Living with the…Kobo Glo

After recently spending some time with the Amazon Paperwhite (see the review here) I was interested in trying out some of its direct competitors.

In the UK Kobo have been building a name for themselves due to a deal with large retailer WHSmith. You can’t go near a book section in any of their shops without coming across a large display of the current models from the Kobo range, albeit usually unpowered or in some state of disrepair – presumably due to the WHSMith staff rather than the quality of the devices.

The Kobo Glo that we have here is a backlit, 6″, touch enabled e-reader that supports the Kobo store ebooks alongside a healthy selection of other formats such as EPUB, PDF, TXT and RTF.  It’s small, about the same size as a paperback book, but slimmer and, as George R.R. Martin fans will attest, in many cases lighter. Pretty standard form for this type of device. Of course the main selling point for the Kobo Glo is, as the latter part of the name suggests, its illumination. Much as the Kindle Paperwhite did, the Glo brightly and evenly lights up the screen, making reading in low light no trouble at all. In fact both units did a remarkably similar job, with little to choose between them in terms of quality.

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One area that does need some attention though is the touch menu on the Glo. Whereas using the Kindle Paperwhite was a simple, no frills, no problems experience, the Glo can be frustrating. The placement of the touch points are a little close, meaning you hit the wrong option a bit too often, and there’s also lag in some areas, especially when changing the font size on larger ebooks which could render the Glo inert for several seconds. It’s a small thing, as you don’t spend much time fiddling with these elements in normal use, but Kobo would be wise to address them in any upcoming firmware patches.

The Kobo store itself is a decent size and nicely designed. There are plenty of top titles available and should fulfil the needs of most bookworms. Kobo also has apps for iOS, Android and even Blackberry , although Windows Phone 8 users will have to wait – but then they’re getting pretty used to that scenario. The ebooks you download are well formatted and behave nicely with the font and margin controls in the Glo, sadly the same can’t be said for anything else. You can read other formats, but the layout had a nasty habit of pushing itself to the very edges of the screen, and adjusting the formatting options had no discernable effect. As I’m sure you can imagine this didn’t lend itself to a particularly immerse reading experience. Of course if you stick within the Kobo universe then everything is fine and dandy.

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I suppose this is the case for many of these devices nowadays. You’re not buying an e-reader, you’re buying an (insert favourite brand here) e-reader and must be prepared to adopt the whole eco-system as your own. If you do so then life is easy and your reading will be unencumbered – except for the slow touch interface on the Glo – but you need to choose wisely, as once you’re in it can be expensive to buy your way out.

The Kobo Glo currently retails at around £100, making it cheaper than the Amazon option by about £10. If you’re not already invested then certainly give it a go, the device is good and will meet your literary needs with little fuss. For myself, I think I’m still hooked on the Paperwhite, but then with about 100 titles already purchased in the Amazon world I was hardly likely to say anything else.

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