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Kobo Mini and Kobo Glo: First impressions

Posted By Joanna Cabot On October 5, 2012 @ 10:46 am In Kobo | 12 Comments

Kobo Glo [1]

I was at Indigo the other day while they were setting up the new Kobo readers and I got to play with both the Glo and the Mini. My overall verdict: I was impressed! I don’t agree with all of the choices Kobo has made with their software, but they are more ‘personal preference’ things by now, as opposed to glaring bugs which need fixing.

The Retail Advantage

One thing I do have to give Kobo props for right off the bat is their employee training—their extensive retail presence (especially here in Canada, where they are branded with our major bookstore chain) is a huge selling point, and they have trained the front-line staff well. I visited two Indigo stores [2] and checked out the display. At each store, I was approached right away by an employee. Both could answer a range of basic questions about the Kobo products. At varying stages, they reached their limit but at that juncture they each knew whom to fetch. Props to Kobo for making sure that their retail partners know the deal and equip each store with a Kobo expert!

General Impressions

Both the hardware and software look slick. I was able to hold both devices before they clamped them into the display stands, and they had elegant designs and felt nice in my hands. I had been drooling over the Mini, but on examination it felt a little too small. I am all about the ergonomics these days, and in spite of its lightness, I’m not sure the Mini will work for me. The form factor is not right for holding properly. But … it’s so lightweight! Maybe once after-market cases that make it feel more like a book are available, I’ll feel differently.

As for the reading experience, I was surprised by how nice the books looked. Both Kobo devices use the same software interface, and it’s much more customizable than the Kindle. You can change the font size (via sliders, which is not my preference, but oh well) and also the font face, the line spacing, justification, boldness and so forth. I played with a few fonts and found one I liked, which really did spruce up how the book looked. It’s much less computery and much more book-looking.

Kobo has also finally enabled shelves! It takes a few extra clicks to get to them (compared to my Kindle Touch), but if you want to organize your books, you can do so now. And there is also a separate wishlist feature, so that books you save for later won’t clutter up your library.

Fancy Frills

Kobo Mini [3]

Kobo Mini

Each new Kobo has a special feature. On the Mini, it’s the rear faceplate. It’s removable and you can swap it out for a different color. The colorful replacements aren’t available yet, but they will be available in a few weeks.

And of course, the Glo has the glowing light. It turns on with a small button, and has an on-screen slider so you can tweak the brightness. The light was very blue-looking to me, but that was in daylight in a well-lit store. At night, in the dark, I may like it better.

Room for Improvement

One thing Kobo won’t let you customize: how your progress is displayed. This is an issue I’ve had with them way back from Kobo 1. The Kobo will display how many pages you have left in the chapter, but I couldn’t get it to display how many pages you have left in the book as a whole. I find I get very disoriented without a progress marker. It’s one of the reasons I have never enjoyed reading on a computer. I do wish Kobo would give you better progress markers.

I also dislike how difficult Kobo makes it to reload books from your library. After all this time, they still make you re-sync with your computer for that. That is just unconscionable to me. My Kindle Touch can be used without a computer at all. It even updates over-the-air. I can’t believe that this allegedly cutting-edge new Kobo still makes you hook into your desktop and run updates through their clunky desktop software.

Final Verdict

I am tempted—very tempted—by the pretty fonts and the slick reading stats features. It’s definitely a prettier reading experience than on my Kindle, and I find the Kindle Touch a tiny bit too heavy for comfortable reading. But the Amazon UI is just so much easier. Everything on the Kobo seems like it takes one or two extra steps, and I would miss the computer-free operation of the Kindle and the ability to email e-book files straight onto my device.

Additionally, I do enjoy the ability to read on more than one device and sync my progress between them. But I can’t stand the Kobo iOS app. It lacks features the Kindle app has (such as the ability to sync notes and progress for even side-loaded content), and is a huge disk space hog. So I feel like if I jumped ship to Kobo, I’d be saddled with their app, and I don’t want to be.

I am keeping my Kindle Touch for now, I guess, but I’m not 100 percent happy with it. I wish it wasn’t too late to trade it in for the lighter Kindle 4 with the buttons. I did eagerly anticipate the Kobo launch. I hoped the Mini might be for me. But on the balance of features, I’m not yet ready to part with my Kindle. If I could have the Kobo Glo’s hardware and font options with the Kindle’s computer-free UI, I’d be happy.


12 Comments (Open | Close)

12 Comments To "Kobo Mini and Kobo Glo: First impressions"

#1 Comment By fbr On October 5, 2012 @ 4:18 pm

“I also dislike how difficult Kobo makes it to reload books from your library. After all this time, they still make you re-sync with your computer for that. That is just unconscionable to me. My Kindle Touch can be used without a computer at all. It even updates over-the-air. I can’t believe that this allegedly cutting-edge new Kobo still makes you hook into your desktop and run updates through their clunky desktop software.”

Not sure what you are referring to. I have a Kobo Touch and I never use the desktop application and I have never needed to. It also updates “over-the-air”.

#2 Comment By Joanna On October 5, 2012 @ 5:08 pm

I mean that there is no ‘archived items’ functionality. If you delete something off your device and then you want to load it back again, you have to go to a computer to re-sync it into your library. Way too many steps.

#3 Comment By KHA On October 5, 2012 @ 5:57 pm

Sounds like the Paperwhite is really what you want since you now can get more fonts on it.

#4 Comment By Alexander Inglis On October 6, 2012 @ 8:38 am

If I am reading the post correctly, Joanne, you reviewed this device in the store without taking it home?

I bought a Kobo Glo a couple of days ago; the “glow” in a darkened room is not blue and is remarkably “paper white”. It’s much more impressive than I was expecting, and a far better experience than using a booklight (such as Kindle offers in some of its Kindle cases).

I have not plugged Glo into a computer yet. Right out of the box, it updated over my home wifi to the most recent firmware and, once I logged into my account, found my books and loaded them. There is a brief tutorial which steps you through all the features — very slcik (it can be invoked again from the help). I also have a Kobo Touch and the new Kobo Glo automatically found and loaded my current Shelves. My two current open books synced properly with the bookmarks (I am reading one on the Touch and one through the Android app on a ASUS Nexus 7 tablet).

Kindle has a more elegant way to handle archives. But you don’t need to go to a computer if you delete something from your Touch or Glo (or app). From the Glo, go back to the store and locate the item and “buy it” again: the button flips to download (no charge since you own it). But, no cable or computer is required — it’s all on the device over wifi.

You can add additional non-Kobo content over the air, too, if you are so inclined. Again, not the same as Kindle: you don’t email yourself stuff. Calibre, for those who like to manage their own content from a variety of sources, can be setup for a private webpage you can access anywhere you have wifi. Content can be added over wifi using that option. Personally, I stick to Kobo content. If I want to read Kindle or Overdrive library books, I switch to the tablet where I have access to all three apps on one device.

Not mentioned: it’s not just the font customizability that Kobo delivers. The new screen is crisper thanks to higher resolution e-ink (“XGA”). Only the Kindle Paperwhite and Kobo Glo have it. And, of course, Amazon only sells the old Kindle in Canada. If you want the latest screen technology and a built in light, Kobo Glo is for you.

Kobo Glo is the slickest, most complete ereader Kobo has released yet and is a joy to read on. I highly recommend it.

#5 Comment By Guillaume On October 6, 2012 @ 10:40 am

Hi,
Concerning Calibre, it’s impossible to use it with the Kobo Glo for the moment.
The device is not yet recognize.

#6 Comment By Andrew On October 6, 2012 @ 9:06 pm

Why is she referring to the Kindle Paperwhite as the “Kindle Touch”? Quite confusing…

#7 Comment By Joanna Cabot On October 7, 2012 @ 8:00 am

I was comparing them to my Kindle Touch. I have never seen a Paperwhite and was not referring to them at all.

#8 Comment By Mary On October 7, 2012 @ 11:28 am

Joanna, if you want to see a video comparison between the Nook Simple Touch with Glowlight and the Kobo Glo, see:

[4]

This was done after the Paperwhite announcement but before its release, which is why only those 2 are included. I am SO impressed with all the adjustments the Glo can make. I have a Kindle Paperwhite and love it, but also need an e-pub reader because some digital library books are only available that way. I don’t think you would go wrong with the Glo. I am really leaning toward getting one to add to my stable of e-readers which is getting embarrassing.

#9 Comment By Steph On October 8, 2012 @ 9:05 am

On the ‘Room for Improvement’ regarding displaying the number of remaining pages, this is down to the way the ebook file is created. On my own Kobo Touch, I find some ebooks count pages chapter-by-chapter (as described), but others use a total page count. Strangely enough, it’s usually DRM-free ones that do the latter.

#10 Comment By Andrea On October 24, 2012 @ 11:29 pm

One thing I really like about Kobo ereaders, is that you can download books from public libraries. You can’t do that with any Kindle product in Canada. I will also reiterate what several reviewers pointed out that was erroneous in your review, the new Kobo Glo does not need to plug into a computer to download. IT USES WIFI RIGHT OUT OF THE BOX.
For those who are looking for a tablet style ereader, something important to note about the KINDLE FIRE is that MOST OF THE APPS DON’T WORK IN CANADA! It really only works to download books so don’t waste your money if you want a tablet to download movies, newspapers, videos, games etc.
I have been doing a lot of research about tablets recently and came across some really good information on goodereader.com.

#11 Comment By Guillermo On November 26, 2012 @ 11:08 am

Hi Guillaume, no problem to sync with Calibre, it works perfectly. Really except for looking for firmware upgrades, using Calibre is the best way of managing your own book library.

#12 Comment By marie On December 23, 2012 @ 4:55 pm

I am not impressed with Kobo Glow at all. I bought to give to my mum for Xmas and will not be doing so. I was told there was a charger with it only to find out that he meant the one to charge with a computer.
I cannot get home to work on it and it just stays on the novel that I downloaded. It is not a user friendly piece of electronics to give to an elderly woman.
Only good thing is the screen is bright and does not glare and the fonts can be changed.


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