By Richard Hsu
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E Ink

I got my Kobo Touch the first day it was available in stores (June 2011). At that time, options for reading included paper books, newspaper, magazines, 22" desktop or 15" notebook computer displays. Reading email and blogs on computer screens were fine but reading articles or books were not as pleasant as paper books for two reasons: backlit displays made my eyes blurry and portability. A device the size & weight of a pocket reference book that can hold thousands of books, reads like print on paper (almost), can download anything in the Kobo bookstore wirelessly in minutes and does not need to be recharged for weeks was a welcome change and a new curiosity.

The first book I downloaded in Kobo Touch was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's "The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes" (free). Digital edition of Newspapers were tried but clumsy navigation and $15/month subscription did not win me over so I stopped after the free trial period. The wife reads more, so she monopolised it and quickly learnt to find and download free eBooks. The first book I read start to finish was Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. I remember browsing through the thick and heavy hardcover edition at the bookstore and deciding on the eBook instead. The ability to lookup meaning of words with a touch makes for a more complete understanding of the writer.

With wireless internet connection, it was convenient to get books from Kobo’s bookstore into Kobo Touch but content from other sources (blogs, websites, Toronto Public Library) required a cable connection to a computer1. Typically, Kobo Touch and the computer would be at extreme opposite sides of the house so walking to the computer in the basement, finding the USB cable, plugging in the Kobo Touch, finding the eBook or pdf I wanted to read and copying it into the Kobo Touch was a labour intensive process. Another problem was books with photos. Since Kobo Touch was monochrome and low resolution, photos did not show as intended unless the eBook was made specifically for the device.

Like the Kobo Touch, I ordered iPad 3 as soon as it was released (Mar 2012). So nine months after Kobo Touch, iPad usurped the role of notebook and Kobo Touch swiftly for the wife. It helped that you had access to Kobo bookstore plus Amazon’s via their iPad apps and photos are vibrant and detailed and text crisp and clear. Apple’s iBook would later replace both Kobo and Amazon’s bookstore apps for the wife and kids cutting off all links to Kobo. I continued to use Kobo Touch and Kobo applications on the iPad and computers to buy and read books but the usage of Kobo Touch decreased in favour of the iPad at home.

It is perfect for use away for home (travel, kid's soccer practice): fits in the pocket, has more books than I can read, holds charge for weeks, no problem reading in bright ambient light and don’t have to handle with care. Cannot say the same for iPad.

Since August 2013, Kobo has integration with Pocket so I can save web content for reading in Kobo Touch as well. It also has Chess and Sudoku but I don’t play them. The best available Kobo E Ink device today is Kobo Aura HD. I have tried it at a nearby Chapters store and agree it is the 'Porsche of eReaders'. It has front lighting for reading in the dark, smoother page turns and text looks as sharp and clear as those on paper. Will wait for the price to drop below it’s ‘Porsche’ level ($170).

Kobo Touch and other E Ink devices are great for reading text, nothing more or less.

  1. While writing this blog, I learnt through unofficial sources that Kobo Touch’s experimental web browser can be used to download books from the internet. The browser is a pain to use (pages don’t render well, touch typing is difficult) so the finding of things to read is not practical but I can find it at the computer, save the file at a location with a short address (e.g. http://example.com/reads/) and then type it in the Kobo Touch web browser to download it. This eliminates the cable transfer. The ideal solution would be Kobo making this easier with their one touch sync but I don't expect this to be a priority. Like Amazon, Kobo’s E Ink devices are probably sold at a loss, they make money through books sold.