I purchased one of these units a few months back, and having had a chance to use it for a while thought I’d weigh in with my thoughts on the unit, and using eReaders in general.

I do a lot of reading on the job, almost entirely from a laptop or lcd screen. I try to read a lot in my free time too, and have always liked the feel of a paperback book. I’ve noticed recently that I am having a harder time reading large documents on my laptop. I need to parse long technical documents frequently, and more and more have been struggling to get through them and retain information. I can’t pinpoint the cause of this, whether my aging mind is simply having more trouble focusing (particularly on details I often find quite dull), or the manner in which our new media bombards us is affecting my ability to and desire to push through 200 pages of mostly crap, or my eyes are no longer to deal with backlit screens, or any of the other myriad of possible causes. The fact was that I hadn’t been able to digest written material on my laptop as well as I had in the past, and this was affecting my work and my enjoyment of reading overall.

So I set out to try to do something about it. My first instinct was to try to switch up the way in which the information was being presented to me. My brother purchased a Kobo last year and was pretty positive about the experience and how his entire family enjoyed it. so I thought it was worth a shot. I have to admit, I didn’t do much more research than that – his endorsement and a few minutes with the device was enough for me to take the $140 flyer. I did make sure that I’d be able to read or convert documents of common formats (pdf and word docs are the big ones for me), and that I could get a device that supports Wi Fi so I didn’t have to cable it all the time.

First Thoughts
Overall I love this thing. The screen is great in most circumstances. I enjoy reading in the sun over a coffee, and the display is perfect for that. The form factor is just the right size for me. It is not as nice as holding a paperback, but I prefer it to a hardcover book. The interface is not great but quick to learn – there’s a touch model out now and I imagine that is a good addition. The only real downside is the lack of ability to add multiple bookmarks – many of my favourite books are full of dog-eared pages to mark the best passages and there is no way to do this here.

My initial impressions came through trying to read technical documents. This is not a perfect world. You will probably need to convert the documents. I’ve found that although the device supports different formats, often the page formatting of documents produced on a computer will not be perfect for the device. You can adjust the font size, but often in order to see a whole page, the font will end up too small. If you are going to be reading things that were NOT specifically formatted for the device, you will want to reformat. This is a bit of noodle, but that is hardly a surprise – the device is very specific, and if you need a general purpose tool don’t go with this. I’m okay with it, however. I’m a techie, I expect this type of thing, and the physical format of the device and the quality of the display make up for it.

Reading eBooks published for the device is a treat. I’m back to reading regularly for pleasure, and this makes the purchase worth 100 times what I paid for it. Books are easy to find – some are free online, many libraries support e-book borrowing, and, of course, all the major retailers are happy to sell you copies and make it very easy to do so. I make sure I keep copies on the device and on my laptop for back-up purposes, and haven’t run into any DRM issues (yet).

Formatting for the Kobo
If you want to read anything on the Kobo that is not specifically formatted for it, you will need to download a copy of Calibre (for the Mac fans out there, try Sigil). There are other solutions out there, this seems to be the one with the most traction. Overall it’s a very good package. Once again, it is a bother to have to do this: if you aren’t technical and you just want a plug and play solution then do NOT buy an eReader to read things not specifically formatted for the device.