Friday, June 11, 2010

Kobo E-Reader

I received a Kobo ebook reader earlier this week. Nobody seems to know how to handle caps with this name. I've seen it written "Kobo," "KOBO" and "kobo," in reviews, at the company's Web site ( and elsewhere. I'm going with Kobo. (The name is an anagram of "book.")

This intriguing little gadget is the first ebook reader I've owned. For what it does and what it is, the device is good, and I'm learning to make it do things it's not supposed to do. The Kobo is powered by internal batteries, which are recharged whenever you plug it into a USB port. I have read two lengthy books on it and have yet to drain the battery.

The USB port is also a route to adding books to and removing books from the reader. (It also communicates via a Bluetooth radio, but I don't have one.) Kobo's software (which installs itself on Mac or PC) communicates directly with the Kobo Store ( It will be sold by Borders for $149.99, commencing in July, and Border's will operate its own online ebook store. (More info here.)

The operating instructions and online help are sparse, and the process or purchasing an ebook, adding a free ebook to your Kobo or even just changing what's on your current reading list may be confusing for some. For now, here's a tip: treat Kobo like just another disk drive when it's connected to your computer.

Treating the device as a drive or folder greatly simplifies transferring ebooks and documents (PDF files, which is how newspapers and magazines will be delivered). Download purchased or free material to your computer, then copy it to the root directory of Kobo. When you disconnect Kobo from your computer, it will wake up and process the new material, adding it to the Kobo menus. This procedure also lets you get ebooks from any source. I'll try to find time to provide more detailed info and specs here later--after I write an article on the subject.

The images above are experiments: I scanned the reader to see if the display would be washed out or destroyed by glare. The screen background is lighter, and contrast is in reality better on the physical reader, but these images aren't bad. The first image is the cover of Dark & Disorderly, by Bernita Harris. This is one of the books I edited for Carina Press. If you like the idea of a paranormal mystery with a touch of romance, this book is for you. Bernita is an excellent writer, and the novel is quirky enough and has enough twists and turns to keep you intrigued through the final page.

I also edited In Enemy Hands, a science fiction romance by KS Augustin that offers some truly original ideas. The second image is the first page of the novel on Kobo. Click on the title to buy or read an excerpt from either book. Or visit

Back to the Kobo, here's a quick tour: the blue square at the lower right of the Kobo is a navigation button, used to move around menus, turn pages, change fonts and so forth. Along the left side are several function buttons (as labeled on the front: Home, Menu, Display, Back). The power switch is on the top, along with an SD card slot . The mini-plug-in for the USB cable is on the bottom. The Bluetooth radio supports RIM Blackberry devices, and the company are planning to support additional smartphones and tablets. Oh--and no color, of course, but novels are all about text. I expect it will be some time before color displays reach a reasonable price.
I still prefer reading books printed on paper.


Khozyain said...

So... would you have paid $150 for it? I've been looking for an e-reader and this one caught my eye several weeks ago when Borders sent me a pre-order opportunity. I did some research on the Kobo and it looks pretty nice for what I need/want, unlike the iPad and Kindle (although I do admit I like the Sony too).

Bernita said...

Dear Editor Guy, Kas and I thank you for those kind words.

Michael A. Banks said...

Given the prices of other ereaders at the time I wrote this, I would have paid $150.

Now, with Kindle at $189, I would be tempted, though shipping would put it right around $200. I would think, however, about how many books I could buy with the fifty bucks (or maybe another two gigs of RAM for my laptop).

Anonymous said...

hi mike
i noticed you said you edited a book for Carina Press... are you still with them?