I’ve been in love with e-ink technology since I got my first e-reader in early 2011. The state of my shelves tells me I haven’t slowed down significantly in terms of acquiring print books, but e-books have generally become part of my lifestyle. About 50% of the books I read are ebooks, and the e-reader is something I’d never leave home without, because God forbid I find myself in a tediously slow checkout counter (or cab queue, or the reception at a client’s office) with nothing to read.
After two generations of (heavily-used) e-readers, I had been looking for a device with a built in light, because I realized I was doing a lot of reading in the dark (before drifting off to sleep), and often used my tablet for that purpose, because the clip-on lights on my e-reader either kept conking out (I must have run through half a dozen) or falling off. Hence, my eye grades have been off the charts of late.
I was thrilled to get a Kobo Glo when National Book Store launched Kobo in September; I had actually been eyeing this particular e-reader for a while already, as it seemed a better option for my second-gen touch model. I’ve named this e-reader Arya (as in Arya Stark, ASOIAF), and I’ve been reading on it daily ever since I’ve got it, and it’s been an excellent experience so far.
So many people who have seen me using Arya keep asking me to post a review, and I really have been planning to, but I wanted to get full use out of it before I got down to reviewing it, not to mention the transition to a new device from a different brand so finally, here’s an extensive review.
I’ve stacked the Kobo Glo against my 1st and 2nd generation e-readers, Newton (as in Isaac Newton, go figure!) and Lisbeth (as in Lisbeth Salander), but as I have long retired Newton, the comparison is mostly with Lisbeth, a touch e-reader device that has served me pretty well in the last couple of years.
Let’s get physical
Part of the reason I’ve never succumbed to the more popular brand of e-readers is because I don’t like the way their devices looked, especially their first generation device, which I found clunky because of the full keyboard in front (well, that and the fact that at the end of the day, I preferred a brick-and-mortar book store backing up my reading device).
When their second generation device lost its keys, I did reconsider switching, but I decided on staying with this brand’s touch device, because I still liked the design better, on top of epub support and expandable memory.
Enter Arya, the Kobo Glo. It’s sleeker, thinner, and way lighter than both Newton and Lisbeth, an important consideration since my everyday bag already includes two mobile phones and a tablet (plus chargers). Grip-wise, Lisbeth’s rubberized back and indentation are easier to grip, but as I don’t often go coverless, I don’t foresee this becoming a major problem.
There are only two buttons on the Kobo Glo, the light button and the sleep/power switch. The light button is pretty straightforward but the sleep/power switch requires a pull-back action that is difficult to maneuver, even with my small fingers (and I’ve been told they get in the way of garter straps on generic e-reader covers). I rarely turn my e-reader devices completely off, but I do like being able to put them to sleep on cue. Luckily, with the Kobo sleepcover, this stopped being an issue for me.
The reading experience
I’ve read twelve full books (and various others in different stages of completion, hehehe) on the Kobo Glo and pretty much explored all its functions, reading-wise.
Before the actual reading, I want to mention the user interface and the home screen. While I think my previous e-reader Lisbeth has a more intuitive user interface (largely helped by the presence of a physical home button on the bezel), I didn’t like its home screen at all because while it’s supposedly ads-free, the storefront part occupying a third of the screen was very intrusive. I like the home screen a lot better on the Kobo Glo, with a customizable tiled approach, which allows you to dismiss tiles you don’t want onscreen.
For the actual reading, I must admit I was at first unnerved by the complete lack of physical turn keys on the Kobo Glo (turn keys are particularly helpful when fingers are greasy, e.g. while eating, hehehe), although I’ve gotten used to it now. Page turning is activated via tapping certain screen areas – left to go back, right to go forward (and the center of the screen to get to the hot key for the home screen, and for a while I found myself swiping (as with my previous device) from time to time out of reflex, though I’m getting the hang of it now.
UPDATE: As of the latest firmware update (3.1.1, which I got today), I can now swipe for page turns on Arya! Squee!
I love the contrast and the responsiveness on the device, a marked improvement from my old e-reader. Even with the light off, the background is a lighter than on Lisbeth, and there’s less ghosting with the page turns. I also like the plethora of text options available on the device.
Dictionary definitions are easy to pull up on the Kobo Glo (and you can use the Dictionary function independent of your reading), but I’m finding it a challenge to toggle the cursor for highlighting. I enjoy highlighting ebooks and making little notes for the books I read, but so far, highlighting on this device has been a challenge. Although I appear to be getting the hang of it, there are times when the cursor just won’t go exactly where I want it to go so most of my highlights are imprecise, e.g. shorter or longer than the passage I want highlighted.
The built in ComfortLight is hands-down my favorite feature on the Kobo Glo, because it is perfect for the midnight reader that I am. I love how the Kobo Glo has even lighting all around, and as promised, without glare! I even turn on the light when I read in bright sunlight (e.g. at my office desk, which is next to a window) and it’s a great feature to have.
I also adore Kobo’s reading stats and awards. There’s something about the reading tracker that keeps me on my toes, reminding me to pick up the pace, and the awards are fun to collect (please invent more awards!).
My main beef with my old devices is that I had to either log on via VPN or buy from other ebookstores and sideload content, so I’m really happy I can buy ebooks on the Kobo bookstore now. While the Kobo selection isn’t as extensive, most new releases are on it, and I love how local books are increasingly making their way to the e-bookstore. It’s such a breeze, and I buy one or two e-books a week — there was even one time I bought six in one sitting! It’s proven to be really convenient — over the holidays I couldn’t find a copy of Eleanor & Park, which I’d been meaning to read for the longest time, and I found myself buying it off the Kobo store.
Customer service is terrific, too — my friend Joko (who got her Kobo Glo way ahead of me) had a great experience with them a couple months ago. She had a malfunctioning unit, and after some emails to Kobo customer service, they sent her a replacement unit right away, even before she could send out her defective unit to their Hong Kong office!
So, over 10,000 page turns later on my Kobo Glo — and I know this because I just won an award for it — I have no reservations in saying how totally happy I am with this device! :)
See, I’ve even festooned my sleepcover already:
I’m looking forward to many more happy hours of reading with Arya this year.
Many thanks to National Book Store and Kobo for my Kobo Glo.
The Kobo Glo (P6599) is available at National Book Store, along with the Kobo Touch (P4599) and Kobo Arc (P9149).