Kobo vs Kindle – which is better?


Kobo on the left, Kindle on the right

Much as I love my Amazon Kindle, it’s not perfect. I’m now on to my third as it’s stopped working twice within a year.

So when I was offered a loan of the Kobo eReader to try out, I was intrigued to see how it would measure up. You’ve probably seen the Kobo on sale in WH Smith – in our local branch, even the staff are wearing Kobo t-shirts, so keen is the store to promote the brand.

What I liked about the Kobo eReader:

  • It’s very pretty
    As well as the regular black, the Kobo also comes in silver, blue and light purple. The soft rubber outer casing has a nice feel to it, especially with the quilted effect on the back
  • It’s a touchscreen device
    Sometimes the clicking of the buttons on the side of the Kindle to turn the page can be distracting, so it was nice to turn the Kobo pages with a silent tap of the finger. Don’t read when you’re eating toast though, it makes the screen too greasy.
  • It reads pdf files
    Some libraries will now lend ebooks in pdf format – you would have to convert these if you wanted to read them on a Kindle, whereas with the Kobo you can download and read straight away.
  • Reading community included
    The Reading Life function is a giant online bookclub, and seems to work like a combination of Goodreads and Facebook.
  • It’s very simple to use
    I had to go to the Kobo setup website, download some software, but it was all pretty simple and all done in under 10 minutes. From there, once you start buying books they’re downloaded on to the device with seconds.
  • Extra functions
    Tucked away in the menu I found a drawing function where you can draw pictures on the screen with your finger, and a Sudoku puzzle option. Hours of fun, who needs reading?

Apart from that it’s all very similar to the Kindle – you can either buy books via your PC or directly from the Kobo when you’re out and about via wifi; you can share ebooks with other devices via a dedicated app and it can hold more books than you could ever read in a lifetime. As you can see from the picture above, the screen size is the same for both.


What I didn’t like:

  • Less book choice than for the Kindle
    They didn’t have my book on Kobo format – quelle horreur! With over 2 million Kobo titles available, mainstream books are well covered, smaller titles less so. There are a wide range of free and self-published titles (with some of the worst cover designs I’ve ever seen). If you’re the sort of person who can generally find a book you like in a large branch of WH Smith, then you’ll be happy with the choice available for the Kobo.
  • Home screen advertises books you haven’t bought
    Whereas the Kindle only shows the titles in your library, the Kobo shows other featured titles you might enjoy. Some may find these suggestions helpful, I found it irritating.



Kobo colour options
Kobo colour options




In conclusion:

The Kobo eReader is a good, though not perfect alternative to the Amazon Kindle. I think it’ll be most suited to people who are used to touch screen devices; anyone who reads fairly mainstream books; and teen girls who like the purple and silver styling.

If you’re already used to buying your books from Amazon, then the Kobo is of less interest. But for people who are new to ebooks, the WH Smith connection gives the reassurance of a familiar brand. I can see a lot of aunties and in laws getting this as a gift.

The option to share your reads via Facebook may also appeal to younger readers who aren’t yet in Amazon’s clutches – my 12 year old bookworm daughter was very keen on the Kobo and didn’t want to send it back.

The facts
The Kobo eReader ranges in price from £59.99, compared to entry level for the Kindle at £89. It’s available online and instore from WH Smith.

  • Does the Kobo have a browser option and can you upload pdf files to it?

  • @Nickie – Yes, if you go into the ‘Extras’ part of the menu there’s a web browser that will take you straight in to Google. However, like the Kindle the screen is in black/grey and white so it’s not really ideal for surfing the web, though it would do if you didn’t have a smartphone and needed to get online quickly.

    @Angela – Yes, it’s interesting the difference the colours make. The Kindle looks very utilitarian in comparison. And I will be getting on to my publisher to get my book in there, it’s a glaring omission LOL!

  • Wow! I love those colours! *The teen me squealled*
    But seriously, it’s really pretty. Kindle never appeal to me because it kinda look cheap and boring, like any first generation devices really. And I love all the plus points for Kobo. Even the minus points arent bothering me much, although – how dare they not have your book in their library?! Shocking! After seeing your review they better do something about it!

  • black chinos

    I love those colours, so cute!

  • Mum has one in classic black, from when this was out with touch, but the Kindle wasn’t.
    The new models are pretty cool, though it seems every E-ink reader will have to have an integrated light model available.

    One thing that the forums at http://www.mobileread.com/forums/ have been commenting on, is the lacklustre firmware release, where the 1st issue of 2.0 (never trust a .0) had some bricking issues, though fortunately, the factory reset option is pretty robust. After fixing that, there was a serious slowdown in page turning on sideloaded (universal EPUB format) books. It seems they are finally close to a release that might actually be considered good.

    The freeware http://calibre-ebook.com/ is an excellent partner to the Kobo device, converting DRM-free material between formats.

    Yes, the Kobo can do PDF, and supports turning into landscape mode for PDF viewing, but if the PDF is not layout critical, it may be better to convert to EPUB so that text can reflow, the fly in that ointment is that PDF is regarded as one of the worst source formats for conversion, as more complex layouts can give rise to conversion problems.

    PS. Other than it’s own “KEPUB” version of EPUB, the preferred format for Kobo is just EPUB, and other than Kobo store’s own DRM, is Adobe Digital Editions (compatible with many libraries lending ebooks)