Kobo has recently announced a strategic partnership with Pick n Pay to supply its Kobo Touch eReader in South Africa – and at just below R 1000, it comes in around R 300 cheaper than the entry level Kindle. But is it worth it or are you better off saving for the latest Kindle Paperwhite?
Whilst Kobo is certainly not the first name you would think of when it comes to eReaders, the Canadian company has made some impressive inroads in overseas markets and is now well positioned to expand in South Africa. As such, Kobo predicts that it will capture 50% of the South African e-reader market within the next year. Certainly ambitious – but not necessarily too crazy a sentiment – after all the Kobo store features over 1000 Afrikaans ebooks and supports the widely accepted ePub format, which will make it a lot easier to find local ebooks.
The Kobo eReader Touch Edition is slightly slimmed than the somewhat dated Kobo Wireless eReader and as the name suggests comes complete with a Touchscreen along with some minor performance improvements. Unfortunately for the Kobo Touch, these improvements are somewhat diminished by general sluggish performance, with slow page turn speeds frustrating on otherwise decent reading experience.
Kobo Touch Design
The Touchscreen upgrade make any sort of physical buttons on the Kobo Touch obsolete and ensures a very compact overall design – measuring 6.5 by 4.5 by 0.4 inches and weighing 7.1 ounces, it’s just a hair thinner and a half-inch narrower than the Nook Touch Reader. Interestingly, whilst we normally favour a larger screen on our ereaders, the bezel on the Kobo Touch is just a bit too narrow to comfortably rest your thumbs on and hold the device. This could be down to personal preference, but my hands were quickly fatigued by the somewhat unusually small bezel which made gripping the Kobo Touch difficult.
Apart from this minor issue, the design of the Kobo Touch is otherwise well through out – the device comes in either black or white and is covered in a soft, rubbery plastic that both looks good and comfortable to hold. There’s the power switch on top, a micro-USB port on the bottom, and a micro-SD slot on the bottom of the left side (you can add up to 32GB of extra storage, in addition to the 2GB of internal memory).
The 6 inch eInk Pearl screen on the Kobo Touch is the same as that used by Kindle and Nook ereaders and offers great readability in sunlight and a super long battery life. The only downside is that it offers a much weaker touch experience – being an infrared touchscreen – rather than a true capacitive screen. This results in an unfortunate lag between touch and response, but you will get used to it.
The Kobo Touch connects wirelssly via WiFi and there’s no 3G support. Unlike the Kindle or Nook, you will have to remenr to manually sync the Kobo Touch with any new content that you purchased online as it doesn’t do this automatically. No a major issue, but something we though was worth a mention.
Finding and Reading Books With The Kobo Touch
The Kobo Touch offers a significant number of local, Afrikaans books (which you will struggle to find on Amazon) plus it reads books in ePub format as well, which means you can read a much wider variety of content on the device (such as eBooks purchased via Kalahari.com).
To shop on the Kobo bookstore, you will first have to register the device, download the Desktop application and sync it with your ereader – the whole process is a bit tedious but easy enough to get through. Overall the store offers a decent buying experience, but still pales in comparison to Amazon’s massive selection and recommendation algorithms. Not a problem when you know what you’re looking for, but don’t expect much in the way in the way of helping you find something to read, other than provide you with bestseller lists.
The overall reading experience is very much like you’d expect from any eInk device – however unlike the Kindle, the Kobo Touch stores pages in a different way which makes the reading experience slightly different. Whilst in general pages turn fast enough and without lag, the Kobo Touch will have to load the next bunch of pages every 5-10 pages which can slow down the reading experience slightly.
Is The Kobo Touch Worth Buying?
The Kobo Touch is a very capable eReader and a solid purchase for most people. Its downside is a somewhat lackluster bookstore and a sluggish screen. However, with the Pick n Pay partnership, South Africans finally have a reputable local support channel in case there are any issues with the device or warranty – this can be a very frustrating experience for Kindle owners for example, as Amazon has no local office or dedicated support.
Plus, with the ePub support, you will not be constrained to the Kobo bookstore, so its limited choice will not matter that much anyway. And you get to easily purchase local eBooks, either through Kobo’s own selection of 1 000 Afrikaans titles or by browsing the ebook sections of our own local online retailers such as kalahari.com.