Showing posts with label Kobo. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Kobo. Show all posts

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Tolino Page Review: Excellent cloud support for personal documents but overall a frustrating device

I expected Tolino Page to challenge the Kindle Basic. Instead, I found myself frustrated and disappointed with the device. There is a lot to like about the Tolino Page, but software failings outweigh the positives. I will split the review between the positives and, more importantly, the negatives.

The positives 

Apart from Amazon, Tolino is the only other major vendor that offers extensive features to manage personal documents. Kobo recently acquired Tolino but considering the slow momentum of e-reader software development, I doubt Kobo will implement Tolino’s cloud features any time soon. 

Technically, utilising Tolino’s web services requires an account with an e-book store located in one of Tolino’s supported countries. Nonetheless, there is a work around to use the online services in any location. First, register an account with the e-book store thalia.de (there are other e-book stores supported). After creating an account with thalia.de, register a Tolino Cloud account via eBook.de (see below to identify the right section). After logging-on to a Tolino account, it is possible to set the interface language to Dutch, English, French, Italian and Spanish. Importantly, in account settings link the Tolino account to thalia.de. After linking Tolino Cloud/web reader to thalia.de, it is possible to register any Tolino e-reader through thalia.de and access uploaded personal documents.

Accessing Tolino web reader on eBook.de (click image to enlarge)

Through the Tolino Cloud, it is possible to categorise uploaded personal documents in collections. Once uploaded, an e-book can be read directly in the web browser, Tolino's Android/iOS application or with a Tolino e-reader. Further, current page location and annotations are synchronised across devices. While there is no way to export annotations via the web browser or Tolino's Android/iOS application, there is the option to access annotations via a text file stored locally on a Tolino e-reader. Regrettably, the stored annotations are only those made on the e-reader.

Cloud support makes managing an online library so much easier. For example, factory re-set a Tolino device and in a few minutes, you are ready to go again. The library can be managed online without any need to side load documents, and with page location and annotations backed-up from your last online synchronisation.

While Amazon’s synchronisation across devices works better, Tolino’s online document management is more intuitive and with superior features. For example, it is possible to upload e-book cover images, add/delete documents and organise e-books in collections. In contrast, with Amazon’s online content management, it is possible to delete archived documents but there is no way to manage collections. Kobo and Barnes & Noble, on the other hand, do not support cloud synchronisation and management for personal documents.

Tolino also supports the side loading of fonts and I found side loaded fonts render well. In contrast, Amazon does not support the feature at all.

The negatives 

The main issue with the Tolino Page is software implementation. Below are some problems with the software:
  • Highlighting is not smooth or accurate and it is not possible to continue highlighting a text if it extends to the next page of an e-book. 
  • Strangely, and this seems to be a software bug, turning a page can result in text appearing de-focused. Re-focusing the text requires a few seconds, after instigating a full-page refresh (when this occurs there is a prompt to turn two or four pages back). The problem is frequent and annoying.
  • Performance is sluggish compared to the Kindle Basic. It is not a major issue but with prolonged use, it is noticeable.
  • PDF support, similar to Kobo, is poor. It is not possible to highlight text and there is no tap to scroll. The need to scroll down manually in landscape mode, something necessary with the six-inch screen, is a problem due to the device’s slow rendering of PDF documents. In the case of Kobo, it is possible to resolve the issue of poor PDF support with KOReader but this option is not available, so far, for Tolino e-readers. If reading PDF documents is necessary then it is a good idea to avoid the larger Tolino Epos.
  • Overall, Tolino’s software is very basic in its features. In reading settings, the options available include setting the number of screen refreshes when reading and installing dictionaries. 
On paper, the Tolino Page has an E-Ink Carta display. In actual usage, in my view, the Kindle Basic’s E-Ink Pearl screen has better contrast, with darker text.

Overall, I liked Tolino’s extensive support for personal documents but bare-bones features, sluggish performance and software bugs means the device is frustrating. If you are looking for a no frills entry-level e-reader that just works then the Kindle Basic remains the best option.

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.

Friday, 1 December 2017

PDF support Comparison: Kindle Oasis vs. Kobo Aura One

I’ll be dedicating a longer post to review the Kindle Oasis. In this post I’ll compare the PDF capabilities of the Kindle Oasis and the Kobo Aura One. This isn’t a real contest, the Kindle’s PDF software is vastly superior.

The biggest issue is that Kobo doesn’t allow the user to interact with a PDF document’s text. Instead, what we have is a PDF viewer with some basic tools to fit text to width, fit text to page and to switch either to landscape or portrait mode. It is possible to Navigate table of contents if the PDF supports the feature. Pinch to zoom is a mess but there is the option to incrementally zoom-in via a size scaling bar. There is no option to tap to scroll down a page; to scroll down the user needs to drag downwards. The method is frustrating and slow, as you need to wait for the e-ink display to catch-up with your movements. Again, the biggest issue, other than the slow and frustrating navigation of PDF documents, is that you can’t highlight text, write notes or look-up definitions.

Double tap to zoom, tap to scroll & turning document page (Kindle Oasis)

The Kindle's PDF software allows the user to view a page in portrait or landscape mode, similar to the Kobo Aura One. The user also has the option to change margin size (there are three options). Pinch to zoom is not the best but still better than Kobo’s version of the feature. The best way to zoom-in, in portrait mode, is to double tap on a page. Double tapping removes the margins and, depending on the page size of the PDF, renders text legible in portrait mode. Further, tap to scroll is supported, whether the document is zoomed-in or not. I found it useful that the Oasis’s buttons only turn to the next page of a PDF document, rather than scroll down a page; this is a good implementation as it removes any confusion between page scrolling and page turning. I’ve created an animated GIF (see above) that demonstrates how to zoom-in to remove excessive margins, scroll down a page and then turn a page using the buttons.

One issue that is bothersome is the Kindle's activation of a full page refresh when scrolling or turning a page (with e-books, it is possible to turn-off a full page refresh with every page turn). Finally, all Kindle e-readers allow the user to highlight text, take notes, look-up words in the dictionary, Wikipedia (if on-line) and translate words (of course, this depends on the nature of the PDF document. For example, none of these features are supported with a scanned PDF document).

Update: I've written a correction to this post here.

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Increasing the font weight of side-loaded fonts without patching Nickel

Nickel - Kobo's e-reader operating system - only allows the user to increase the font weight of native fonts. It is possible to change the software to activate unsupported features, including the option to change font weight of side-loaded fonts, but this requires patching (see here for further details).

I personally prefer to avoid altering the software unless there is a necessity e.g. installing KOReader for better PDF support. However, similar to activating full screen reading and exporting annotations it is possible to change font weight without patching (the code does not activate the font weight scale). To set the font weight the following code needs to be added to eReader.conf (the file is located in .kobo\Kobo) in the [Reading] section:

readingFontWeight\Bookerly=0.20

The code above changes the weight of 'Bookerly' to 0.20 but the code can be changed to work with any side-loaded font. The weight can also be changed and it might be a good idea to test different weights before identifying what works best. It is also recommended to open and edit the file with Notepad++ to locate the right section to add the code.

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.

Monday, 16 October 2017

Simple solution to export annotations in Nickel

Nickel (Kobo's operating system), by default, does not allow the user to export their annotations. However, the feature can be enabled by adding some code. Similar to enabling full screen mode, to remove both header and footer, the user needs to add the following code to the bottom of Kobo eReader.conf using a text editor (the file is located in .kobo\Kobo):

[FeatureSettings]
ExportHighlights=true

With the feature activated, a new option appears to export all annotations to a text file. After exporting the annotations, it is then possible to access the text file in the Kobo drive. For further options, please visit this MobileRead thread.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Amazon's typographical features remain behind Kobo

Amazon released a new firmware (5.8.11) for their Kindle devices (6th generation and up). The firmware update is a significant one, as it aims to provide extra typographical features to their e-readers (a weak point with Amazon’s Kindle firmware).

Despite some improvements, significant problems persist. First, the option to increase font weight only works with AZW3 file, so if you have a library of  MOBI e-books the feature does not work. Further, Amazon, oddly, does not support sending documents to your Kindle e-mail in the AZW3 format. This means the only way get an AZW3 on a Kindle is to side-load the document but this means the e-book is not archived in the Amazon cloud and synced across devices. Second, font size selection is still poor and the increase between different sizes - in the new font scale - remains disproportionate. It would have been better if the firmware allowed the user to select an exact number for font size.

Amazon, overall, offer a stable and feature rich firmware experience, in comparison to other vendors. However, in the case of typographical support, they remain behind Kobo. Yes, Kobo also have issues with font size but, at least, there is more flexibility in size selection. Further, they allow the user to increase font weight in both EPUB and KEPUB e-books (the feature only works with Kobo designated fonts and not side-loaded ones).

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, 30 November 2016

Kobo Aura One's software

I will be reviewing the Kobo Aura One soon. However, I will be using this post to note one point regarding the device - the software does let-down the overall experience. My experience with the Aura One cements just how superior Amazon's software is compared to Nickel (Nickel is the operating system Kobo built for their e-readers). In the upcoming review I will provide some examples. Despite the software let-down, I like the Kobo Aura One and would easily recommend it over any other eight inch e-reader out there. Of course, in recommending the Aura One, it should be noted that the pool of larger e-readers is small.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

UK NOOK customers transferred to Kobo

Kobo will receive Barnes & Noble’s previous UK Nook customers. It is a strange turn of events initiated by the closure of Barnes & Noble Nook outside the US and the transfer of its UK user-base to Sainsbury’s (Sainsbury’s sold Nook e-readers, tablets and accessories when they entered the UK). Now Sainsbury’s are closing their own e-book services and transferring their customers, including previous Nook UK users, to Kobo!

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Problems with the Kobo Aura One cover?

There are some reports of problems with the Kobo Aura One’s official cover - specifically, some covers fail to put the device to sleep when closed. Kobo decided to put the power button on the back, so it is difficult to find a universal case that is compatible with the device. However, some iPad Mini cases work with the Aura One. Two features identify these compatible cases - first, is the use of elastic bands or flexible bands that holds the device (most iPad Mini cases come with a form fitting hard plastic casing). Second, a large hole at the back for the camera.

The Kobo Aura One is similar to the iPad Mini’s dimensions and, due to this, flexible elastic bands should work with the device. Further, as the device’s power button is placed on the upper left of the device, it matches the location of the iPad Mini’s camera and so it is possible to access the power button. As an example, I’ve found Belkin’s ‘Smooth Bi-Fold Case for iPad Mini’ to be compatible with the Kobo Aura One.

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

What is the right e-reader size for PDF files?

The release of the 7.8 inch Kobo Aura One raises the question on what makes the right size to read PDF files. The answer depends on use-case scenarios. For example, many humanities books come in an A5 size and the 8 inch form factor is ideal for these books. On the other hand, science books and complicated PDF files, with a two column layout, require closer to 10 inches to be comfortably read. Similarly complex magazine pages are better suited to larger colour tablets.

Personally, I find the eight to nine inch e-reader to be the right size. At this size there is the right compromise between size for comfortable reading and portability. It is not too small, e.g. six to seven inches, but not too big for one-handed reading. The portability and convenience of a smaller form factor makes a big difference for long reading sessions, especially outdoors or in tight spaces on public transport.  I prefer to read in portrait but can switch to landscape, if half a book page is viewable and text size is legible. With six inch e-readers the landscape view often gives you snippets or small text and it is easier to lose your place within a larger book.

Another important factor to consider, especially with the eight inch e-reader, is the right software to optimise reading with an eight inch screen. With KOReader, for example, it is possible to set reading to scroll mode and alter PDF page margins. Accordingly, many PDF files can be comfortably viewed and navigated, considering the restrictions of a smaller eight inch screen, in portrait mode.

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Kobo releases the Kobo Aura One & Kobo Aura (Edition 2)

As expected, Kobo released two e-readers - the Kobo Aura One and the Kobo Aura (Edition 2). The Kobo Aura 2 is a six inch e-reader that comes with an E-Ink Carta screen and a lower 212 ppi. As 'The eBook Reader' states, the Kobo Aura (Edition 2) makes little sense. The Kobo Glo HD is an ereader with 300 ppi and a similar E-Ink Carta screen and is only $10 more than the Kobo Aura Edition 2. The price differential is minimal that it becomes difficult to understand how this device fits in the Kobo e-reader line up.

The 7.8 inch Kobo Aura One, on the other hand, is an innovative e-reader. I am interested to see if Kobo managed to get the front-light to work with the larger display (early reviews appear to be positive about the front-light). With the front-light comes a blue light filter termed 'ComfortLight PRO'. ComfortLight PRO, in the words of Kobo, works by "reducing blue-light exposure, the enhanced front-light technology protects your eyes and provides the best nighttime reading experience. The automatic setting mimics the sun’s natural progression, emitting the optimal brightness and hue based on the time of day". Personally, I generally turn off the front-light but for those wishing to use the front-light, for night time reading, the user is able to change the colour temperature to ease eye fatigue.

The device's let down, judging from this review, is the little work done by Kobo to improve the PDF reading experience. You still can't highlight and annotate and the touch to zoom appears to be inconsistent. Thankfully it might not be a serious problem, as KOReader should release a version for the Kobo Aura One.

Amazon may respond to Kobo, in regards to hardware enhancements. However, judging from the past - as posted before - I don't think Amazon will release a larger e-reader. History tells us Amazon responds to hardware enhancements - e.g. front light and screen resolution - but ignores, since the Kindle DX, screen size differentiation. Also, Amazon operates at a different level to Kobo and may judge a turn of direction, to include a larger e-reader, a risk. The uniform six inch is viewed, by Amazon, as the right size for an e-reader - light and the size of a paperback book. Further, to go large means a re-think of the Kindle line-up. The good thing with the Kobo Aura One is that it is more open than Amazon's Kindle range. Further, with its larger size, coupled with KOReader, it makes an excellent multi-purpose stand-alone e-reader.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Kobo Aura One details & why Amazon may not respond with a larger e-reader

The Kobo Aura One's details are leaked and it confirms a 7.8 inch e-reader. The Aura One is an e-reader with premium specifications - it comes with water proofing, 512 MB RAM, 8GB internal storage and a 300 ppi E-Ink Carta front-lit display. Importantly, the listing states the price at 229 Euros - in comparison the six inch Kindle Oasis is priced at 290 Euros. I don't think Amazon will respond with a larger e-reader. Amazon didn't respond when Kobo released the 6.8 inch Kobo Aura HD in 2013. For Amazon, size doesn't seem an issue and its near complete dominance of the e-book market means it can set its own agenda. At the moment, it aims to gradually improve the range of six inch e-readers, offering choice at that size, but there is no indication it is interested in offering a larger e-reader. However, I could be wrong.

On the other hand, it is the niche vendors that might need to revise their devices and pricing. Since the near uniformity of the six inch e-reader, alternative vendors set-out to meet the demand for larger e-readers. Overall, the quality of these devices are sub-standard, with out-dated hardware and often poor software. Further, as larger vendors neglected the larger e-reader, the price of these devices are inflated. Eight inch e-readers (e.g. Icarus Illumina XL, Pocketbook Inkpad 2 and Onyx Boox i86) retail at a similar price to the Kobo Aura One but with inferior hardware and software (PDF support is poor on Kobo e-readers but there is the option to install KOReader). Unless Amazon releases a larger e-reader or alternative vendors seriously re-consider their offerings then Kobo Aura One is the stand-out and only serious option, at the moment, if Android is a non-issue for the end-user.

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.

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Recommended entry level e-reader

This is the first post in the series of recommended budget technology and one that relates to the best entry level e-reader. In this case, unfortunately, there is an easy recommendation due to the lack of choice with e-readers and the uniformity of the six-inch display size. There are options at 6.8, 8 and 9.7 inches but these would not qualify as an entry level device due to their relatively high price (larger sizes, due to their restricted availability, and niche demand, means the cost of many of these devices are inflated. Nevertheless, there will be future posts on larger e-readers). For this reason, two devices are selected - the Kindle basic and the Kobo Touch 2. There are other similarly priced options available but these two devices are more readily available. For example, other possible entry level e-readers would be the Bookeen Cybook Essential Muse or Pocketbook Basic Touch. However, both these are restricted in their availability.

Between the Kobo Touch 2 and the basic Kindle, the recommended device would be the Kindle. Amazon continues to improve its e-reader firmware and while it does not offer the best customization of the e-reading experience (e.g text alignment, line/margin spacing variation, adding fonts), it comes with its own rich features, with options to sync both Kindle and side-loaded e-books, send documents wirelessly to a user designated email, Wikipedia integration, Goodreads integration, translation, vocabulary builder and more.

While Amazon exclusively supports MOBI or it propriety version of MOBI (AZW3), rather than EPUB, it is possible to convert between e-book formats and this generally produces identical results (conversion can be through Calibre or on-line). This means you are able to store non-DRM converted EPUB e-books in the Amazon cloud and the e-book will sync across devices.

However, there is a significant problem with the Kindle's adoption of the MOBI based format, in the that there is no support with Adobe Digital Editions. What this means is that either a book is to be purchased in a DRM-free EPUB format, then converted, which some publishers offer, or the e-reader is locked in the Amazon store. This does not apply to the Fire tablets that can work with DRM protected books, through installing or sideloading applications compatible with the EPUB format (e.g. Mantano Reader can be sideloaded to access DRM protected books).

Generally, the basic Kindle is the better overall entry device but the Kobo Touch 2 is the better option if you wish for more flexibility in reading both MOBI and EPUB, due to both formats being supported and with further support with Adobe Digital Editions. Yet there will be a compromise, compared to the Kindle, in cloud storage and more extensive syncing services. This means if you wish to manage a large library across different devices, including personal documents, then the Kindle is the better option.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Kobo Touch 2 arrives in Europe

Kobo's entry level e-reader, the Kobo Touch 2.0, has been released in Europe. In Germany it retails for €90 and £70 in the UK. Kobo's e-reading experience offers good/unique features; this includes adding fonts, text alignment, font weight etc.. The device hardware, in general, matches the entry level Kindle but costs £10 more. The pricing is a problem, as not only is the entry Kindle regularly discounted by Amazon, so is the Kindle Paperwhite, which often sells for £90. Even the Kobo Aura can be found for £80, which comes with the same resolution as the Kindle Paperwhite 2 and with a front light (also, its form factor is more compact and with a flush display). Overall, Amazon's e-readers are the better choice but Kobo offers good hardware and a refined e-reading experience. However, there isn't much choice, at the moment, with Amazon owning the biggest share of the e-book market. Barnes & Noble's Nook is now near exclusively based in the US and Sony stopped producing e-readers (Sony was a pioneer in developing e-readers and the uniformity of the six inch display may be traced to their early models). There are other manufactures, e.g. Pocketbook, Bookeen, Tolino and  Carrefour's Nolim e-reader, but these are either based in national markets or are difficult to obtain and require importing.

Friday, 11 September 2015

The strange trajectory of the Nook platform

Barnes & Noble released their new premium tablet e-reader - it is essentially the second generation Samsung Tab S 8.4 but with Nook e-services (apps, e-book shop and e-reading experience) built into the firmware. Barnes & Noble's dedicated hardware endured heavy loses, when going against Amazon's range of Kindle tablets, that necessitated a turn in direction. However, instead of concentrating on improving their e-ink reader and developing more choice beyond the Nook Glowlight, Barnes & Noble thought it would be better to release vanilla Samsung tablets with some add-ons. The question then is why add a premium device, that sells for $399, when no similarly priced device was released before, whether as a Nook tablet or in partnership with Samsung. If the current range of Tab 4 tablets is to be replaced, then a partnership with Asus for an eight inch tablet (Asus Zenpad 8) and Lenovo (Tab 2 A10) for a larger one, would offer good specifications at a more value friendly price.

My personal speculation is that the move to introduce an eight inch premium device, one with an excellent Amoled display, might be understood considering an earlier decision to partner with Samsung and purchase a stock of Tab 4 tablets. It is likely this is an attempt to add another option to the existing range of tablets with the Nook e-reading experience, beyond the more budget range on offer with the Tab 4 7 and 10.1. There is also, considering continuous loss, a large inventory of unsold Tab 4 tablets and it may not be workable to introduce a new range of partnered Nook tablets with other manufacturers. The Tab S2 could then be envisaged as a Nook offering with the existing Tab 4 range. Of course, the bigger problem was an attempt to offer some form of Nook device, even if it is nothing more than a Samsung tablet with some extra Nook features. When the Tab 5 is eventually released, as Samsung does continuously refresh its tablet line, then Barnes & Noble might need to significantly discount the Tab 4 range, as happened with the Nook HD and HD+ tablets, with a probable inventory of unsold device that need to be offloaded. Considering this, Barnes & Noble might decide to discontinue the Tab series partnership with Samsung, with one premium tablet being the only option to keep some form of Nook tablet. Going into partnership with another manufacturer could no longer be an option; however, this is Barnes & Noble, so it is difficult to predict or even understand what it decides next.

It should be stated that tablet sales are on the decline, other than Amazon dominating tablets with an e-reader focus; hence Kobo, I believe, has taken the right path in discontinuing their tablet range and working on offering a wider range of good e-readers (when Kobo announced a 300 ppi Kobo Glo HD, Amazon followed straight after by unexpectedly bumping up the resolution of their excellent Kindle Paperwhite). The point is that varying the range of e-ink readers is the only viable path to maintain the Nook platform beyond third-party apps. Considering this, it makes better sense if Barnes & Noble revamped their out-dated e-reader firmware and offered better options beyond their only dedicated e-reader (Nook Glowlight). May be offer a 9 inch e-reader and another budget six inch one, similar to the Nook Simple Touch. However, we can predict, considering the trajectory of the Nook platform, that nothing will be heeded from Kobo and what will be made available is another standard six inch reader successor to the Nook Glowlight, barely keeping up with what is being offered by Amazon and Kobo, along with the Tab S2.