Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Kobo versus Kindle

In our household, we have both a Kindle and a Kobo.  I thought some people might be interested in a comparison.  

In short, the Kindle behaves as if Apple had designed it, while the Kobo behaves as if Microsoft designed it.  The Kobo is both slower and clumsier.  Its big advantage is that you can download books from the library, if they have digital editions.

For those who are interested, I've provided a more detailed comparison below.  It's not intended to be comprehensive, just my personal reaction to the two devices.

Physical Attributes
The screen size is exactly the same on both devices, but overall the Kindle is slightly larger and heavier because of its keyboard.  So the Kobo wins in being slighting lighter.

Reading Books
Both screens are easy on the eyes.   No backlighting so they don't feel like computers.  Good contrast.

Both keep track of where you left off reading and return you to that spot.  However, you can't renew a library book (at least in Toronto), so if you take it out again to finish reading it, there's no record of where you left off.  (You can go to the Table of Contents and start at a particular chapter if you remember that.)

It's nice that the Kindle allows you to turn the page with either a right-side or a left-side button.  Also, on our Kindle, one of the buttons is very quiet (nice if you read in a shared bed!), while the Kobo's only button makes a loud clicking noise.

On both the Kobo and the Kindle you can easily look up a word.  This is marvellously easy on the Kindle - you just highlight the word in question.  On the Kobo it takes a few clicks.  I haven't actually tried this yet, because you can't look up words on borrowed books which is all that's loaded on our Kobo so far.

The Kindle allows to highlight sections and place a bookmark both of which are handy features.  Being able to search for any word in a book is another helpful feature of the Kindle - say you're reading a book like Anna Karenina and you want to refer back to when one of the characters was introduced.  Presto, it's easy.

Getting Books
Well, nothing could be simpler than the Kindle.  As long as you're in cell phone range, you just type in the name of the book, using the keyboard below the screen.  One click buys it and it's almost instantly available to read.  If you change your mind within 24 hours, you can reverse the purchase.  And if you accidentally delete a book from the Kindle, Amazon still knows you've bought it and you can download it again. 

So far, I've only downloaded books to the Kobo from the library (yippee - free!), a two-step process that starts on the computer.  First you download the book to the Adobe Digital Editions library (which you had to download first).  When you attach your Kobo, the book automatically downloads.  After safely disconnecting, the Kobo takes a while to process the downloaded book.  I was able to stumble in doing this process a couple of times, still not sure how.  You can also download books from a store this way, or download directly to the Kobo if you have WiFi.

As I've mentioned, you can download books from the library - but precious few of the ones I've looked for are held by the Toronto Public Library.  Since Toronto has the largest urban library system  in North America (99 branches compared to New York's 86 for instance) and the busiest urban library in the world, I doubt if a user would fare better at other public libraries.

Miscellaneous Factors

Everything is slooooow on the Kobo compared to the Kindle.  This is not noticeable when turning a page, but at all other times.  For instance, once you've selected a book to read, instead of Kindle's almost instant display, the Kobo tells you it's loading.........

I like the fact that the Kindle always displays how much battery is left; on the Kobo, it's a couple of clicks to find that out.  The Kindle comes with a dual charger (either USB on your computer or in regular plug outlet), whereas the Kobo only comes with USB charger (don't know yet whether I can use the Kindle USB adapter to plug the Kobo into an outlet.

We found out an interesting thing about borrowed library books.  At Toronto Public Library they have a 3-week loan period and they cannot be renewed.  However, it's Adobe Digital Editions that keeps track of the expiry date, so if you don't activate the Kobo on your computer, then you can keep reading for as long as you want.

P.S.  If you're thinking of buying the Kobo Vox instead, read my review of that device here.


Catherine said...

Hi Lib - Like your comparison to mac and pc. I'm a mac user, so my mind might already be made up. However, I have three young children and am looking for an e-reader we can all use. Love the library option of Kobo but am most interested in the read-to-me feature of the Kindle. With young kids, what reader do you think might be better?

Lib said...

Hi Catherine,

I hadn't used text-to-speech, but decided to check it out after your comment. It's pretty good. I preferred slow speed (which isn't that slow) to default, but that might change as I got more practice.

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Margo MacLaurin said...

I am a confirmed Kindle user. I by-passed the not being able to download from Cdn. libraries by joining a U.S. library for a fee of $15.00 per year.No problem downloading to the Kindle. Love your blog. It was sent to me by my sister, Barb McNally.

Margo MacLaurin

Jenny Day said...

Actually, the library books on Kobo do expire without plugging back into the computer. I had to recharge the battery the other day just using the wall plug and once that was done, the library books had expired. Boo!