Amazon and Kobo are going head to head in the global e-Reader. They both have brand new e-readers this year that are economical and full of great features. The screens are both sunken with exposed e-paper, which make the 300 PPI screens display razer sharp text. The digital bookstores where you buy books are very similar and have the latest bestsellers by major publishers. Amazon and Kobo both have made environmental strides and both the reader and retail packaging are made from recycled paper. Kobo has a few big advantages such as Pocket, where you can read blog and news articles and Overdrive, where you can browse, checkout and read. Amazon has a number of software enhancements such as system wide dark mode, X-Ray, better parental controls and Goodreads.
The hardware is very similar, on the Amazon Kindle 11th Generation and Kobo Clara 2e. the Kobo is using the latest generation E INK Carta 1200 display panel, whereas the Kindle is using Carta HD. You can read at night via the front-lit display on them both, however Kobo has warm lighting on the 2e, which makes a big difference when blending both the white and amber LED lights. One thing I noticed is that the hitboxes on the Kobo are smaller than the Kindle, which makes the Kindle is less prone to accidently clicking on something else.
Here are a few notable things about the hardware. Kobo has a dual core processor, whereas Amazon has a single core. The Kobo is waterproof, rated IPX8, the Kindle is not waterproof. Amazon and Kobo both have Bluetooth and users can buy and listen to audiobooks, however Kobo operates in more markets and makes their audio compatible with more listeners, Audible on the Kindle is hardly available anymore.
On a software level, they are both running Linux, but the experience is vastly difference. The home screen on the Kindle shows you the last 4 books you are reading and then multiple pages of recommendations and other books, like most wished for. It is so fall of marketing Kindle books, that it is a non-stop barrage. Kobo is more simple, they don’t show any ebook related content on the home screen. When reading books, there are very similar experiences. Amazon has a page turn animation that each page dissolves into the next, Kobo is simple next page with no extra animations. They both have options to change the font sizes, line spacing, margins and font types. I think Amazon has better fonts, they spent years developing high resolution fonts, such as Bookerly and Ember Bold, which is good for making fonts darker. Amazon has profiles, so if more than 1 person is using a Kindle, they can each have their own reading conditions/optimizations. Kindle has better dictionaries, keyboards and translations. Kobo has better advanced options that let you adjust font weight.
I like Kobo having Overdrive support, it works in more than a dozen countries. You input your library card in the settings and a new navigational entry will be unlocked, giving you your branch. You can browse their curated selection of books and also search. Once you find a title you want to read, simple borrow it and it appears in your library. It automatically is returned to your library in a couple of weeks, but you can also return it earlier. Kindle has Overdrive support too, but only works in the US and you don’t do it right on the e-reader. Instead you have to visit your branches website and use the Send to Kindle option. I like Amazons X-Ray a lot, it helps with huge book series where I don’t read 11 novels back to back, I take breaks between them with other books. Even I take a two or three month break, X-Ray will recount all of the places, people and things to reorient myself. Also, public notes are cool, to see what other people are underlining.
I think Kobo has the better hardware, but the Kindle provides a better software experience. There is another factor to consider though, customer service. Need help with your Kindle? Amazon customer support by the phone or online picks up in under a minute, Kobo customer support continues to be abysmal.
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.