Showing posts with label KOReader. Show all posts
Showing posts with label KOReader. Show all posts

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

KOReader's improved battery life on the Aura One

KOReader has gradually improved battery life on the Kobo Aura One. At first, KOReader drained the Aura One's battery that it was necessary to carry a charger. However, the same can be said with Kobo's own software (Nickel). It took far too long but Kobo's recent updates finally resolved the erratic battery problems. Personally, I prefer Nickel for e-books and KOReader when reading PDF files (there is no E-Ink platform that matches KOReader's PDF features). Fortunately, it is relatively easy to switch between Nickel and KOReader on the Aura One.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Kindle Oasis and PDF support

KOReader, in comparison to Amazon's native Kindle operating system, offers more features for PDF documents. However, KOReader's software is not stable and the interface is convoluted; the KOReader project is an excellent community driven project but there has been no stable release since November 2015. Thus, to get the right version to work with recent devices, e.g. the Kobo Aura One, it is necessary to download and install a nightly build.

Despite the extra features that KOReader supports, I still prefer Kindle's software. In my opinion, what makes the Kindle's software preferable is its simplicity. The menus are simple and clear - there is one display settings menu that changes orientation, margins and increases contrast. The pinch to zoom, relative to other E-Ink e-readers, works well. Further, highlighting is smooth and dictionary, Wikipedia and translation look-up are all supported. In other words, Amazon put some thought into their PDF support and get the necessary features right. This good PDF support is a significant factor that makes the recently announced Kindle Oasis, with its extra screen estate, an attractive e-reader, despite its relatively high pricing.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Why Kobo is the best option for larger e-readers

If you are looking for an e-reader larger than 6 inches then Kobo is the best option (Kobo sells devices at three different sizes - 6, 6.8 and 7.8 inches). Below are some reasons that make Kobo e-readers the right choice:
  1. Quality hardware - Onyx and Boyue screens are hit and miss; the biggest issue is a lack of contrast and issues with screen refresh (text appears greyish black). In comparison, with Kobo, you are assured of a screen with good enough contrast. 
  2. Easier returns - A common problem with front-lit e-readers is light bleed; Kobo's larger scale - owned by Rakuten - means device return is easier if there is a display defect. 
  3. OverDrive integration - You don't need to install an Android application, designed for tablets, to access OverDrive. Further, e-books may be borrowed and read using Kobo's software. 
  4. Cost - Larger e-readers are a niche product in an e-reader market dominated by the six inch form factor and so pricing tends to be inflated. For example, the eight inch ONYX BOOX I86ML is priced near £220 and the 6.8 inch ONYX BOOX T76 Plus is priced at £160. Kobo, in comparison, price the Aura One at £190 and the previous generation Kobo H20 (6.8 inch E-Ink Carta display) at £130.  
  5. KOReader - It is possible to install third-party e-reading applications on Kobo e-readers; this is a good thing, as Kobo's PDF support is poor. KOReader remedies the problem of poor PDF support and optimises PDF reading on a relatively small 7 - 8 inch screen.

Friday, 7 April 2017

Kobo Aura One Review: Despite the flaws, the Kobo Aura One stands-out in the small world of larger e-readers

The Kobo Aura One’s 7.8 screen E-Ink Carta display makes it unique; it is the largest e-reader released by a major vendor since Amazon’s Kindle DX. Expectantly, demand is high. In this review I will focus on the software side and if it maximises on the different use-case possibilities of a larger display.

Hardware 

The 300 PPI display is crisp and sharp. One minor complaint is the Aura One’s flush tablet-like display that slightly affects text contrast – this is possibly due to the screen’s extra layer. Overall, in my view, a flush display does not work with an e-reader screen. The front-light is impressive and uniform, considering the larger eight inch display, and compares well to the Paperwhite (see comparison pictures between the Aura One and Kindle Paperwhite).

An innovative feature, since followed by Tolino with its Vision 4 HD, is Kobo’s ‘Comfort Light’. In the words of Kobo, the Aura One “senses how much light is available, and can automatically adjust the brightness level for you. It can also change the colour of the light”. The auto-brightness light sensor is not new, with Amazon introducing the same feature with Kindle Voyage; what makes ‘Comfort Light’ innovative is the ability to change the colour of the front-light to match the time of day. This feature is similar to blue light filters that many vendors, including Amazon, release with their tablets. I personally turn off the front-light when using an e-reader – to avoid any light emission – but it is a useful feature to ease eye strain for users that don’t mind reading with the front-light on.

Battery life is a negative point. I would estimate the battery life, with both WiFi and front-light turned off, to be between Amazon’s Paperwhite and Android e-readers. The Icarus XL that I reviewed, for example, required a charge within three days of regular use. From my experience, the Aura One has superior battery life compared to the Icarus XL but is significantly behind the Paperwhite. When the Kobo Aura One was released, many users reported problems with excessive battery drain in stand-by mode or when syncing the device. However, a number of updates were since rolled-out and these helped with the battery problems. A problem I noticed – a possible firmware bug – is a sudden ten percent drop in battery when reading – possibly due to background tasks running – and so you need to be mindful that the device is not always reporting the correct battery state. A positive is that the Aura One re-charges quick, compared to other e-readers.

Overall, Kobo clearly put serious thought and consideration with the Aura One’s hardware design and development. The front-light is impressive and uniform for its larger size – far better than the Icarus XL – and the display quality compares well to Amazon’s Kindle Paperwhite. Also, the device, according to Kobo, is water-proof for up to 60 minutes in up to two meters of water.

Comparison between Amazon's Kindle Paperwhite & Kobo Aura One (click to enlarge)


Light uniformity comparison between the Kobo Aura One and Kindle Paperwhite (click to enlarge)

Kobo Aura One Comfort Light set at maximum (the light incrementally increases to this reddish/orange shade, according to time of day, when set to auto)

Software 

Nickel – Kobo’s operating system – feels under-developed. First, I will state the positives with Nickel, followed by some problems that I experienced:

Positives

(1) Enhanced typographical options – In comparison to Amazon, Kobo offers some extra typographical options. The user is able to add fonts and change both font weight and text alignment. However, changing font weight, without patching the firmware, is not available with side-loaded fonts.

(2) Pocket & Overdrive integration – It is possible for users to sync their saved articles via Pocket integration, to then read on their device. OverDrive integration allows the user to borrow e-books from their local public library to read on the Aura One.

Negatives

(1) Amazon, understandably, due to scale and size difference, offer superior cloud services. For example, with all Kindle devices, the user is able to sync their e-mailed personal e-books (this includes bookmarks, notes and highlights). Further, when the user emails a document to their device it is then available through the recently released Amazon cloud drive. Kobo, with some consideration, could offer similar services through integrating Nickel with external cloud service providers e.g. Dropbox. Kobo already allows user to send and sync online articles via Pocket integration and so further integration with other services is a viable option.

(2) PDF support is poor – Kobo, similar to Amazon and Barnes & Noble, aim to tie their users to their own e-store. Amazon, however, considers PDF support and offers good features e.g. highlighting, taking notes, translation and increasing PDF contrast. While Amazon’s range of Kindle e-readers may be used as a viable PDF e-reader this is not the case with Kobo. Nickel’s PDF software is, at most, a basic viewer, with no way to interact with the text. There is no possibility to highlight or make annotations and both scrolling to navigate and pinch to zoom are erratic. Another problem, is the lack of tap to scroll and so to scroll the user needs to drag down the screen; this is cumbersome and slow with E-Ink.

(3) Problems with EPUB rendering – Kobo’s e-books come in their own propriety format – KEPUB. KEPUB books render well and are responsive to changes in margins, line spacing and offer further typographical options. However, with EPUB e-books, surprisingly, considering KEPUB is based on EPUB, the Aura One rendering is poor. Basic settings, e.g. margins and line spacing, are not responsive to changes in reader settings. This poor EPUB rendering means it would be better to convert side-loaded e-books to Kobo’s native KEPUB format via Calibre – this isn’t a problem with a few e-books but those with large libraries may find the process a hassle. Amazon, adopt a propriety format of MOBI, with their own e-books, but you still get near identical support with side-loaded MOBI e-books. Of course, Amazon adopting MOBI and not supporting EPUB is a definite negative. 

(4) No direct way to export notes and highlights – There is no way to export personal highlights and annotations or to store the exported content online. Amazon, in comparison, with both personal and purchased books, via their Kindle Application, allow users to export their highlights and annotations to Evernote or via email; further, there is the option to create flash cards for revision. To support similar features, it is possible for Kobo to develop a partnership, similar to Pocket, with Evernote. The partnership would then allow the user to store a notebook of their annotations and highlights in the cloud via Evernote integration. Established Android e-reader applications – for example, Moon Reader and Bookari Reader – allow users to export their annotations to their favourite note taking application.

(5) Forced header and footer – By default there is no way to disable the header or footer – both take up a portion of screen estate. It is possible to add a patch to disable both header and footer but the full-screen patch, sometimes, cuts the text at the edge of an e-book. The issue with a header and footer, in my opinion, substantiates the central problem with Nickel – an operating system with some stand-out features, e.g. Pocket, Over-Drive integration and extra typographical options, but with under-developed and limited e-reading features.

(6) Navigating device folders – This feature is neglected by both Kobo and Amazon. It is possible to organise your side-loaded through folders but there is no option to navigate these folders on the device. Kobo allows the user to create collections, to categorise both purchased and side-loaded books. However, unlike Amazon, Kobo only syncs purchased books to the created collection.

(7) Highlighting text is cumbersome and you need to be careful when dragging to select the required passage. Further, there is some lag when entering text for annotations.

I think the major problem with Nickel is that it was designed primarily to support purchased Kobo e-books and is directed at leisurely reading. Users who wish to use a Kobo device as an all-round e-reader, to interact and engage with an e-book, will find the device’s firmware limiting. Many features, noted above, are easily integrated into Nickel but it seems that Kobo’s views their primary goal to sell fiction e-books (similar observations may be applied to other vendors). I would still say Kobo’s support for KEPUB is good – specifically its expanded typographical settings that others don’t offer – and so the Aura One, despite the noted limitations, is a viable e-book reader. However, the same cannot be said in regard to PDF support.

KOReader 

Unfortunately, due to poor PDF support, installing KOReader is a necessity if the user requires a functional and feature rich PDF reader. Below are some issues to consider with KOReader:

(1) Battery life in KOReader – Compared to Nickel, KOReader is not yet optimised with the Aura One. In comparison to Nickel, and this applies to PDF reading, I noticed the battery drains quicker. In other words, expect battery life to be reduced if you intend to use KOReader regularly. However, there are regular nightly releases of KOReader and battery life continues to be improved. If you are willing to use KOReader then, in my opinion, it is the best PDF reader, at the moment, available for E-Ink.

(2) Central PDF features work well in KOReader – PDF text recognition, highlighting, annotation, cropping, increasing contrast and touch to scroll all work well with the Aura One. Also, compared to Nickel, PDF rendering speed is much better. I personally use KOReader exclusively as a PDF reader and export my annotations offline to the device’s storage. Thus, I haven’t tried more advanced features.

(3) The installation process is not difficult but it is not for the novice user – anything that goes wrong with the e-reader, during the installation process, may void the device’s warranty. I would prefer if Kobo offered a viable PDF reader to avoid third party applications but, at the moment, it is only the option for users that want more from the Aura One.

Overall, if you are looking for a larger e-reader then the Aura One is the one to choose. Smaller vendors, e.g. Onyx and Boyue re-branded e-readers, do not match Kobo for hardware quality. Yes, these e-readers offer greater versatility with Android pre-installed but usually the screen quality is sub-par in comparison to the Kobo Aura One – an e-reader is defined, foremost, by its display quality. If Amazon released an eight inch Kindle then it would be, by far, the stand-out choice. At this time, in the small world of larger e-readers, Kobo Aura One is the best option. Fortunately, due to the community driven KOReader project, the user can use the Aura One as an all-round e-reader, despite the limitations of Nickel.

Pros 

Enhanced typographical options
Pocket and Overdrive integration
Excellent display
Impressive and uniform lighting for a 7.8 inch device
Comfort Light is an innovative feature
Relatively open, with the possibility to install third-party software and patches

Cons 

Restricted software features
Poor PDF support
Slow PDF rendering
Poor EPUB rendering
Sub-par battery life for an e-reader

 Overall Verdict: 7/10

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

An alternative e-reader based on KOReader?

We have a number of crowdfunded projects for larger e-readers - usually with Android pre-installed. I previously posted on the need for an alternative e-reader to consider software development before making hardware choices. If an alternative e-reader is to be user-friendly and accessible, it needs to work out of the box with little need to tweak or modify the interface, fonts or seek out alternative external applications. 

KOReader is an existing project that offers options for developers, as it is one of the few applications designed specifically for E-Ink. In its current state, it may lack stability, across different devices, and the user interface may need simplifying but it is feature rich. For example, PDF support is vastly superior to what Kobo and Amazon offer with their e-readers. With KOReader there are extensive features such as the ability to export notes to Evernote and manipulate PDF files, in different ways, considering device size, for optimal viewing.

The potential to develop an e-reader on KOReader's software is something that could work. Again, with a viable software platform set first then problems pertaining to stability and optimal performance, considering hardware, would be conveniently resolved.

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Is Kobo releasing a larger e-reader?

Surprisingly, according to these FCC fillings, Kobo intends to release a 7.8 inch e-reader - the Kobo Aura One. If accurate this would be the largest e-reader released by Kobo. The question arises on what Kobo's objectives would be with a larger e-reader? First, the extra screen estate would be useful with comics and graphic novels. The more obvious use case scenario would be PDF files but both Amazon and Kobo develop e-readers for purchased e-books, with PDF support an after-thought. To be fair, Amazon do allow, with most non-scanned PDF files, the possibility to highlight, take notes and utilise dictionary support. Kobo's PDF support, on the other hand, is merely a bare-bone PDF viewer, with little functionality. This means, if the FCC fillings are accurate, Kobo would need to significantly re-vamp their PDF software, if they envisage users to make use of the extra screen size.

Another possibility, with the extra size, is to offer a choice differential, at the premium end of e-readers, against Amazon's recently released six inch Kindle Oasis. If E-Ink Carta is ready for the larger size then it would put the new Kobo e-reader at advantage, if both e-readers are priced similarly. From the end-user perspective this might mean, finally, Amazon responding with a larger Kindle. 

If a 7.8 inch Kobo Aura One is released and Kobo decides not to enhance PDF support, it might be possible to install KOReader (there is already a version available for Kobo devices). KOReader, when stable, is a feature rich e-reader application that supports both e-books and PDF files. However, to rely on KOReader for PDF support means the end-user would need to be proficient enough to install the application and resolve any possible compatibility problems. If something goes wrong, and the device is rendered unusable or faulty, then the warranty would be voided. It is here that installing external Android applications help - with Android the user is not restricted to the stock firmware, with its limitations, and can work through different applications to find what works.