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Saturday, January 1, 2011

Kindle, Kobo, iBooks - A Tale of Three iPad Ebook Readers - Part 1, The Canadian Competitor

This is the first of a three-part review of the most popular ebook readers for the iPad. Rather than give an exhaustive blow-by-blow comparison of the Kindle, Kobo and iBooks apps, I've opted to describe the features I come in contact with daily.

Kobo Reader for iPad
If you've ever played with a Kobo ebook reader at a Chapters or Indigo store, you can appreciate the crisp, clear display and the fact that this Canadian competitor is trying its best to divert your gaze from the Amazon Kindle and other contenders for the e-reader throne.

It's hard, though, not to walk away from that experience without making a mental note of the Kobo's sluggish page changes and the big, dorky, navigation button.

But Kobo for the iPad is different.

Best Features
The Kobo app is colorful, functional - the most attractive of the three ebook readers. And it lets you control the look not only of your pages, but your bookmarks, and even your bookshelf.

The addition of a sepia wash like in the Kindle or iBooks app would be nice. But the rest of the esthetics are so good you can forgive the developers for the oversight.

The Kobo book store's presentation is much more eye-catching than Amazon's, even though the selection is naturally more limited. The app features the smartest table of contents presentation around. Unlike the Kindle app's postage stamp content and bookmarks list, the Kobo takes you to an entire contents page that incorporates all of your bookmarks and notes right beside each chapter heading. That feature alone means the Kobo trumps the Kindle for navigation.

Even though no one beats the Kindle for ebook selection, Kobo kills in terms of Canadian content. If you jump to Recommended Reading, you'll find over 50 lists including these:
  • The Globe 100 for 2010
  • Globe and Mail Bestsellers
  • Quill & Quire's Books of the Year
  • Heather's Picks
  • Made in Canada
  • Canada Reads
  • Hockey Night in Canada
  • You Can't Get These on Kindle
  • Can't Get it From iBooks
The biggest opportunity and liability with the Kobo lies with the debut of its new Reading Life social features. Content is always an opportunity to build community, and these new social features let you see the most popular bookmarks of other readers, tweet quotations and what you're reading to your Twitter followers and give similar updates to your Facebook friends.

It's collecting badges for things like starting and finishing books, bookmarking, making notes and even reading books during lunch hour or bed time that seems rather juvenile. Some of the badges are designed to get you to try new features. The shareable notifications for each of these seem a tad breathless, but can be turned off.

As with hard copy books, there is little point in reading them unless you mark them up. Kobo offers you one color of highlight, blue. Kindle for the iPad gives you only yellow. But iBooks offers a full five colors - handy when you're highlighting information for different purposes.

Kobo also doesn't have a search feature like the one on the Kindle app. This must be addressed in a future iteration.

The Bottom Line
Even with its drawbacks, the Kobo app makes the reading experience so pleasant and friendly that its shortcomings can easily be tolerated. The look and aesthetics are second to none - and who says you can't read on multiple platforms anyway?

The Kobo may not ever be at the top of the heap, but for ease of use, attractiveness, access to Canadian content, and delivering a really pleasant reading experience, it's definitely worth the download.


  1. Nice review, Ray. I have used each app bit, but not really enough to compare. I look forward to all the reviews and trying them out with a more critical eye.

  2. Thank you, Mike. Just love the prices and the portability these ebook readers offer. As always, your comments are much appreciated. My next challenge is to see how well these apps sync across platforms. I'm having a real challenge with the Kindle reader right now in that respect. Should be able to see whether the concern is valid before posting again. Cheers!

  3. . My next challenge is to see how well these apps sync across platforms. I'm having a real challenge with the Kindle reader right now in that respect. Should be able to see whether the concern is valid before posting again. Cheers!website design templatesDeveloper for Hire

  4. Thanks for the comment! Hope it goes well. Which specific platform are you taking about?