Why Kobo Glo? Part 1

Before flying out to Central America this year, I struggled with the decision to finally retire my aged Sony PRS-600 and purchase a new ereader. The Sony PRS-600's battery was having problems holding a charge, Sony had discontinued the ereader line, and I knew that after more than four years of use it was time to put the PRS-600 to bed with the highest honors . Although I already owned a budget 7" Android tablet configured perfectly for my needs, I'm a huge fan of ereaders. The Central America trip, which would involve more than 28 hours of travel, was a great excuse to finally shell out money for the 6" Kobo Glo.

1. Why an ereader? The first mistake mainstream users make when shopping for an ereader is to compare an ereader with a tablet. If a user asks himself why he should even buy an ereader when he can get a budget 7" Android tablet then he's off to a pretty poor start in the decision-making process. An ereader is directed at a totally different market from tablets. I've written about the reading experience between a tablet and an ereader before. It doesn't matter if you're using a quadcore Android/Windows 8.1 tablet or a 3rd-generation Kindle - if you enjoy reading then consider a distraction-free standalone ereader. Get an iOS7/Android/Windows 8.1 tablet for everything else you do to supplement your laptop, ultraportable, smartphone, or netbook.

What am I reading now? Earl Derr Biggers' The Chinese Parrot featuring Charlie Chan.

The 6" Kobo Glo is a dedicated device for reading. It's not for surfing the Internet or checking social media sites. It's hard for this generation's users to understand the concept of "dedicated" since the aim of consumer devices today is convergence - that is, one device with multiple uses. However, older users will understand the practicality of a dedicated device. For example, an MP3 player with physical buttons such as the Creative Zen is a better audio learning tool than the iPod Touch or iPhone. There is no doubt that the two Apple devices are a hundred times more powerful, but the stop, pause, and play buttons on the Zen were designed for quick response and access while playing audio lessons.

2. Kobo Glo battery life - If you are going to buy an ereader, then battery life is more likely the primary reason why you're getting one. Newer tablets today have exceptional battery life but if you're concerned about having to plug your device every few days then an ereader such as the Kobo Glo is worth a look. Having used one of Sony's early ereaders for more than four years, I had grown accustomed to a week's use of battery life (which was the longevity of the battery life in the last months of using the Sony PRS-600). The Kobo Glo therefore was a revelation. Despite having a more powerful processor than the Sony PRS-600, the Glo has survived weeks of use at a time.

The aforementioned Sony PRS-600 was equipped with a Sony card reader and a SD card reader (as well as a MP3 player). Although they were good features when the PRS-600 was released years ago, having a SD card in the slot impacted battery life tremendously. The Kobo Glo's micro-SD slot, on the other hand, has minimal effect on battery life even with a 32GB card inserted.

Note: Like the Sony PRS-600, the Kobo Glo also doubles as a micro-SD card reader. Just plug the Glo to a Windows or Linux machine and your file explorer will display the contents of the micro-SD.

I'm not a voracious reader but considering the number of mobile devices I own that require charging, it's nice to know I won't have to plug the Kobo Glo as often as my ASUS Memo Pad HD7 or Lumia 925. I'll be the first to admit that battery charging isn't an issue any longer when traveling. Airports, airplanes, and public places are now equipped with amenities to satisfy the gadget-dependent traveler. There's always a socket somewhere you can connect your tablet to whether you're on a bus terminal, library, or mall. On the other hand, it's still darn inconvenient having to do just that.

3. Solid build quality, comfortable to hold, and extremely portable -  Before the popularity of online shopping, users were advised to physically try out a mouse or keyboard before taking out their credit card. The Kobo Glo, like the Kindle and Nook, was designed for extended use with one hand or even two hands. Manufacturers have greatly improved the bezel design and weight of tablets for hours of use (compare the iPad 2 with today's more svelte tablets). However, there's something to be said about a product designed solely for reading not gaming, surfing, or (groan) taking photos.

The Kobo Glo is extremely light and can surprisingly fit in a jacket pocket. The Android Memo Pad HD7, like most smaller tablets available in the market today, is also comfortable to hold for long periods but there's a certain comfort in the Glo that the Memo Pad HD7 doesn't have.  In fact, the Nokia Lumia 925, which is a few inches smaller and slightly thinner, actually feels more substantial when stuffed inside my khakis.

4. EPUB, CBR, and CBZ - The Amazon Kindle dominates the ebook reading market, but one of the reasons I chose the Sony PRS-600 a few years ago was because of file format support. It's also the same reason why I opted for the Kobo Glo rather than the well-reviewed Nook Simple Touch or Kindle Paperwhite. To be fair, file format support in ereaders isn't an issue with applications like Calibre and Amazon's own conversion service. Calibre makes file conversion a simple and straightforward affair and produces adequate results. Unfortunately, due to the nature of CBRs and CBZs (Comic book archives are composed of compressed PNGs and JPEGs), converting them takes longer than normal text files and can often result in unreadable documents.

The Kobo Glo not only supports EPUBs, CBRs, and CBZs out of the box, but can also display properly compressed RAR and ZIP files.  Fill up a micro-SD card with collected CBRs and CBZs of manga and 70s Marvel books and you're good to go.

Ghost Sweeper Mikami on the Kobo Glo

Finally, one of the strongest arguments for purchasing a device that supports EPUB is that sites like Archive.org, Gutenberg.org, and Feedbooks all use EPUB. Even if you don't use an online bookstore such as Kobo's, you will always have text, EPUB, or PDF files to read.

Note: As a student of Asian literature, classical literature, and history, Archive.org, Gutenberg.org, and Feedbooks.com are three of my favorite sources for EPUBs. The Kindle is great but I want to spend more time reading than actually converting files and documents.

Continued in Why Kobo Glo? Part 2

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