If you’re thrifty and don’t need Amazon-DRMed books, then forget all those Black Friday Kindle sales and consider a used Kobo ereader by way of eBay or another site. Smart shoppers can snap one up right now for maybe $50-$70.
The Kobo Aura‘s typographical selections are better than those of the $290 Kindle Oasis, believe me, complete with a boldface level adjustment and a wider choice of fonts. The end result? Easier reading than on the Oasis, if these things matter to you. At $50-$60, it won’t cost much to see for yourself.
The frontlit screen is six inches, and the resolution is an adequate 1024 by 758. Storage is 4GB, enough for several thousand books, and you can add a memory card of up to 32GB.
The Kobo Aura will work with the Kobo bookstore and OverDrive library books, and in countries where it’s legal, of course, you can detoxify Amazon-DRMed books without breaking the law. But no matter where you live, the Aura is terrific for public domain books and nonDRMed titles in ePub, Mobi and other formats, as well as the ePub offerings of commercial bookstores using Adobe DRM. The Aura can even display PDFs although, with a six-inch screen, the experience probably won’t be optimal. Please note that Aura isn’t as responsive as, say, the newest Kindle Paperwhite, and some say the contrast is not quite as good, but it’s still usable. Besides, with bolding, the perceived contast is much better. An Engadget review gave the Aura a rave.
If you’re willing to pay more, you might instead consider a used Kobo H2O. I just bought one—as a loaner to demonstrate the potential of ebooks to librarians and others—for $62 and shipping. The 6.8 inch screen, larger than the Oasis’s six incher, has a resolution of 1430 x 1080. Still another choice might be the 6.8-inch Kobo HD, one of which I spotted for $89 used with free international shipping. Those aren’t all the Kobo possibilities out there on the used market, bu they’re the ones of mot interest to me.
Lest you think I’m the only Kobo fan POed by Amazon’s typographical limitations on even the pricey Oasis, let me quote from Culture of the Mac:
The Kindle’s typography is appalling, like a cheap pulp paperback. The Aura, on the other hand, not only offers more fonts but has a layout engine that makes every book you read look great. And this in turn makes reading a lot easier.
You can adjust the margin size, you can choose flush-left, ragged-right text (the Kindle justifies everything, stretching words into unnatural forms), tweak line spacing and choose from 12 fonts, not just six (the Kindle allows adjustments of margins and line spacing too, but it’s not as fine-grained).
What really makes the difference, though, is that the Kobo’s text-rendering engine was made by somebody who cares about typography. The fonts just render better on-screen, and the result is a page that looks like a real book, not just a bunch of letters squashed together into words.
Still not satisfied? You can even fine-tune the weight and size of some fonts in an “advanced” section.
Admittedly, Amazon improved its typography somewhat since the above was written but the basic hassle remains: The company is Putin-like in restricting readers’ choices.
The big question continues to be why Amazon keeps limiting our typographical choices and, unlike Kobo, won’t let us install our own fonts. Amazon is more or less an ebook monopoly when you consider its market share in the U.S. It is using its huge bookstore inventory and its proprietary DRM to prevail at the expense of readable ebooks. All this while pushing Kindles to schoolchildren—even if many kids could read more easily and thus learn more if they could control the typography more precisely!
The last thing in the world I want is for the forthcoming Trump administration to go after Amazon because CEO Jeff Bezo’s Washington Post has aggressively covered The Donald. But I will say that if the Trump Justice Department pressures Amazon to promote social DRM and offer ePub to avoid antitrust difficulties—and does this to help consumers, rather as a vendetta against Bezos—many ebooklovers will be very happy. The existence of Kobo’s superior typography shows what life could be like for the typical ebook reader without Amazon so obnoxiously dictating.
Note: Kobo has discontinued the original Aura One, the main model I’m pointing you to. I turned to the Internet Archive for a link to the related Web page. There is an Aura One Edition Two, now on sale new for $100, a $20 discount, but the original probably is a better value. If “new” is a must, here’s a full listing of Kobo ereaders now on sale from the company site.
Usual disclaimer: In nontypographical matters, I tend to be a huge fan of Amazon and its hardware (although I would welcome better treatment of the company’s workers). Also, I haven’t any connection with Kobo except as a user of its products, including the latest, the 7.8-inch Aura One reader. When the company sent me a free review unit costing $230 and hadn’t any easy way to charge for the machine at the time, I donated the equivalent to the public library here in Alexandria, Virginia.
What’s worse than not allowing user-added fonts? Allowing them then deliberately taking away that function, which was what Amazon did.
It’s worth noting that Kindle users *can* duplicate Kobo’s typography choices, add fonts and add a bunch of other useful functions like 2-page landscape, night mode, organizing by folder and better PDF & epub support. Just jailbreak and add the open-source KoReader software. Google to find out how. Basically, tell Amazon to go screw itself, you don’t need their stinkin’ software.
Amazon does a *lot* of things right but, for the past several years, their Kindle e-ink group has been failing spectacularly. Bezos needs to fix that.
@BDR: So, so true! Thanks for reminding people of the possibilities. Still, KoReader isn’t a solution for most. Happy holidays. David