The New Kobo E-Book Reader – A Review

The competition in the e-reader market never seems to be cooling down. Just when we think that’s it for now up comes a new competitor all geared and dressed to lure buyers away from the other established brands. The latest entrant is the Kobo e-reader being marketed by the Toronto based Canadian company of the same name. It is going to take on the might of Amazon and Sony when it launches on April 29. Pre-order booking though had started from 30th March through the company’s own website as well as through the site of majority stakeholder Indigo.


The Kobo is 183 mm high, 119 mm wide and just 10 mm deep. This combined with a weight of only 221 grams makes it an e-reader that you can carry around with the utmost of ease. and that’s not all for the price tag of Kobo is surprisingly low at just $149. The company has managed to keep the price so low by ensuring the device is a no frills e-reader. The physical aspects of the device though match every other e-reader from both a feature as well as a convenience point of view. It has a 6 inch screen and it weighs about half that of a 200 page hardcover book. The rubber backing provided to the device makes sure you get a good grip of it. The overall size of the device is also about 37 mm smaller than the Kindle and therefore is a cozy fit into a suit pocket or small handbag.

One single five way button is all that is required to navigate through the contents of the device. This button is also rubberized but placed with right hand operation in mind. Left handers may face some discomfort due to its positioning at the bottom right corner. There are six other control buttons all placed at the upper right edge, which includes the power button too.

Forty seconds, like the proverbial forty winks, is all it takes to wake up the Kobo for its functions. The viewer is presented with a list of books that was most recently read. Kobo has the feature of automatic book marking, which opens a book when selected, at the point it was last left off.

Four other utility buttons that run along the left edge of the device are for opening the Bluetooth connection by the button labeled Sync. The button labeled Home takes the reader to the opening page of the device. The Menu button provides help in text mode for doing stuff like browsing the book list or reading the user’s guide or set device date. The Display button on the other hand is meant for setting format size, color etc.

As an E-Reader:

The Kobo’s 6 inch screen displays 8 levels of grayscale and has a resolution of 600 x 800 pixels. This translates to a display pixel density of 170 dots per inch (dpi), which is quite impressive in its own right.

Georgia and Trebuchet, that is serif and sans serif respectively are the only two fonts supported by this device. There are five sizes for each of the font. Using the smaller font size is advisable as larger font size is at the cost of increased page turn requirements. Except for people with sight problems larger font size is not beneficial for use on this device. The device also is a soundless one in the literal sense. This means that the feature of text to voice is not possible in this device.

Search feature on the Kobo has the options of find by Title or by Author or even by time last read. Display of the books can be set to simulate a bookshelf or as a simple listing. The battery can sustain 8000 page turns and the page opening time is quick and zippy at 5 secs on an average.

The device has no backlight thus not having the associated problem of eye strain. But the backlash of this is that the text cannot be read in dark or in poor lighting.

The display on its own has a lot to demand and expect from. The background is gray and remains unchanged and does not portray a clean clear backdrop. However, the Vizplex e-Ink display with 8 level grayscale does make sure reading off this device is not a chore but a pleasant experience. Page transition also has no dramatic effect. It’s rather a bit ungraceful effect when the display flashes its content with white text over black screen and then resolves into the next page.

The device also comes sans any scrolling feature and needs a push button action to turn the page with no method available to jump to a particular chapter or page except jumping through every chapter without opening its page contents up for reading.


Powering the e-reader is the ARM9 (920T) core that runs at 400 MHz and has an SDRAM acting as the standard memory. Kobo is compatible with Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7 as well as Mac OS X and higher. It also is compliant with the BlackBerry.

The Kobo has a 1GB onboard memory that is capable of storing almost a thousand e-books and the good thing is it is further expandable to 4 GB by way of an SD card slot.

Battery Life:

A 1,000 mAH Li-polymer battery does duty on the Kobo e-reader. Logically and theoretically the device should have a longish battery life given its E Ink display, which needs no power after the page has been resolved. As per company sources, the Kobo can last up to 8000 page turns on a single full charge. In a real life test where the Kobo was subjected to varying reading times that ranged from a few minutes to a few hours with the device kept ‘on’ on each day, the battery could last almost an entire week. Its worthwhile mentioning here that the reader can be kept on for days on end but power will be drawn from the battery only when the reader is in use. Leave it unused and there won’t be any drain of power. Meanwhile, a battery icon at the main menu displays the current power situation of the device.


The Kobo has no 3G or Wi-Fi capabilities, which means the device is not self reliant for downloading e-books. One needs a computer or a Smartphone to connect to the net and download e-books from the company’s home site. This is then to be transferred using Bluetooth or a USB chord to the Kobo for reading. For ardent e-book readers this is not the optimum choice but then every additional feature that comes in other e-reading devices come at a price.

Transfer of e-books using the sync button is a simple and fast process. Kobo uses custom software for this transfer; however the drawback is that currently the only Smartphone device that is supported by the Kobo for sync transfer is the BlackBerry. Kobo has promised to extend sync facility with other brand smart phones by this summer.

Purchase of the Kobo gives access to one hundred books of authors ranging from Austen, Dickens to Homer and Katka. All these books are public domain books and therefore available for free.

The Kobo can support ePub, PDF, Adobe DRM formats. The device however is not at all suitable to read e-books in PDF format. Size of the screen restricts proper viewing of text in PDF format with magnification or reduction both not helping in the process. Kobo e-books however come in ePub format, so this issue is not of much concern.


· Good battery life
· Excellent paper like display quality
· Compact dimensions, light weight and low priced
· Easy on the pocket, both from a price and weight point of view
· Use of quality materials
· Comes pre-loaded with 100 e-books
· Bluetooth wireless radio


· Currently compatible with only the Blackberry
· No 3G or Wi-Fi capability
· Ideally suited for right hand users


So, all in all the Kobo is a barebones e-reader that is banking on simplicity to make a dent in the already crowded e-reader market. Compared to the other low cost e-reader in the market – the Sony Pocket Edition – what you get is a device that has a larger screen, more memory and hence more book carrying capacity and a decent battery life, all at a price that is $50 less than the Sony offering. So if you like reading books and are looking for a no frills e-reading device that is also economically priced, the Kobo is the one to go for.

Keep tuned to this space for more on the Kobo as well as the latest e-reader news.

Then E-Readers as well as Tablet or Slate PCs is what the Good E-Reader Magazine is all about. So make sure you subscribe if you don’t want to miss all that is happening in this exciting segment.

Sovan Mandal (2780 Posts)

is the senior tablet and tech corespondent for He brings a international approach to news that is not just applicable to the North American market, but also Asia, India, Europe and others. Sovy brings his own writing flavor to the website and is interested in Science Fiction, Technology and Writing. Any questions, send an email

  • Caspar_s

    The menu button has the table of contents with a chapter listing (as long as the book has it)

    Also the page refresh is a function of the screen – you want fancy/fast page turning, get a lcd based reader with corresponding battery life.

  • Mike Barnard

    Unfortunately, the Kobo book reader takes too long to start up. I timed it at the store. To return to the page you were reading takes about 90 seconds. I was going to buy one for my wife, but she wouldn't have used it.

    That needs to be optimized before I'd recommend it to anyone.


  • Dude

    That's why you wouldn't want to turn the reader off between reading sessions. You would consider powering off the reader when you anticipate a long period (days) of inactivity.

  • Mike Barnard

    Well, that works for some people, but not my wife and I. We travel. We read in coffee shops. We take our books with us places. Shoving a Kobo that isn't turned off into one of our bags invites all sorts of annoying things: page changes, book closures, randomness. Waiting 90 seconds to open a book to the page we left off at is just too long. Kobo has to fix this.


  • Maline

    Thanks for interesting post :)

  • GKS

    Bought the Kobo a couple of weeks ago. Battery life has been a big disappointment. Each full charge lasts only a few hundred pages and we have to recharge at least once a day when reading a book. Anyone else having this problem?

  • sdfd

    Just got mine yesterday and having same problem. Waiting on tech support to get back to me but from what I read on the Kobo troubleshooting site there is a page addressing a battery issue coming out next week. Other than this issue and if fixable I am impressed and enjoy reading from it especially for its price difference.

  • Richard Van Orton

    Kind a bad they did not include Wi-Fi capability?

  • Richard Van Orton

    Kind a bad they did not include Wi-Fi capability?

  • Good E-Reader

    The only way they could keep costs so low, is not to have WI-FI, although the new Nook WI-FI costs 10.00 more and has WI-FI

  • Daniel

    I think the Kobo will eat away some of the Kindle market. What is interesting is that Amazon lowered the price on kindle pretty much at the same time as Kobo was available from Borders in the US.

  • CanuckKoboOwner

    Have had the Kobo since first day available in Canada. I haven't had any problems with it & the battery seems fine but am disappointed that it is only BT compatible with a few Blackberry phones. Their claim to BT sync with smartphones is too broad a statement – it's only compatible with a few Blackberry models. They really should be more forthcoming about the Bluetooth limitations. The best thing about the Kobo is I am not limited to one bookstore and I can borrow from the library BUT I did decide to buy the Kobo because of the BT feature – that I can't use. We even have a Blackberry in the house, but it's not compatible.

    Kobo has promised to extend sync facility with other brand smart phones by this summer.

    Here it is, beginning of August and still waiting…………….

  • CanuckKoboOwner

    Now that the Kindle 3 has arrived, I think Amazon has turned the tables on Kobo.

  • Disappointed

    I received a Kobo as a gift from my husband just 3 days ago. The system stalled twice. I did get it to re-start after plugging it into my computer and/ or resetting it. I only managed to read about 300 pages during that short period. Perhaps it was a dud, not typically of the Kobo however, it was enough for us to return it to Chapters for a refund. Disappointing really as I really enjoyed the device otherwise.

  • Anonymous

    Anybody know if a new Kobo ereader is planned?

  • Alto Ego

    Just bought my Kobo two days ago, have had two system freezes & am on my third battery powerup. I give it one more day. If the battery usage doesn’t improve I’m returning mine. I’ll try another one but if it’s no better I’ll move to the low end Kindle.

    I like the look & feel of the Kobo but I’m disappointed there’s no “flip” feature which would allow lefties to turn the machine upside down & have the navigate button on the top left. Sure the labels on the buttons are upside down, but we lefties are used to adapting to be comfortable.

  • Smikolainis

    How do I increase the font size of a library book I downloaded – it doesn’t seem to give me an option and the print is really small.

  • Good E-Reader

    They are going to release the kobo wireless next week! it will be at our store at you can pre order it now and we will ship it monday

  • Good E-Reader
  • Coe

    What is the relationship between the Kobo and the Nook?

  • PLH

    I’ve been using the Kobo for about 6 months now, and I generally like it: it is lightweight and portable, and stores more material than I will be able to download for a long time. I find the screen very easy to read. It has definitely made me a fan of ereader technology, and I am a diehard booklover.

    On the downside:
    1. there are occasional, distracting glitches in formatting of text, typos, and it can’t format poetry at all
    2. the pages turn quite slowly at times, especially at the end of a chapter, and the navigator button doesn’t feel like it will last
    3. it is ponderous trying to navigate around a book, it you want to jump from place to place
    4. the sync process can be painfully slow at times
    5. customer service is SLOW; it took two weeks to get help with a syncing problem
    6. it doesn’t allow you to highlight or make notes

    So as much as I love my Kobo, unless they initiate some major upgrades I will be looking to upgrade on my own. I am torn between the Kindle 3 and one of the Sony readers.

  • Leggeheather

    Push up on the D-pad

  • Dsjstc

    Can you provide a reference for the screen resolution?

  • Anonymous

    My Kobo has WiFi!

    I’m glad I have the Kobo eReader. Its so easy to slip in to my purse and have on hand when on the road. The price is good and the screen is easy to read. With its basic structure, I learned how to use it in minutes. I recommend it. It supports ePub, PDF, and Adobe DRM!

    Color me happy!

  • Prefab Houses

    Great technology. this device will help a lot. Thanks for the post.

  • Sandra Olney

    I can’t believe how long it is taking to charge. I have now had it on a USB for at least 4 hours and there is still a red light.

  • Lizziee

    Got my Kobo a couple weeks ago. I really love it, carry it everywhere.
    It’s easier to hold and read than a regular book

  • Kathy

    I have had two Kobo ereaders. First one rec’d as Christmas gift, was defective so returned it and got another. Unfortunately couldn’t use it, online acct was so screwed up. Customer service bumped me to “priority” as none of the agents could fix the problem (uninstalled program, reinstalled (twice), reset Kobo twice etc. I had purchased books, was billed, but could not access them. This went on for over two months. I returned the Kobo as I could not use it. 24 March 11 rec’d an email from Kobo saying i could now access my account and read the books! Seriously, we had been having email correspondence for the past 3 months and I TOLD them I returned my Kobo and just wanted a refund for the books. they now tell me their policy does not allow refunds. Unbelievable. I now own a Kindle and it is amazing. So glad the Kobo sucked as i now thoroughly enjoy my Kindle and no hassle! It is MUCH easier to use than the Kobo and no frigging around trying to drag/drop your books from one program to another and then “syncing”. Would not recommend the Kobo (I was able to use the first one for a month before it quit), the Kindle is a much nicer unit. Kobo’s corporate customer service gives “customer service” a bad name. There is no service.

  • Sudburyquints

    Anyone else have trouble with War and Peace? My Kobo refused to proceed after the first set of Chapters and I had to manually access them by the menu button. The kobo eventually rebelled outrightly and I lost all the free books and it had to be reset [some EXTRA] at Chapters who refused to replace the Ereader because I did not have thge receipt[ Xmas gift]. I love an Ereader. Handy travelling. Kobo needs frequent charging. Also Kindle books are way cheaper. Also had really hard time setting up an account through my Computer [not wireless]. Followed directions religiously but no help there.

  • Danny – iPad Case Review

    I think it’s a freaking disgrace that Wifi was not included on release – i mean come on! Why the hell release a “smart” ebook reader and then tell people to connect it up to their computer.. Kobo 0 Kindle/iPad 1

  • Donnacousineau

    I hate the KOBO wifi reader.  It won’t recognize the reader when I want to transfer an ebook from the library using overdrive media. I’m giving up for now and picking up my book

  • Kvisoft

    It’s similar to Kindle for the appearance.

  • LmdefieldsT

    Bought a Kobo touch for my wife for christmas,a few days ago it seemed to have locked up and will not power on,Contacted KOBO and was told someone would be in contact with me within 24 to 48 hrs. After 2 more calls this week i am still waiting for a call.All our friends told us to buy a KINDLE but i chose the KOBO because i was told it was a Canadian Co.i should have listened”’.

  • Andrea

    I really want to use this kobo ebook reader,just I don’t know how many language this know……I really like reading.but IM LIVING FROM Canada,and I want to know this softwer know the another language or just only English.For EXAMPLE iWANT TO READING SOME Hungarian book too..This is possible or  not?

  • Dipesh

    can i store a single book with 80mb in kobo