Friday, May 21, 2010

Kobo Reader or Kindle/Nook/Sony - A follow-up as Kobo reaches Australia

About two weeks ago, I wrote a blog article on the press treatment of the new barebones Kobo reader vs the more capable and more expensive Kindle because the vast majority of the articles don't mention the many reading features that the Kobo doesn't have while saying that the Amazon needs to compete on its price, going lower to match the Kobo.

  Actually, Amazon has needed to have a no-features reader for some time, like the Sony Pocket, because some people really don't want or need anything more than the text from the books, at a doable price for them.  And the Kobo pricing is attractive.

  But that means reports comparing readers should mention the various reading features that are on one but not on the other.  For some reason, that's rare in articles on the Kobo vs Kindle.  They do point out that one doesn't have wireless downloads of e-books (it IS an expensive feature if via cellular wireless).

  Reading-features like the more basic study tools are important to some.
1. an in-line dictionary
2. searching of book for words, a character in a book, or an event
3. the ability to highlight and take notes and refer to them

The Nook and other e-readers all include these features.

See more feature-set differences described earlier.

  Those added features won't be important to others, which means the features do need to be discussed so that buyers know what they're getting (or not)  for the price asked if deciding between readers.

  Many want readers for their children, but for older students they may want the added study tools while not realizing that one reader doesn't have them.

  The ability to access, while reading a book, Wikipedia for more information at no added cost, globally, is not a small consideration for students.  As we've seen, the cost of 3G cellular wireless on an iPad is an extra $130 (on top of the $500 model)  for the capability plus $15-$30 per month.  So this is somewhat valuable for the extra $100 between the Kobo and the Kindle.

  Where the Kobo is very good for students or anyone is its ability, in the U.S.  to enable borrowing of e-books from public libraries which the Kindle does not do.   The Kobo also has an SD slot for expansion to allow more books to be stored, as its internal storage holds about 33% less than the Kindle.

  While I consider being able to listen, via the Kindle, to mp3's nice enough and feel that the text-to-speech for books, newspapers and personal docs can be useful for brief periods, I wouldn't look for them in an e-reader or consider them important.

 The latest articles do mention the worth of wireless access to books.
  In the U.S., Japan, Hong Kong and Mexico, Kindle users can also use google and look up text info from almost anywhere they are, though this is useful mainly at mobile-device optimized websites, as larger images are slow to load.  Amazon says it hopes to enable web-browsing internationally eventually, depending on regional telecommunication pricing arrangements they can get.

  Kindle owners who are U.S. residents, or are in the mentioned regions where the web browser is enabled, have access to the text of the full New York Times and several other newspapers, in mobile-device optimized format.
  Granted - it's not pretty at all, and gadget press have tended to call it "dowdy"-looking, but some actually don't mind reading mainly-words when wanting information and when there's no added charge for it and you can access it while sitting on a bus. 

  See the mobiweb entry for how that's done and for a file that provides the links in book-form.  This file works only with the Kindle though.

  There is a flood of Kobo vs Kindle reports especially from Australia, where the Kobo was recently released and I've been asked a few times for my take on the Kobo.    Here are two longer reports that are informative and balanced.

1.    Techlogg

      The report is from Australia where they have more limited wireless,
      so they can access only the Amazon store and Wikipedia.
' ...the jewel in the crown for the Kindle is its built-in worldwide 3G connectivity that allows users to buy books directly from the website without having to touch a computer or browser. What’s more, the 3G service is free. You don’t need to sign up for any contracts – you just activate it and away you go.

  The Kobo requires ebooks to be purchased via its webstore through a computer.
The Kindle 2 is more technically advanced than the Kobo but for those wanting to dip a toe into the ebook waters without having to deal with overseas purchases, the Kobo is going to be very hard to beat at its $199 [Aus., equiv $149 US] price tag.'

2. News, another Australian news site
       This is a hands-on report with photos.
' Kobo lets you browse your personal library, choose a book, turn the pages and bookmark your place before you stop reading.  That’s as complicated as it gets, precisely because that’s as simple as it should be.  Like the original netbooks, Kobo is designed around pretty much one key task. '
  They point out that the feel of the unit is good but that the rubbery navigation button will be frustrating to southpaws.  That would be true of the Kindle's navigation button as well.
' But Kobo cuts some corners to keep the price down. The display shows only eight levels of grayscale (eight shades from white to black), so while the screen has decent contrast – especially in a well-lit environment – it’s not as ‘rich’ as Kindle’s 16-shade screen.

Page turning is also noticeably laggard, with each flip of the virtual page briefly pausing to show what looks like a photographic negative before the new page appears.  It’s a bothersome and distracting trait, especially when you turn pages twice as often as on a regular book (because you’re only able to see one page at a time on the screen).

The Kindle’s page-turn response is faster, snappier and less intrusive – evidence of a faster processor, superior operating system and/or display IO.

In addition to the inbuilt 1GB of flash memory, which Borders says can hold 1,000 typical books (one hundred public domain titles are preloaded), Kobo sports an SD card slot for adding thousands more titles to your grab-and-go library.

Publications in ePub and PDF formats (both open and DRM-protected) are first downloaded to your Windows or Mac system and then sideloaded onto Kobo over a USB cable or off the SD card.
Want Wi-Fi or 3G access to the bookstore so you can browse, buy and download on the move? Then Kobo’s not for you. But that won’t bother the bulk of consumers who are already comfortable using the same PC-centric approach for loading music into their iPods.
... as a starter, the $199 [Aus., equiv $149 US] sticker on this sweet, simple and rather stylish ebook reader could make the Kobo as hard to put down as any best-seller. '

Disclaimer: I do the A Kindle World blog but am interested in reading about all the coming e-readers and tablets.

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