Kobo is one of the strongest global brands in the e-reader sector. In 2021, they released some great new features and enhancements. The company issued two new e-readers that have been selling like hotcakes, the Sage and Libra 2. These are very good devices and are using the latest generation E INK Carta 1200 display screens. These were the first two products to incorporate audiobook purchases right on the device via Bluetooth headphones. The company also released the Elipsa, which recently received a firmware update for audiobook support.
Digital note taking is a brand new sector for Kobo. They have always released commercial e-readers that are aimed at the average user, while also offering premium features on their most expensive models, such as Dropbox. The Elipsa and Sage were two significant departures. They were designed for professionals, businessmen and students. The Elipsa had a large 10.3 inch screen, which provides enough screen real estate for freehand drawing and viewing/editing PDF files. Of course, the 8 inch Sage, also has note taking and both devices have full access to the Kobo bookstore and Kobo audiobook store. So, you can still read and listen to audiobooks. The Libra 2 was the lone outlier, a basic e-reader, that was more of a incremental upgrade.
One of the most exciting new developments, was not e-readers, but accessories. The Kobo Sage Power Cover was one such product. It is a case that has an independent battery, which will charge your Sage. This is useful because the Sage had a pretty woeful 1200 mAh battery, which only lasts a couple of weeks, whereas the power cover extends it to a month. This cover was sold out, as soon as it was released, due to the sheet demand. Kobo also developed their own stylus. The Kobo stylus is made of a aluminum and inside the stylus is metal. There are two different buttons on the side, that do different things. If you read reading an ebook, the buttons can be used to conduct highlights. When freehand drawing, they can do different lines and shades, when you erase something, it triggers a refresh, to cut down on ghosting. The stylus is capacitive and needs a single AAA battery to stay charged. I wish they just allowed you to charge it up with a USB port, similar to what Sony did with the Digital Paper. The battery gives the stylus an added heft. This stylus is proprietary, and does not work with other e-notes on the market.
Over the course of 2021, Kobo issued a number of firmware updates. Some of the major features allowed users to rotate PDF files, which really helps on the Sage and Elipsa that have note taking functionality with the Kobo Stylus. There was also a greater emphasis on pre-orders, you can browse and buy upcoming eBooks audiobooks—right on your e-reader. And just like on the web, every pre-order is backed by our Pre-order Price Guarantee. It is easier to spot discounts, with price reductions clearly marked on carousels, search results, and item pages, you can see what’s on sale or recently marked down.
In other Kobo News, the company has been beta testing a brand new Web Reader. It is very barebones right now. The only option is to read the book in a two page spread, there is no one page option or infinity scroll system. Text can be increased or decreased in size, but there is no way to select a different font type. There is a table of contents that has clickable links, that will take you to a specific chapter in the book you are reading. On your browser, you can start reading select titles directly after you purchase them or from your My Books section on the website. Where available, select Read Now to get started.
What is going to happen with Kobo in 2022? The company plans on issuing a new entry level and mid-level e-readers. Whether this it the Nia 2 or Clara HD 2 remains to be seen, but Kobo does love its sequels in their naming conventions. I have not heard about the Forma, but considering the Sage is basically the same size, I could see Kobo axing this model. Kobo did tell me, they do have plans for more note taking devices in the future, and they are very bullish about audiobooks on e-readers.
Michael Kozlowski has written about audiobooks and e-readers for the past twelve years. Newspapers and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times have picked up his articles. He Lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.