Kindle Paperwhite In-Depth, Part 1: Kindle vs Kobo

kindle vs koboI recently found out that my sister had a Kindle Paperwhite 2 she wasn’t using, and further, that she was having a timely visit with my mother which would enable her to get it to me without us having to pay to ship it.

My Kobo Glo has been a little glitchy lately and I found that, given my dislike of the iOS Kobo app, I was really missing the ability to coordinate my reading across my devices. Perhaps I was ready to return to the Kindle fold? I resolved to take in my sister’s abandoned Kindle (she reads on her tablet device these days) and give it a try. I would keep the better device, sell the other and hopefully enjoy the reading experience which is truly best for me.

In this review, I want to cover all aspects of the Kindle Paperwhite. In Part 1, this part, I will give some initial impressions and compare the general reading experience of the Kindle vs Kobo. In Part 2, I will cover some special features which are exclusive to the Kindle. And in Part 3, I will come to a verdict over which device I will keep. Ready?


When I played briefly with the Kindle my other sister has, I was favourably impressed and found that, absent a few special features, the Kobo and Kindle were essentially equivalent. Now that I have had more time to use the Kindle properly, I want to revise my first impressions. There are strengths each device has. This will not be as easy a choice as I thought!

1) Device Setup

In order to fully make use of both devices, you have to register them. The Kindle, unlike the Kobo, did give me the option to complete it later. I could at least turn it on and look around without having to be connected to a network. The Kobo won’t let you past the first screen without signing in!

I did log on to my mother’s wifi network while I was over there picking it up, and it was a simple matter to sign into my existing Amazon and get my device up and running. I was easily able to access my past purchases right off the home screen, via the cloud tab. This is way easier than Kobo’s well-hidden ‘Purchase History’ which can only be accessed via their website!

2) Reading Options

Once I had a few books downloaded, I tested out the reading options. I was disappointed—the Kindle offers a more uniform reading experience, but a less elegant one. As I have noted in the past, the Kobo does sometimes override my font choices with publisher-default ones. The Kindle in contrast seems to always use my chosen font. But if offers a less refined reading experience. The font sizes are prescribed, whereas on the Kobo they can be tweaked via a more customized slider. I found many other Kindle reviewers who reached the same conclusion as me—that their preferred font size fell between two of the choices. The lower choice was too small and the higher choice too big.

I also was hoping for some improvements that I didn’t get. The Kobo has a glitch where long paragraphs will cause it to leave a huge gap at the bottom of the screen. The Kindle does not have this glitch, but it does have imperfect justification where long words, instead of being properly justified and then hyphenating, stop a line early, thus creating a ragged-looking edge even in an otherwise justified text. This drove me bonkers, and while it is not a deal-breaker given the Kindle’s other advantages, it definitely soured me on the experience. The Kindle’s architecture, but with the Kobo’s font controls would be the best device for me, but alas, you can’t mix and match that way!

3) Basic Book Reading

I had heard people complain that the Kobo has a more blueish-looking tinge compared to the Kindle screen. I did not find this on initial glance, when I played with my sister’s Kindle. But now that I have read on it for longer, I do see it. The Kindle does have a whiter-looking screen and it does make for a darker-looking text.

Many of the basic book-reading perks—dictionary, highlighting and so on—are functionally equivalent. The Kindle was a tiny bit faster on the page turns and smoother on the highlighting—and it had some bonus features I will cover in Part 2 tomorrow. But for the basic stuff, there was no huge difference. Both devices even have the option to load dictionaries for multiple languages and auto-detect which one to use for any given book. Handy!

4) Loading Content

The Kindle is the winner here, hands down. Both devices can easily plug into my computer via USB for transfer using Calibre software. But, as I really wanted to use the cross-device synccing, the Kindle had a clear advantage to me. I could email ebooks straight onto the Kindle from Calibre, and they would appear in my cloud for use on any Kindle devices.

I had a little trouble setting the email system up, and I found it took a long time for the books to appear in the cloud when sent via email. But I downloaded Amazon’s free Send to Kindle app and found that much smoother. I could right-click from the finder to select a file for sending, drag and drop onto the dock icon, or open it up via double-clicking the icon. Files sent almost instantaneously.

I did feel some slight annoyance at having to reconvert everything—the Kindle is the only device I use that can’t read ePub files, and most of my books are in that format because I have found those tend to be cleaner and better put together than Mobi ones. Also, I can use them with Calibre plug-ins like ePub split. Having to effectively double my library size overnight just because Amazon wants to be different bothered me.

But, with that said, the convenience of being able to send a new book onto my Kindle without needing to get out USB cables was an absolute pleasure. And once I had it onto my ‘Cloud’ I could download it again onto my phone or iPad in seconds. Very handy!

More on the Personal Documents feature tomorrow—plus the dirt on the other Amazon-only reading features which I think make the Paperwhite a serious contender for me.

Stay tuned!

4 Comments on Kindle Paperwhite In-Depth, Part 1: Kindle vs Kobo

  1. if you have converted your epubs in calibre first, and have stored your files on a cloud you can use the experimental browser to download them directly to the kindle

  2. I am guessing the Amazon-only feature is X-Ray. It’s funny but on a lot of books, I never use it and on other books, I use it all the time.

  3. The PW offers even better reading experience if you convert to AZW3 instead of Mobi. In particular, paging backwards, (if you like to flip back a page here and here.) is *much* faster and smoother. Also, you’re able to zoom and pan on images, useful for maps, or other images with small text, (assuming the publisher bothered to make it high enough resolution.)

    Unfortunately, last I checked, Amazon doesn’t let you e-mail those to the cloud. And you need Calibre to load them on the device properly if you like cover view of your library. (Unlike the Epub devices, The kindle will not create it’s own thumbnails used by cover view.. those have to be loaded seperately, something Calibre does for you.)

    The Kobo has better font controls, hands down. Unfortunately, most of the fonts shiped with Kobo are not glyph complete. If you read books that sometimes use odd characters with Diacritic marks, there are only 3 or 4 font choices available on the Kobo, only 2 of which are supported by Type Genius, (which allows you ajust to the weight of the font on screen.) Hopefully, you like Georgia.

    Of course, you can sideload your own fonts on either if not happy with the factory defaults.

    In the end, all I an say, when my Kobo Aura HD died, I replaced it with a new 2nd gen Paperhwite, and have been very happy to be back in the Amazon fold, despite a few quirks,,, (converting books.)

  4. I bought a new Kobo dirt cheap years ago at a Borders going out of business sale. I used it once or twice, comparing it with the Kindle 3; I wasn’t much impressed. But the big dealer breaker was when I bought a poorly formatted ebook from the Kobo store. When I emailed their customer service they said nothing could be done about it, but they would notify the publisher Smashwords with my issue. I never heard back in any way. Caveat Emptor. It was a cheap book so it was more efficient to just but it again from Amazon. For whatever reason, the formatting was fine there.

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