I have been using my new Kobo electronic book reader for a month now, so it is time for me to ponder what I do and do not like about it and how it compares with reading the old fashioned way from a book with paper pages.
Apparently the e-book reader has evolved from more primitive forms. I have been exposed to various e-readers which our e-book son has brought home over the past few years, and yes, they were more primitive. I cannot remember the names of any of them, but they were exceedingly unsatisfactory to use and hard on the eyes. When this same son brought home a Kobo, I read a trial Trollope story on it and immediately demanded, “Please buy me one of these!”
The print on the Kobo is just as plain and easy to read as the words on a paper page, and the user has the added advantage of being able to enlarge or diminish the size of the print—something not possible with paper copy. I have never seen a Kindle, but I believe that they are also as easy to read as print on paper.
The Kobo feels good in my hands. It is thin and handy to carry about at home or on outings. In fact it is less tiring to hold and read than a large hardbound book. And when I carry a traditional book about with me, I have one book. When I take the Kobo with me, I have a couple of hundred books. If I tire of reading “The Woman in White,” I can spell myself with a Sherlock Holmes story or two before going back to my novel. And if I am reading a more than one novel at one time, the Kobo keeps track of where I am in each book.
Now I must mention a few disadvantages that the Kobo has.
Obviously, being an electronic device, it is more tender and fragile than a book. When I rise from my chair to go to the bathroom or get a glass of wine, I usually leave my book in the chair, since if I accidentally sit down on it, no harm is done. With the Kobo, I must always put it in a safe place when no bottom will bash it or harm befall it. Also, there are certain places, such as judicial courts, where electronic devices are not allowed. When on jury duty, I cannot take my handy Kobo, but must carry a physical book.
It is impossible to “flip through” the Kobo, as one can the pages of a book. When bedtime approaches, it has been my custom to flip ahead to see if I am almost at the end of a chapter, which I might finish before retiring. This is slow and cumbersome with the Kobo, so I usually just stop where I am, not knowing whether the chapter will end in a page or two.
Another feat which is easy with a paper book but impossible or nearly so with an e-book reader is going to a specific page. It is easy to flip to page 247 in “The Way We Live Now” or go to the verse John 14:6 in the Bible when one is reading a physical book, but quite difficult on the Kobo.
What I find most inconvenient about the Kobo is the placement of the control buttons for Home, Menu, Shop, and Back. These are placed along the lower left edge of the Kobo. I believe that the typical person reading an e-book reader or a physical book holds the device in his left hand and turns the pages with his right hand. Certainly this is what I do. This means that the control buttons are at the exact spot a person holds as he reads. I am constantly punching one of those control buttons inadvertently and having my reading interrupted until I can get back to where I was. I cannot understand why the designer of Kobo did not place these buttons diagonally across the Kobo at the upper right edge, where no one would ever push them accidentally. Even if they were at the top left, they would not be in the place one holds onto the device as he reads. The placement of these four buttons is my main annoyance with the Kobo.
In spite of these disadvantages, I am wonderfully satisfied with the Kobo reader. I understand that the Kindle has more features, including a keyboard, but to me—an elderly avid reader—the simpler the better. I do not need more features, and I love my Kobo.