WHSmith Kobo Touch wireless e-book reader
Has the Kindle met its match?
Review The joys of the e-book reader are considerable. You can carry a thousand books in your pocket and download more in a matter of seconds while you’re sitting in the garden – assuming the Wi-Fi stretches or you have a 3G model. If there are words you don’t recognise, you can look them up with one touch too. And in the case of dedicated readers like the Amazon Kindle and the Kobo, E Ink is as readable in bright sunlight as the printed page. Wonderful.
Pocketable and wireless too: WHSmith's Kobo Touch e-book reader
On the other hand, these devices lack the physical relationship a book offers: I can feel I’m three quarters through a novel by what my hands tell me – I don’t even have to look. This physical feedback is much better than a progress bar at the bottom of the screen. And for me, it’s easier to remember where I saw something in a book. At the bottom of a left-hand page near the beginning, wasn’t it? Ah yes, there it is.
There’s one other thing: when I turn a page in a book, it doesn’t flash from black to white in that ghastly way E Ink does. Although some ebook readers, including this one, make that flashing less frequent. I'll come to that in a moment. The Kobo Touch is almost identical in size to the newly released Amazon Kindle 4 Reg Hardware reviewed recently.
It’s a fraction thicker, by a mere 1.3mm, and a hair shorter but they both sport the same 6in E Ink pearl screen. However, despite looking identical in use, only the Kobo has a touchscreen. So there are no buttons on the Kobo apart from a power slider on the top edge and a home button on the front. As well as feeling thicker in the hand, the quilted back is different, and its matt finish means it feels pleasingly non-slip as you hold it.
The quilted back comes in a range of colours with a white front or just all black. It looks good, and the white version appears fresher than the latest Kindle, especially as there’s only the home button on the front. Also, the Kobo’s slider power switch is less susceptible to accidental activation than the Kindle’s bottom-edge power button.
The quilted effect on the back looks like a bit like a mattress
The Kindle has a direction pad to activate the virtual keyboard. On the Kobo you tap on the screen. The on-screen keyboard is efficient, but, boy, is it slow. If you’re putting in your credit card details to buy a book, it’s worth entering this on your PC or Mac first to save some time. Buying books is straightforward. If you do this on the Kobo website, it’s automatically downloaded to the device as quickly as on a Kindle, that is under a minute. Incidentally, buying e-books from the WHSmith website, will redirect you to the KoboBooks store.
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W H Smith is going to pay dearly for this! Steve Jobs invented touchscreens, and gestures! And language!
You can run, Smith, but you can't hide from the US Patent Office!
You need to "install an application on your computer to register the thing"?
That is totally stupid. Congratulations on getting it to work with WINE, but you should have returned the thing out of principle.
What inspired me to buy a Kindle was these words on Amazon's web site:
"System Requirements : None, because it's wireless and doesn't require a computer."
That is how a tablet or e-book reader ought to work. Why do so many companies fail so utterly to achieve this? Even Apple iPad users are expected to install iTunes on a computer running an approved OS. Idiots, idiots.
The reader everyone has been waiting for?
You betcha. I have a Sony PRS-650 and won't be updating (it offers me nothing, as it uses the same 6in e-ink Perl and touchscreen, just no Wifi).
However for new to e-book consumers, this beats the Amazon hands down. It supports EPUB, which means you aren't locked into any proprietary stores like the Kindle, does everything the Kindle does, and even reads the Kindle format (MOBI), so you can un-DRM your kindle books and read them on here.
What I don't get, is it scored the same as the new Kindle, despite being better in that it's not locked to a single content supplier. Surely that deserves another 5% In my world it does...
RE: Kindle is not locked in
A couple of people have stated the Kindle is not a lock-in, but in both cases have cited how easy it is to get other formats ON to the Kindle.
That's not dealing with lock-IN but lock-OUT and, fair enough, they are right on that basis.
The lock-IN is true though. Buy from Amazon, which you do if you buy from on the Kindle device itself, and the book you get will work on all Amazon devices and in all Amazon reader software. That's it. And that IS lock-in.
There's talk of Calibre and, true enough, it converts formats. Unless you want to crack the DRM though you still won't get your Amazon-bought ebook onto a Sony, Nook or Kobo. That's lock-in.
I'm against proprietary as much as anyone
But I have to dispel the myth that the Kindle is somehow 'locked in'. You can download Calibre and convert pretty much any ebook format to one that the Kindle will read. You don't have to go through proprietary software, such as the dreaded iTunes to transfer files to or from it, plug it into your PC and it shows up as an external drive. It is a bit of a pain that it doesn't natively support epub, but it is by no means an insurmountable obstacle.