Black Friday came to Canada this year. With the Canadian dollar hovering around parity with the US in recent years (and 90% of Canadians living within 100 miles of the US border), many have been going to the US for Black Friday. Canadian retailers finally noticed and are trying to keep that business here. As a bonus, most Canadians hadn’t caught on, so it was easy to get the door-crasher deals.
One that caught my eye was the Kobo Mini eReader, reduced from the regular $80 down to $50. It was too good to pass up, so we grabbed one for each of the kids. You can see one of them pictured on the right.
The screen is five inches, significantly smaller than the six inch screen on my Kindle. This fits more easily into a pocket or purse. At four inches wide, it’s just a bit bigger than a typical smartphone. Thus it’s easy to carry with you everywhere. The screen is every bit as sharp as the Kindle, and has good contrast. It uses a touchscreen as well.
A standard micro-USB plug is provided for charging and side-loading. But it doesn’t conform to the USB standard, so it doesn’t work with Linux. It only works with Windows after installing the Kobo application. It’s supposed to work with MacOS as well, but I can’t verify that.
UPDATE (2012-12-28): Kobo pushed an update a few days ago that apparently fixed the USB issue. Now when I plug it in and tell it to connect to the computer it shows up as a standard mass storage device, making side-loading easy.
The software is not quite as streamlined as the Kindle, although the features are similar. It lacks the “mail to Kindle” functionality, so you have to side-load any eBooks not downloaded from the Kobo store.
Update (2012-12-18): My son discovered that you can use the built-in browser to navigate to sites with downloadable epubs and download directly into the eReader. Very nice.
The Kobo store is accessed via built-in WiFi. There is an option to download free eBooks from Project Gutenberg, but it doesn’t seem to allow searching just the free eBooks. You can either scroll sequentially through an alphabetical listing of thousands of free eBooks (impractical), or you can search the combined free and paid list. Worse, it doesn’t clearly distinguish which is which in the search results. Instead of “Buy Now” the button says “Download Now”, but this is often just a free sample of a paid eBook. It’s easier to search and download from a PC, then side-load.
There is no speaker or headphone jack, so it can’t play mp3s, or do text-to-speech. But then again the Kindle mp3 player was largely useless anyway (all the mp3s are placed in a single list, and you can only start from the first one).
One feature Kobo has that Kindle doesn’t is Facebook integration, which will automatically post information about what you’re reading. The kids are still too young for Facebook, so we didn’t try it.
There are also a variety of reading awards that are tracked automatically. The kids enjoy these. They didn’t need any motivation to read anyway, but they might help with kids who are less inclined to read.
The battery life is not as good as claimed, although it’s more than adequate. They claim more than one month with WiFi turned off, the same as the Kindle. I can vouch for this with my Kindle. I read about an hour a day, and recharge when it gets down to about 50%, which happens about every two weeks or so. The kids are reading about two hours a day, and having to recharge at least twice a week.
I was skeptical of this claim anyway. The smaller screen might use a bit less power, but the screen is not a big power draw with eInk anyway. The rest (CPU, storage and WiFi) must be more or less the same. But the battery has to be smaller to make the eReader so much smaller and lighter (4.73oz versus 7.5oz for the Kindle Touch)
All in all, we are happy with them. There are a few improvements I’d like to see. But the kids love them. Definitely a bargain at $50. I just hope Kobo can keep up the good fight with Amazon.
- Kobo Mini Available At The Amazing Low Price Of $49.99 For Black Friday And Cyber Monday In The U.S. (prnewswire.com)
- Read all about it! Kobo eBooks App and New Social eReading App are coming (blogs.blackberry.com)
- Christmas Gift Guide: Best eReaders (sfluxe.com)
- Introducing Kobo (bookpeopleblog.wordpress.com)
- Gear Diary eReaders Holiday Guide (geardiary.com)
- E-readers in demand as tech gits (usatoday.com)