Why I'm Returning My Kobo

I bought a Kobo in April, and I loved it. I'm totally sold on the whole e-reader thing. At the end of my first day of having it, I picked up a print book I was in the middle of and got irritated with it, for these reasons:

  1. You need two hands to hold it open.
  2. You need two hands to turn pages.
  3. It's heavier than the kobo.
  4. The binding was tight and it put strain on my fingers.

I read Stephen King's Under The Dome with it, mostly walking back and forth from work. Try that with the hardcover and I can refer you to a good hand specialist.

So I was lovin' that Kobo. I even talked my cousin, who thought she'd never like an e-reader, into buying one. A lot of people are using iPads now for reading, and they are good for that, but there are three major problems with the iPad for reading-- it's too heavy, the battery does not last as long as an e-reader's, and it's not good in very bright light (too much glare) or very dim light (screen is too bright.)

However, I quickly had a problem with my Kobo. You have to synch the kobo with desktop software, kind of like how you have to synch old iPods. Sometime when I'd synch I'd lose my bookmark. I was reading Stephenson's The Diamond Age, which has incredibly long chapters. I once spent 15 minutes turning pages on the kobo, looking for the page I was on. Very infuriating.

But then the doozy... They had a software "upgrade" that featured an auto-shut-off function. After 20 minutes, the machine would power down. Before I explain why this is so bad, let me explain why it was so good before.

E-readers don't draw power unless they are changing what's on the screen. That means that it takes no power to keep something on the screen. When the battery would run out, for example, it would just display the last page viewed until it was recharged. So sometimes I'd be just sitting around, I'd see the kobo on my coffee table, pick it up, and start reading. I didn't even have to open a book! This might sound strange, but that was my experience.

So not only does the device no longer show the page you're on, nor the cover of the book you're reading, but a "You Kobo is powered down" message. Okay, whatever. Here's the problem: it took me 60-90 seconds to get from powered down to reading. 30 or so seconds to boot the machine, and then you had to click, and load the book you're reading, which took another 30 to 60 seconds.

Oh my God this drove me crazy. I used to go to bed, pick up my kobo, and instantly start reading. When I was in line, I'd pull out the kobo and read for two minutes. Now, I start booting, go brush my teeth, come back to bed, click on the book I'm reading, put on my PJs, and by that time I'm ready to read. This made me incredibly angry.

I complained to customer service. I posted complaints on their website. I don't expect it to change. It was a designed software upgrade. They had two reasons. The first one was to save energy. This makes little sense to me, since it only draws power when page-turning. If I have to boot it up everytime I start reading, it takes, over time, more energy. Second, it was how people expected the device to behave. I guess I can understand this. I bet people were calling in complaining that their device was not going to sleep when they left it, like their computers do. They probably got sick of trying to explain to them that it didn't matter.

Well, they're doing worse than losing my business. I am returning my Kobo. I called customer service and they put in a note to allow me to do it (you're not supposed to be able to after 30 days of purchase... I guess their return policy has an auto shut off too...).  The customer service was good.

What's next? A iPad or a Kindle. Kindles are now almost as cheap as kobos, and I'll get a dedicated e-reader again sometime soon, but the iPad does a hell of a lot more cool stuff. We'll see.

Pictured: the black kobo, in full sunlight. Perfectly readable!

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Crystal said…
Kindle! You yourself outlined some problems with the iPad as an ebook reader. But, if you really are looking for something *more* than an ebook reader, then iPad it is. :)

Anonymous said…
Have you looked at the Nook? David has one, and has really enjoyed it. He chose it in large part for the better DRM options: if he ever decides to change e-readers, he'll be able to read his ePub books elsewhere, unlike with the Kindle's proprietary format. (This is as I understand it from the little I know, as I don't have an e-reader yet myself.)

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