a peek inside the fishbowl

01 Mar, 2011

Click click it’s KOBO!

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Oh! Things!

All the women who attended the She’s Connected Conference way back in October 2010 received a free KOBO eReader. I was one of them, and I will state for the record I was pretty excited about it. I love gadgets, and eReaders are something I’ve always wondered about. Would I like it? Would it be the thing that makes me give up printed books?

I’ve been using it for awhile now so I think I’m qualified to give my opinion on it at this point. And here it is: I don’t love it. And it’s not the killer app I thought it’d be.

It’s not exactly “use it right out of the box.” Oh, you CAN use it right away if you want. It comes pre-installed with about 100 older books. But it took me awhile to figure out how to get new books on there, especially library books – which is what I really wanted to use it for. Oh my goodness, what a pain in the butt THAT was.  I had to download a copy of Adobe Digital Editions (at least it was free) and download library books to there, and from within the ADE interface drag and drop it to the Kobo (which sounds easy now that I say it but it took me a long time to get there.)

Interestingly enough, the Kobo has forced me to really examine my reading habits and figure out what I actally like about printed books. And these are things that I haven’t thought about before.

  • I like flipping back a few pages to see where I was the night before, or flipping back to double-check plot points or past dialogue.
  • I like bookmarking passages.

I also hadn’t thought much about how much battery life affects reading. (Obviously, right?) eReaders take batteries. The other night I picked it up and was met with a low-power message, and I couldn’t read because it was out of juice. It would be nice, if, when turning it on or off you were given a quick peek at how much battery power you have left. That way you can do a preventative upcharge at the right time. And here’s a newsflash: printed books don’t need batteries!

Also, noise. Or should I say, sound. Books offer a near-silent reading experience. The gentle shuffle of a page turn is music to my ears. Mark and I both read at night before we go to bed. It is so quiet you could hear a flea sneeze (if we had fleas) and I revel in this silence. Imagine Mark turning paper pages with their tiny flea-size shuffle shuffle sound and me, with my Kobo, which sounds something like this: CLICK! (Read a little bit.) CLICK! (Read a little bit.) CLICK.

The Kobo, with its big button that you need to depress every time you want to “turn” a page, breaks the stillness of our bedroom at night, an unwelcome intrusion that bugs me.

In a day and age where the norm touch screens have become the norm (we have an iPhone and an iTouch in our house and my father-in-law has an iPad) the button seems almost weird. It’s clunky and odd. And I find myself rubbing my thumb over it as I’m reading, which is deeply annoying but I am unable to stop. In fact, I hardly know how to hold the Kobo. It’s light enough to hold with one hand (this is a good thing), but then I need my other hand to press the button to turn the page. What do lefties do?

I have been wrestling with the thing that’s been bothering me most about the Kobo, and I have finally figured it out. It’s brand new – the unit I received was especially so, it was wireless whereas the previous generation of Kobo was not – but it still looks and feels old-fashioned. (And by old fashioned I’m talking circa 1995.) It looks and feels like I’m holding a large calculator in my hands… the plastic casing, even the faux-quilted texture on the back, which presumably is meant to give it some real bookfeel fails in this regard. I don’t know why this should bother me, but it does. Isn’t this the future of reading? The kind of thing we all expected in the new millennium and we’ve all been anxiously waiting for – like jetpacks and cars that fly?

You want to know something else? It smells weird. I’d find myself deep in thought, letting the Kobo slip and rest on my upper lip while I pondered something Lisbeth Salander said… and inhale at the same time and EW WHAT IS THAT?! It doesn’t reek, like the sulphurous hell of rotting eggs and and burning hair, but it makes me wonder what’s behind the casing. It’s not enough to alarm me, but the fact remains that you don’t (usually) get bad smells with paper. Ok, so with paper there’s a smell too; it’s ink, and ghosts of dry old trees, and a warm home, and maybe if it’s an older book these smells are mixed with a liberal sprinkling of pre-mildew and dust which may be hazardous to one’s health. Even so, there’s a comfort in that smell.

I’ve talked a lot about what I don’t like. Here’s what I do like; the Kobo is light and portable and it can store about 1000 books. It would be useful if you’re the kind of person who needs to drag around a stack of books, whether you’re travelling or moving, waiting at the dentist office, or living in a tiny apartment with no shelf space.

The display looks very much like paper, which has pros and cons. It’s pleasant to look at and there’s minimal glare, but you still need light in order to read. (Doh.) I only mention that because other eReaders are backlit like the iPad. (Which, by the way, has a night mode so it’s easier on the eyes. You can choose your display: black on white or white on black.)

I looked into a mini-light for the Kobo, and they had one at my local Chapters, but when I looked closely I realized that the battery life was only 20 hours. This doesn’t seem like very much.

I like having the ability to make the font larger if I need it to be. It also has a built-in dictionary, which has come in handy, but using it requires use of the clunky pad. (See above. CLICK.)

We have entered an age of multi-use devices, and this is where I’m torn. ETA: Should we we designing single-use devices like this? And as much as I like the iPad because of its multipurposeness, it is kind of heavy. It is not the kind of thing I can hold in one hand while I lie on my side, reading in bed. What’s more, an iPad-like devise might just encourage my ADD–like tendencies. Could I make it through a whole book while using iPad?

I might go on using my Kobo, maybe for library books, but it hasn’t convinced me to give up the comfort that comes with holding a paper book in my hand.

Do you have a Kobo reader? I’d love to hear what you think about it.

25 Responses to "Click click it’s KOBO!"

1 | betsy mae

March 1st, 2011 at 12:04 pm


I like to read in the tub so that would be a big problem for me. How much are books? I tend to buy my books and pass them off to other people to read, can you ‘share’ books or are the downloads transferable (I’m guessing not) so if you and your husband each have one can you ‘share’ a book?

2 | Josee

March 1st, 2011 at 12:42 pm


I looked at the Kobo but decided on a Sony e-reader. It has the touch screen, which is great, but it doesn’t have the wireless capability of the Kobo, which isn’t a problem for me at all. The software it comes with has a built-in library finder right on the home page, so getting books from the library is no problem (my biggest reason for getting the Sony over the Kindle, which doesn’t support the e-pub format). I even love the case (which I paid extra for), since the way it folds back actually mimics the feel of a paperback with the cover folded back. The Sony e-reader is more expensive than the Kobo, but in my opinion it’s worth every penny. And it doesn’t smell!

3 | binki

March 1st, 2011 at 12:47 pm


Real readers read paper books. ;-) And they share their favourites with other readers.

4 | coffeewithjulie

March 1st, 2011 at 12:57 pm


I’ve been really tempted to buy one of these so I really appreciated your review, Andrea! And the smell thing and the CLICK made me laugh :)

5 | elsewise

March 1st, 2011 at 12:59 pm


I played with the Kobo a couple of times before deciding on a Kindle, for many of the reasons that you mentioned. I was really shocked at how clunky and slow the Kobo felt, and I like having a keyboard to make digital notes in the margins or search for a book.

I absolutely love my Kindle. I’ve used it to read dozens of books, magazines, and newpapers (Calibre, the iTunes of books, has a phenomenal newsreader thingie), both purchased and loaned (there’s a morally ambiguous workaround for library books). The best part of having an e-reader has been going away on vacation with dozens of books on hand with none of the weight or suitcase room of the physical copies.

6 | Stacey K

March 1st, 2011 at 1:15 pm


I find that I take books less seriously on the Kobo. It doesn’t seem like a book to me… so I read it more like a webpage… skim, stop, leave it for days. But with a real book, I tend to read more, and read more in depth, if that makes sense. The rest of the world doesn’t disappear for me when I read on the Kobo (which my husband actually appreciates!). It just makes reading less of an escape than it is for me when I read a real book.

My husband, however, has been reading more than ever since we got the Kobo. He absolutely loves it.

7 | Connie

March 1st, 2011 at 2:09 pm


I’m a lefty with a Kobo. :-) I’m forever trying to figure out how to hold it in a way that is comfortable and allows for the frequent CLICK. I miss paper books for all the reasons you mention above. But I have to admit that the pre-loaded book selection has meant that I have read a few classics I might otherwise never have thought to buy!

8 | andrea

March 1st, 2011 at 2:11 pm


Betsy: Sharing is easier said than done!
Stacey: good point about taking books less seriously on the Kobo. The same holds true for me too.

One thing I didn’t mention was the cost of books.
Looking at the Chapters/Indigo site for a sec here… The Paris Wife in hardcover format would cost me $18.77(I have iRewards). The e-version of the same book is $13.99. This seems steep considering it’s just data … no paper, publishing, shipping, storage etc. I don’t really want to pay more than $10 for an ebook, but maybe that’s just me.

My ideal eReader would be:

– light and portable
– comfortable to hold
– silent
– easy to use and to navigate by touch screen
– have a long battery life
– have a built-in book light
– have a fantastic storage capacity (a.k.a hold a lot of books)
– display would be picture-friendly (imagine it being used as a reference book, or a picture book!)

9 | milkfacemama

March 1st, 2011 at 3:20 pm


I have a Kobo and love some things about it and hate others. I love the size and weight and the ability to bring all kinds of books with me when I travel! I hate the blue button (mine is depressed on the right side and I feel like it will break eventually), I hate the battery problem (I do forget to charge it) and I’m really not keen on their software (I don’t have the wireless version).

I had a Sony before and didn’t like it but the Kobo is definitely not the perfect ereader.

For those who read on an ipad – does is bother your eyes?

10 | Diane

March 1st, 2011 at 4:40 pm


I have a Kindle and love it! I always thought that I would never resort to an e-reader, that I would stick to my “real books” but I have no problems with the Kindle. It’s wireless and easy to get books (even free ones). It doesn’t make a noise when you turn the page, the battery lasts for at least a month and it doesn’t smell! There is also no glare with the screen.

I researched these things for about a year before I decided on one and purchased it. I can’t complain.

P.S. I consider myself a “real reader”.

11 | Stefania (Ingredients for Life)

March 1st, 2011 at 5:09 pm


Technology like that scares me. I’m one of the few people out there who enjoys going to the library and taking out books and browsing book stores and feeling a book and its history in my hands. As a sidenote, just think of all the jobs that will be lost if this kind of technology takes off. No more brick-and-mortar book stores, no more libraries, etc. Yikes! I know, way off into the future. But that’s just me. I don’t embrace technology. Heck! I don’t even have a cell phone. I think technology is too much and too fast.

For now, I’ll stick to the old-fashion way of reading: paper, ink and glue.

12 | Alison in Ottawa

March 1st, 2011 at 5:32 pm


My Dad got a free Kobo. I tried it out for a week and I didn’t like it.

Everyone I know that has a kobo got it for free. I wonder if they are actually selling man of them.

13 | Jacquie Baillie

March 1st, 2011 at 6:34 pm


I have a Kindle and love it. My friend got the Kobo and we both agree that the Kindle is much nicer.

I also consider myself a “real reader”. My husband has been very happy that the monthly budget for my reading habit has considerably decreased since owning the Kindle.

14 | Mary @ Parenthood

March 1st, 2011 at 7:44 pm


I would love to hear your review of a kindle… Based on a very quick ogling of my friend’s device I was fairly impressed. Books _can_ smell (occasionally I get one from the library that I can’t read due to mildew or smoke and that Sucks!)

I like the idea of a book that is easy to hold open (some books are too thick for me to find it comfortable to hold)

But I too really like the tactile feedback of a real book and am not about to give up my personal library the way I’d give up videos or CDs or DVDs!

15 | Mary Lynn

March 1st, 2011 at 11:04 pm


My husband has a Kindle and I enjoy using it far more than I expected to. I also like being able to flip through the pages of a book, but I sometimes find large books to be cumbersome to hold on to and difficult to read lying in bed (which is where I often like to read). I find reading with the Kindle much easier. We’ve also found the Kindle uses very little energy and rarely needs recharging.

16 | LO

March 3rd, 2011 at 7:25 am


The original-The Kindle-is the best!

17 | Sara

March 3rd, 2011 at 8:14 am


Like you, I got the Kobo for free. I already had a Sony e-reader so I didn’t actually start using my Kobo until 2 months after I got it (the first device I got was defective and they had to ship me a new one). I prefer my Kobo over my Sony – its lighter, the screen is brighter and easier to read, and I like the menu and user interface. The Sony is easy to use but very ‘blah’, heavy, and not particularly pretty. I generally won’t pay over $10 for a book so I hunt around online quite a bit for deals. As someone who used to have stacks of books on her nightstand and nowhere to store the books I’d finished, I love having an e-reader.

18 | Amy

March 3rd, 2011 at 11:49 pm


I bought a Kobo a few months ago, I like it a lot. The library in our town doesn’t have very good hours, so being able to download books is a huge advantage for me. I also have carpal tunnel in both wrists, and I read on my side in bed a lot, so the weight was a bonus too. I haven’t had a problem with battery life, I tend to check it in the side menu pretty much every time I read. I like it a lot for vacations. I agree it’s slow, and the button is in an awkward place, but for me the pros outweigh the cons. I don’t think of it as a replacement for books (I own a lot of paperbacks), I think of it as an alternative.

19 | Eden Spodek

March 4th, 2011 at 11:04 pm


Like you and Sara, I was given a wi-fi Kobo. I also had a loaner of the original version and wrote a review on my blog last fall. I enjoy the portability of the Kobo and the instant gratification of being able to buy books online and not having to wait for delivery. Likewise, I don’t like to spend a lot of money on eBooks and look for bargains. I tend to prefer buying printed business books so I can flip back, right notes, etc. and use them for reference.

I laughed while I read your description of using your Kobo in bed and had to share it with my husband who finds the CLICK, CLICK, CLICKing sounds annoying. And we’re reading the same series. ;-)

And @binkj, real readers read eBooks too!

20 | Finola

March 5th, 2011 at 7:08 pm


I love my Kobo, and I am disappointed now when I am given a paper book and have to go back to that. I know there are a few things not perfect about it (agree that it is totally cumbersome with the library books!), but overall I just love it.

21 | Karen Geier

March 7th, 2011 at 2:42 pm


Hi Andrea,
Thanks so much for this detailed post. You’ve obviously spent a lot of time with your Kobo and given it a lot of thought : ) Looks like there are a few concerns in here we can address and hopefully help you out so you can make the most of your Kobo and have a much better experience with it:
1.       You mentioned that you also had an iTouch and an iPhone. The free Kobo app for each of these devices would allow you to highlight text and advance pages via a touch feature – no click sound.

2.       We’ve found that a lot of people enjoy the comfort and feeling of reading paper books and often, they will purchase a Kobo because is it inexpensive and great to use for travel when you don’t want to lug your home library around.

3.       As for the cost of the books, seems like Sara has some good tips, but you can always land sweet deals on our Facebook Page here: http://facebook.com/kobo
I also wanted to let you and your readers know that we have a dedicated help line 1-866-204-4714 and email address help@kobo.com where our staff can walk you through some of the setup procedures and provide some tips and tricks to make your eReading experience even better.
                Let me know if you have any other questions or comments to share,

22 | John

June 6th, 2011 at 3:05 pm


I am a Kobo user, and unlike what appears to be the majority here, I actually paid for it. Battery life is terrible, the best I ever got was 3 days. That’s with everything optional turned off.

Kobo has replaced this 3 times, & each one is worse than the previous. THe one I now have goes 1 1/2 days, 135 page max.

The actual reading part is wonderful, and I love it for

I don’t like having to carry a computer with me so I can recharge the D$#&! thing when travelling. That kinda kills the purpose of having it.

Kobo tech support has kept me waiting 10 days this time, with zero contact from my last question.
So I decided to start posting my experiences in the ebook reader sites.

Would I buy another? No.
Kobo says the battery is not replaceable.
That is wrong. I have pictures someone posted of His Kobo opened up and the battery UNPLUGGED.

IT is hard to find, but when I do find one,
I will replace it. Until then, I’ll make up a USB battery pack.

Now I know a little better, I will look a lot more carefully before buying.

23 | John

June 9th, 2011 at 11:01 am


After doing a lot of hunting I found the following:
Replacement battery: $11.00 – but shipping is a killer.
This company has a store in Montreal, one inthe US, and one in Europe.


For an emergency battery, I found the following:


You can also find it on Amazon.

I spoke with technical support, but still no updates.


24 | Another holiday giveaway! Toshiba Thrive Tablet review and giveaway >> a peek inside the fishbowl

November 18th, 2011 at 1:28 pm


[…] in handy when I read in bed. Sidebar: I own two generations of the Kobo. As some of you may recall, I wasn’t happy with the first one. The second one I received (I actually won it at an event) has a touch screen and is less clunky […]

25 | Paul

December 5th, 2012 at 6:17 pm


We have a Kobo Vox and love it. Have downloaded
books in 3 different languages. Works just fine.
Plenty of light to read in dark surroundings.
No buttons to press. A touch keyboard comes up for
comments and so forth. We even do e mail on it.
And, receive it, of course….read news articles from
various newspapers.
We are happy we have it and are thinking of a
second one.

comment form:


Stay in touch

Me and my pet projects

Ottawa Bucket list

Subscribe via email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

If you'd like to contact me, please use this form. If you're so inclined, you can read more about me here. Thank you for visiting!


Connect with me at these places too!

On the nightstand

All hail the mighty Twitter