Monday, April 25, 2016

The Kobo Glo HD

Kobo Glo HDThe Kobo Glo HD

After a few years of silence on the various Kobo e-readers, I'm piping up again with a rather rambling review of the Kobo Glo HD.

I got into the e-reader craze with the original Kobo - think back to the directional button for navigation and no wi-fi connection. Upgraded to the second generation - same navigation system, but added wi-fi capabilities (and came in some fairly nifty colors). Then I went over to the Vox. And after that, faded back to a strong preference for paper books. I've barely used an e-reader for at least three years.

However, I'd been talking about getting one of the Glo variants for a couple of years now. I finally broke down last month and did so. In general, I've found that I prefer the e-ink style e-readers, although, as the proud owner of an iPad as well, I've still got the option for anything that will do better with full colour (Judith Tarr's Writing Horses: The Fine Art Of Getting It Right for example).

There are several areas where the touchscreen e-ink e-reader outdoes the iPad and even the Vox versions.

First thing. Footnotes. This is something that the original Kobo Touch incorporated, but not any of the reading apps as far as I can tell. However, as someone who likes to read non-fiction as well as fiction, I really appreciate this - even though to date I only have one book which incorporates this feature. It makes the e-reader much more usable for non-fiction reading as well as novels. When I touch a footnote marker, it brings up the footnote right on screen over the page, allowing you to read it and go right back to reading the main text without disruption.

Given some of the articles I've read over the last year to two years on support for indexes in e-pub format ebooks, I'd be interested in seeing how the e-ink Kobo e-readers handle indexes as well. Any suggestions for particularly outstanding examples?

When it comes to the screen and the "Glo" or "ComfortLight" lighting, I have to say it's pretty good. Both definitely live up to their billing of being able to read in both bright, direct sunlight and in darkness. I've tested both. Right from the start with the original Kobo e-ink e-reader they've been great in the sun. I remember having mine with me the day after I got it and sitting out around Noon in full sunlight and having next to no problems. I think I might have upped the font size by one, but that was all.

Now, for night-time or other low-light reading situations, the ComfortLight is an improvement on the methods I had to use with my original e-readers: clip-on lights. Those lights never lasted more than a few hours - I'd kill one on the first couple of nights of a camping trip - before the batteries went.

The strength of the screen light can be easily adjusted. Personally, I rarely take it up above about 30%. Even 2-4% is enough for use in a fully dark room - and it's not as likely to disturb anyone else in the room, although courtesy dictates that the best way to read under those circumstances is to make sure the back of the Kobo is facing them to minimize the light disturbance.

The interface for adjusting the fonts, sizes, line spacing and margins remains more or less the same as it was with the Kobo Touch, as does the workings of the library and home screen as far as I can remember.

Battery life is another satisfactory area. I haven't actually tested how long it takes to end up draining the battery completely yet, but I've only had to charge the battery twice in the last three weeks of fairly heavy use - and probably could have gotten away with leaving it longer both times. I think once was at 60% and the last time the reader still had about 30% of the battery left.

The claim is that the battery will last for up to two months. I'm guessing that that's with either no use or very light use, and of course, using the light will drain the battery faster. Not what I've been giving it. Since I bought the Kobo, I've read the following books on it:
  1. Cythera, by Jo Graham
  2. Deeds of Honor by Elizabeth Moon
  3. Dies The Fire by S. M. Stirling
  4. Time Enough For Love by Robert A. Heinlein
  5. Trio of Sorcery by Mercedes Lackey
  6. Finding The Way by Mercedes Lackey 
  7. The Apocalypse Troll by David Weber
Also, about a quarter of Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff, and some of Lara Adrian's first Midnight Breed novel, A Kiss of Midnight. Quite respectable for what would be more or less one battery charge I think.

The only negative comment I have is nothing to do with the physical Kobo. Instead, it is regarding the price of e-books. While some (such as many of those by Jo Graham) are still very low priced, others are the same price as the mass-market, or even trade paperback version of the book. I guess my mind is still stuck in the early days of e-books when they were marketed as a way of saving money on your book-buying. On seeing that, I generally opt to buy the paper versions these days. Still, there are times when I can't get to the bookstore, or they don't actually have the book there, so the "instant gratification" aspect of e-books comes into play.
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