With book retailer Borders releasing the Kobo ebook reader in Australia and consumers having to purchase the Kindle directly from US website Amazon.com, there’s plenty of reason to check out these two e-readers and see where they differ.
On a price scale, the Kobo is available in Borders stores or via its website for $AUD199. The Kindle is $US259 plus shipping which is another $US25 but with the Australian dollar sinking at the moment due to the financial woes in Europe, the Kindle is getting more and more expensive with each passing day.
The question is what do you get for you money with these two and are they worth it?
The Kindle 2, which is the designated international model, features a six-inch e-ink screen that delivers up to 16-levels of greyscale, or shades between black and white. There are no details on the Kobo’s greyscale level at the moment but the screen is similar (six-inch e-ink).
Greyscale capability is important because it determines how well the ereader can display images and diagrams.
As for storage, Kindle 2 delivers around 1.5GB of free storage but cannot be upgraded. You need either the original Kindle or the larger Kindle DX to get external flash card support. The Kobo comes with 1GB of on-board storage but you do get an SD card expansion slot.
Book support for the Kobo is PDF and EPUB with support for Adobe DRM (digital rights management) or copy protection. The Kindle supports Amazon’s AZW format, a subset of the Mobipocket MOBI format as well as PDF, MOBI and PRC book formats. It doesn’t support EPUB, which is one drawback.
While the Kindle 2 features a QWERTY keyboard, the Kobo has four simple navigation keys on the lefthand side and a D-pad down on the right-hand corner. In terms of ease of use, the Kobo is likely to be less threatening to beginners than the Kindle. One thing about the Kindle is its ability to be used either right or left-handed as page navigation buttons are located on both edges of the device. This is something the Kobo lacks.
In terms of battery life, this is hard to measure however, it would be similar based on the screen technology being used. Borders claims the battery will last up to two weeks, or more practically, 8000 “page turns”. E-ink screens use almost no electricity in standing position but use it when pages have to be “redrawn”.
In terms of weight, the Kobo is said to weigh 221grams while for the Kindle, it’s around 290grams, so there’s a reasonable difference. However, where that difference and extra cost of the Kindle comes is in its extra features.
The Kindle supports MP3 playback (although as an “experimental” feature), as is the rudimentary but reasonably effective text-to-speech option.
However, the jewel in the crown for the Kindle is its built-in worldwide 3G connectivity that allows users to buy books directly from the Amazon.com website without having to touch a computer or browser. What’s more, the 3G service is free. You don’t need to sign up for any contracts – you just activate it and away you go. Of course, you can only access the Amazon.com ebook shop but given the application, this could be far more convenient than trying to locate an ebook shop while on holidays.
The Kobo requires ebooks to be purchased via its webstore through a computer.
The Kindle 2 is more technically advanced than the Kobo but for those wanting to dip a toe into the ebook waters without having to deal with overseas purchases, the Kobo is going to be very hard to beat at its $199 price tag. And it certainly will have the wood on other ebook readers that are selling in Australia for over $300.
So technically, the Kindle 2 does more but costs more. Borders is not giving away too many details about the Kobo’s internals but given it supports PDF and EPUB, possibly the two most popular ebook formats worldwide, users are not going to lose out.