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Is the Kobo cool?

By Alan Davies - posted Tuesday, 25 May 2010

My household acquired the new Border’s e-reader, Kobo, on the weekend. The Kobo was released on Wednesday and with the dollar crashing to below 80c at one point on Friday I figured it might be now or never.

This’ll be a brief review because I haven’t really had much time to look at it, but based on my (limited) experience over the weekend and my wife’s slightly more extended experience, here are the pros and cons of the Kobo (which by the way I take to be an anagram of “book”?). Bear in mind that we only intend to use the Kobo for reading fiction.

On the pro side:


First, it’s very cheap - just A$199. It was released on Wednesday so I don’t know if there’re any left. Its closest rival, the Kindle, is US$249 and you have to wait for delivery.

Second, you can buy it over the counter. I got this one at Borders Carlton on Friday night. I’m a big user of e-commerce but having bricks and mortar to deal with is always preferable.

Third, it really is like reading paper. The screen isn’t lit by light like an LCD but uses a technology like the Etch A Sketch. It’s very easy on the eyes compared to a computer screen or an iPhone. There is a choice of two fonts and five type sizes - I expect the range will increase as the software is revised.

Fourth, it’s lightweight (221 grams) - as light as a paperback, perhaps lighter.

Fifth, it’s a good size, equivalent to a paperback. The screen is 6”, same as the Kindle.

Sixth, and possibly most importantly (see below), you’re not tied to a single retailer as you are with the Kindle. We haven’t purchased any books yet but apparently it will take PDF and EPUB formats.


Seventh, it comes with 100 free books. These are all “out of copyright” books. Some are interesting if you haven’t already read them e.g. Anna Karenina, Of Human Bondage. I’m re-reading The Importance of Being Earnest. However these books had no bearing whatsoever on our decision to purchase the Kobo.

Eighth, it will take an SD card for more storage should you need it. Seems unlikely given that the 1GB storage it comes with will store 1,000 books according to Borders.

Ninth, it will go two weeks between charges according to Borders. If that’s true that’s great, but I haven’t been able to verify it yet.

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First published on the author's blog, The Melbourne Urbanist on May 24, 2010

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About the Author

Dr Alan Davies is a principal of Melbourne-based economic and planning consultancy, Pollard Davies Pty Ltd ( and is the editor of the The Urbanist blog.

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