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Kobo: The Perfect Free-Reader

Kris Carlon

Ebook readers hardly need any introduction, but sometimes the last thing you want is another gadget that overlaps many of the functions of your other devices. After all, you can read ebooks on you PC, laptop, ebook reader, tablet, smartphone... So if you're not in the market for an ebook reader but would still like the experience offered by ebooks on your smartphone or tablet, you can get an ebook app that handles much the same as ebook readers do. It only makes sense to go with an app made by the same developer as the ebook, right? So here's the official Kobo app reviewed, but how does it compare to the real deal?

4 ★★★★


Tested version Latest version
4.11.10773 Varies with device

Features & Use

Now, I already have a Kindle with e-ink and a color-screen Kobo Arc so I'm certainly in love with the experience ebook readers have to offer, but I also have a tablet, laptop and so on. Sometimes I just don't want to have to carry around all my electronics so I can get the best out of each device. And sometimes I just find myself technologically ill-prepared for what I feel like doing at the time. So having the opportunity to get my ebook experience on my smartphone or tablet is a big deal for me.

Of course, one of the first things to mention is that reading long texts on your smartphone is not that great because of the tiny screen size, and it is for this reason that I try not to do it too much. Certainly not when I'm reading an ebook anyway. My smartphone has a small screen though, so perhaps larger screen phones or phablets are fine for all day reading. In any case, I installed Kobo app on my 10.1'' tablet to get a feel for something bigger than I was used to with my ebook readers.

When you first install the Kobo app, you will be asked to sign in or sign up. If you already have an account with Kobo, all your purchased books will be available immediately. If you are new to Kobo you can sing up in one easy step and start browsing the millions of free and paid books available in the Kobo store. My only complaint here is that it's not so easy to search exclusively for free books. But then again, it's not so easy on the Kobo Arc either.

The first thing you notice on a tablet is the luxurious screen space available for your book shelves. The simple fact you can see so much more without having to scroll endlessly is nice in itself. You also get a much better overview of how the app works simply because you can see so much of it at one time. You can scroll up and down in the various tabs (Home, Library, Store and Reading Life) to see the sub-categories. For example, on the Home screen, you have Recent Activity, Recommended For You, New Releases, Friends are Reading, and My Awards. Within each category you can scroll left and right to see more of the shelf titles.

There's a nice category-specific hidden menu on the left that can be dragged out, and the menus are brief and useful. Reading Life, as the name implies, let's you track your reading life in terms of time spent reading, how many books you've read, pages you've turned and awards received. You can also see your average stats to see how quickly you read and for how long per page/book/session. My Awards gives you the chance to receive awards based on your reading habits, which I find a little gimmicky as I get enough rewards from reading - I don't need silly awards for my efforts. However, this could be a useful tool to get kids reading more books.

Bottom Line

If you're not willing to buy yet another device specifically for ebook reading, then you really can't go past the Kobo app. It offers a very similar user experience to the Kobo Arc and the exact same reading experience. Some features of the Arc, like Tapestries and the Discovery feature, are not included, but for a basic ebook reading experience it's perfect. And best of all, it's free.

The only downsides are that reading on a tablet screen is not as good for the eyes as e-ink, and your tablet battery life will be nowhere near as good as a dedicated ebook reader. But as a stop-gap for when you don't have your Kobo with you, or as an introduction to the joys of ebooks, you really can't ask for more. Except perhaps, for better search options for free books. The only other thing is that once you've tried the Kobo app, you may just like it so much that you go out and buy yourself a real Kobo! All in all, an excellent ebook reader app.

Screen & Controls

In the reading mode, page transitions are great (you can set them yourself) and you have all the usual settings for page orientation, font size, navigation options, notification and social settings. The social aspect of the Kobo app is really quite nice (it is also available on the Kobo Arc) and let's you see what your friends are reading, share quotes and also comment on books along with others who are reading it. Of course, you can also highlight passages, make notes and share all these with your friends as well. You can preview first chapters before you buy, read across multiple devices (hooray!) and pick up where you left off on each new device. You can also use volume buttons to navigate if you don't want to use the smooth touchscreen controls. I really liked the experience the bigger screen offered too, but remember, I tested this app on my 10.1'' tablet.

Speed & Stability

I only had one freeze when loading books, and downloading was a little slow, but that could've been my Wi-Fi connection during the test period. Also, there's sometimes a tiny lag between swiping the touchscreen and the page turning, especially with animations. Otherwise, the Kobo app performed smoothly and quickly.

Price/Performance Ratio

What is there to say? The Kobo app is free and it performs almost exactly the same as a dedicated Kobo ebook reader. Definitely worth an install!


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Comparable Apps


Kobo Inc.

eReading services


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