the Kobo, I must always put it in a safe place when no bottom will bash it or harm befall it. Also, there are certain places, such as judicial courts, where electronic devices are not allowed. When on jury duty, I cannot take my handy Kobo, but must carry a physical book.

It is impossible to “flip through” the Kobo, as one can the pages of a book. When bedtime approaches, it has been my custom to flip ahead to see if I am almost at the end of a chapter, which I might finish before retiring. This is slow and cumbersome with the Kobo, so I usually just stop where I am, not knowing whether the chapter will end in a page or two.

Another feat which is easy with a paper book but impossible or nearly so with an e-book reader is going to a specific page. It is easy to flip to page 247 in “The Way We Live Now” or go to the verse John 14:6 in the Bible when one is reading a physical book, but quite difficult on the Kobo.

What I find most inconvenient about the Kobo is the placement of the control buttons for Home, Menu, Shop, and Back. These are placed along the lower left edge of the Kobo. I believe that the typical person reading an e-book reader or a physical book holds the device in his left hand and turns the pages with his right hand. Certainly this is what I do. This means that the control buttons are at the exact spot a person holds as he reads. I am constantly punching one of those control buttons inadvertently and having my reading interrupted until I can get back to where I was. I cannot understand why the designer of Kobo did not place these buttons diagonally across the Kobo at the upper right edge, where no one would ever push them accidentally. Even if they were at the top left, they would not be in the place one holds onto the device as he reads. The placement of these four buttons is my main annoyance with the Kobo.

In spite of these disadvantages, I am wonderfully satisfied with the Kobo reader. I understand that the Kindle has more features, including a keyboard, but to me—an elderly avid reader—the simpler the better. I do not need more features, and I love my Kobo.


  1. After Amazon’s announcement of the ad Kindle, I purchased a discounted Kobo from Borders too as a possible replacement for my K3, but I’ve be underwhelmed and unenthused so far. I purchased a book directly from Kobo, but it lacked paragraph indentation and added an extra blank line. I wrote customer service and they said they only passed on the formatting as given by the publisher (Smashwords) and there was nothing they could do. Sorry, Charlie. I then proceed to check out and down load three library books, but the all of them had some degree of extra wide margins; on one book the margins were so wide as I could have gotten more text onto the screen of an iPhone; the only fix I could find through a Google search was to strip off the DRM and reformat with Calibre. Again: Sorry, Charlie. The formatting of the 100 free classics fared no better: left justified without paragraph indentations and the extra blank line. (The texts lacked italics too, but that’s on par for Project Guttenberg.) Sorry, Charlie for the third time.

    Maybe other readers are more forgiving for the off standard formatting, but if I’m going to spend my time reading the book, the publisher and the device must work in such a way as to approximate correct English formatting–something I didn’t get form my purchased book, library books, and free classics. Other non-DRM texts from Fictionwise formatted fine, so the Kobo has the capability to get it right, but it juts doesn’t always succeed. At least with the Kindle I can preview a sample and reject the poorly formatted books beforehand–which does not seem to be an option with the Kobo.

    The Kobo will probably have its uses (especially if Amazon goes all ads), but I’d still only give it a C- grade.

  2. I assume the Kobo in question is the Wifi version. It automatically updates the firmware in the background and provides a direct connect to any Kobo purchases you may have made. The current software, 1.9, has added a “GoTo” feature which lets you select any page in the book to quickly skip to.

    Formatting of books are sometimes different in the native “kepub” vs. a downloaded “epub” of the same title. In general, the native format is the same or better.

    • Oh, really? Interesting. I don’t think I have that feature. I’ll have to connect my own Kobo up to wifi and see if it pulls down an update, and if so do the same for Dad’s next time I see it. (We don’t often use the wifi function on our devices because we don’t plan to buy books from Kobo and it just drains the battery faster.)

  3. I started reading a book on the Kobo app for iPad and iPhone recently. I found that it will tell you “page 12 of 34” so you know where you are in the chapter. I’m not sure if this feature is available on the device or not. Personally, the thing that’s been driving me nuts about reading a book on the Kobo app is the lack of HTML support. Most apps let me tap a footnote notation to get to the footnote to read it. That’s not a feature on the Kobo app, which means I can’t read the foot/endnotes.

  4. I already had a Kindle 3 (K3) and purchased a Kobo on clearance. After a couple months the Kobo is nice but I still prefer my K3. Here are my review notes:
    1. Good screen, same size and resolution as K3
    2. Slightly smaller overall size and weight than K3 due to no keyboard
    3. Quick to charge (2 hours initially)
    4. Uses standard mini-USB charger to PC (K3 uses a special charger)
    5. Books have a real Table of Contents. (It was much easier to find the same spot in Jane Eyre on the Kobo than the same book on my Kindle,)
    6. Book title is displayed in the header in tiny font
    7. Chapter is displayed in the footer in tiny font with pages for chapter indicated like Page x of xx.
    8. Font size change by simple pressing up or down arrow
    9. Page turn by pressing right or left arrow
    10. Similar sleep mode but it displays the book cover of the book you are currently reading
    11. Software update was detected (it uses Wifi) and was fast
    12. Books load quickly
    13. Page turns slightly slower than Kindle but not significantly slower.
    14. Same automatic bookmarking (but a bit harder to switch between books).
    15. Already has 100 free classics pre-loaded
    16. Can use SD cards up to 32 GB (has 1 GB internal memory)
    17. Can read EPUB and PDF files (but not MOBI or TXT files)
    17. Has an app for my Android phone (which I have not tried so I don’t know if it “syncs” to last page read like my K3 and the Kindle phone app does).

    There are 2 different sites to sync and “purchase” books from: Kobobooks.com and Borders.com (very weird)
    1. The desktop software was missing from the Kobo (resident on the unit) and it was hard to find on the Kobo site
    2. Kobo Customer Service online help uses a totally separate login/password separate from the Kobo store, but they were quick to respond.
    3. I REALLY missed the K3 keyboard when I had to keep entering in my ID and password (Borders ID is not your email address but Kobo uses the email address)
    4. I “purchased” a couple free books from the Kobo store but had to wait to get the desktop software loaded.
    5. Once I loaded the Kobo desktop software loaded and connected the Kobo to my laptop it had a simple sync option (okay, that is a Pro)
    6. Cannot play mp3 files (but I knew that before I bought it)
    7. Cannot use option to send web pages (like news articles) to read on Kobo like I do with “Send to Kindle”
    8. Strictly an e-reader with no notes or additional apps
    9. No way to group books for easier browsing. On my Kindle I have Collections to group books like: Classics, Fiction, Non-Fiction, Read Next, Samples, etc.
    10. No Sample feature

  5. @Greg M.: I already had a large Kobo library when I purchased the unit, so that’s mostly what I’ve read on it. The books look fine. However, I’ve sideloaded some DRM-free books, as well as some de-DRMed books purchased at B&N (I also have a Nook Color), and I haven’t had any problems, except for bad OCR from some older scanned books that originated with Google Books.

    @E.: The units purchased from Borders are really meant to be synced exclusively to the Borders store, which is powered by Kobo. When I bought mine, also a Borders clearance unit (wifi), I DLed the Kobo software and synced only to that, since I already had a large Kobo library. I haven’t bothered with the Borders software at all. I mostly sideload books via Calibre and DL books purchased from Kobo over wifi. I like using Calibre because I can send sideloaded books directly to the SD card. If something goes awry *looks at Nook Color, sighs*, it’s fairly easy to sync the Kobo books, and the sideloaded books will already be on the SD card ready to go.

  6. Hi!
    After doing a lot of research on which eReader to purchase I decided on the Kobo for the following reasons.
    1. I live is Canada and it was just easier to pick up a kobo at my local chapters store.
    2. I wanted to be able to borrow ebooks from my local library.
    3. I just wanted an eReader … I did not want to be able to go on web sites or link to Facebook.
    4. The new kobo with wifi was a selling point so I could lay in bed and download a book. (I know the other ereaders have wifi too but there seems to be some people who does not realize that the new kobo has the wifi added.
    5. I tend to hold books at the bottom and doing this with the kobo is fine but with the kindle the buttons are in the way.
    6. I loved that I could buy the kobo in lilac (not a big selling point but a bonus).
    I have had my kobo for a while now and I have to say I am not disappointed in any way… It was easy to set up and quick to download books (less than 60 seconds)… A purchase that I would defiantly recommend to anyone who is just looking for a basic eReader. Well worth the $128.

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