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back to article WHSmith Kobo Touch wireless e-book reader

The joys of the e-book reader are considerable. You can carry a thousand books in your pocket and download more in a matter of seconds while you’re sitting in the garden – assuming the Wi-Fi stretches or you have a 3G model. If there are words you don’t recognise, you can look them up with one touch too. And in the case of …

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Wait for the Bookeen Odyssey

It's French and coming out in the next week or so.

The e-ink display is supposed to have a refresh rate fast enough to use it as a B&W tablet.

Have a look at the vids out there.

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The reader everyone has been waiting for?

You betcha. I have a Sony PRS-650 and won't be updating (it offers me nothing, as it uses the same 6in e-ink Perl and touchscreen, just no Wifi).

However for new to e-book consumers, this beats the Amazon hands down. It supports EPUB, which means you aren't locked into any proprietary stores like the Kindle, does everything the Kindle does, and even reads the Kindle format (MOBI), so you can un-DRM your kindle books and read them on here.

What I don't get, is it scored the same as the new Kindle, despite being better in that it's not locked to a single content supplier. Surely that deserves another 5% In my world it does...

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I'm against proprietary as much as anyone

But I have to dispel the myth that the Kindle is somehow 'locked in'. You can download Calibre and convert pretty much any ebook format to one that the Kindle will read. You don't have to go through proprietary software, such as the dreaded iTunes to transfer files to or from it, plug it into your PC and it shows up as an external drive. It is a bit of a pain that it doesn't natively support epub, but it is by no means an insurmountable obstacle.

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Big Brother

Erm, try converting those kindle mobi's to read on a Sony then

Amazon lock you in in as much as once you have invested heavily in content from them , if you move to another device vendor they wont support the kindle mobi format as it uses DRM.

So I guess you could keep the kindle for old books and use your new device only for new books?

(Assuming your kindle didnt break, the most likely reason to buy a new e-book reader)

Seems unlikely, which is why they like the lock in.

Obviously DRM isnt unbreakable by any means, and at least Amazon kindle books are formatted to be read on a 6-inch ebook device, as opposed to the dumb adobe DRM where most of the books are formatted to read on an A4 page and the DRM stops you reprocessing it into anything else.

And they wonder why people spend time working to bypass DRM even if they arnt "freetards"

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convert epub to mobi

epubs can be converted to mobi for reading on kindle.

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Never going back

I've had ebook readers for a few years and I'm never going back!

An 800 page book is a pain to hold, a pain to keep open, its heavy, cumbersome and easily damaged.

I'm now on my third generation of ebook reader, I've been able to put the books I bought previously onto the newer device with no problems so far. I love the way these devices keep my page as I switch from book to book. My old collection of bookmarks (collected over 30 years) is now a real collection as none are used.

I made the choice a few years ago that I would not buy a book in paper format again, that I would wait for the ebook version. This year that commitment has been stuck to better than before. No books bought this year so far (I bought 4 last year and 12 the year before, down from 30-40 before that).

As I replace old books with ereader copies, the paper versions are being recycled - either with other people or the the charity shops (you surely didn't think I mean the council recycling facility did you?!?).

Ebook all the way for me!

Oh - that page turn issue? not a problem at all, most of the time I don't even notice it and it has never annoyed me.

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I really can't see a lot between this and the Kindle

The 'closed ecosystem' of the kindle doesn't prove to be much of an issue with mine. You can convert ePub to formats readable by the Kindle using Calibre. Yes, it's an extra step, but not a major PITA. The one thing I find particularly useful is the ability to email PDFs and word documents straight to the device, and the conversion is done for you. This is quite handy if you have docs you need to review and proved a godsend when recently proofreading a dissertation for the GF. Does the Kobo support this? If so, then I'd say they really are much of a muchness. Not sure I like the quilted duvet look though.

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Reading Life?

I thought that was a community magazine from Berkshire.

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Loading Books On

How do you load books onto the device? Is it only though an online service like the kindle or can you use that usb port it has paired with Calibre?

What affect does turning the WiFi/3G radios on have on the battery life?

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Loading from PC too.

You can buy books online direct from the device and it downloads direct (Kindle style), and also from the PC using AdobeDigital Editions or the Kobo Desktop software (Sony Reader Style),.

The best of both worlds.

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The Kindle works just fine with Calibre FYI - I have one and the Wi-Fi was only ever on long enough to activate it...

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How would you compare it to the touch screen sony e-readers?

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Devil

Touchscreen!

W H Smith is going to pay dearly for this! Steve Jobs invented touchscreens, and gestures! And language!

You can run, Smith, but you can't hide from the US Patent Office!

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JDX
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2 cents

1)I don't see the big deal of page-flashing... with a real book you have a far more prolonged page-turn, with dangerous paper-cut risk :)

2)Hard without seeing it for real but for some reason, 'kobo' looks like a store-brand copy of Kindle to me, like Sanyo.

2.5)Does WH have enough of a brand left these days? It used to be the equivalent of Woolworths - but now it's the equivalent of Woolworths.

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Anonymous Coward

"with dangerous paper-cut risk"

That's dangerous? I think you may need to put the books down for 5 minutes and get outside a little more often!

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Anonymous Coward

Lovely books

e-readers are great for travelling, but actual books are indeed far lovlier. Also, they can be lent to and borrowed from friends which is a lot more social than ereaders

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Joke

"...boy, is it slow?"

I don't know. I was hoping you would tell me. That's why I read the review!

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"Buy from amazon.co.uk"

Tad ironic? Needless to say there's only accessories on the end of the link, not the actual reader.

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(Written by Reg staff)

Re: "Buy from amazon.co.uk"

I believe it says 'buy from Amazon' not 'buy the whatever from Amazon'. There's a reason for that.

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Anonymous Coward

Improving

I replaced my iRiver touch with a Kobo Touch, and it's certainly much better. Massively better contrast and screen, amongst other things.

The Kobo Touch does a nice job of zooming in on .pdf files.

Shame it doesn't do so with bitmap diagrams though. I really want an ereader for textbooks, which have lots of diagrams, and they're always bitmaps in ebook format, and no readers let you zoom in on a bitmap in an ebook...

I accidentally copied a .docx file onto the Kobo, and it just opened it when asked... Some faff zomming in to a useful resolution, admittedly..

The reviewer mentions that the touch keyboard si slow, which is true, but.. It's much faster than using up/down/left/right with a 5 way button on the new Kindle.. And how much typing do you plan to do? So, I think it's the right balance...

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Anonymous Coward

Textbooks etc

I reckon the e-reader manufacturers are seriously missing a trick. People have been going on about the paperless office for years; with an A4 e-ink reader and some well thought out connectivity and software, you just might get there. Add a touch screen that also can be used with a stylus and you can even scribble on the docs when working through ideas. It really doesn't have to be very sophisticated or capable at all provided it sticks to the basics of emulating the things paper does well now.

Costs would be relatively high now for large screen sizes, but ereaders are way cheap compared to tablets and mass adoption by businesses would drop prices soon enough.

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Anonymous Coward

> an A4 e-ink reader

Screw the paperless office; I want an A4 e-book reader for comics.

The 6" screen is pretty good for manga, but for larger format comics the screen is just too small.

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Had a play with one on the weekend...

Got collared whilst walking through a Smiths on the weekend and had a play with one .. quite nice and moderately useful (I have a 3G iPad1 so enjoyed the comparison) .. still not completely convinced by eInk (noticed the better page turning) but ebooks in general are good and as I only use books for reference purposes (not novels) they are a great idea .. having access to thousands of reference books with search facilities and annotations would be really useful especially when there is no easy internet access.

If the other Kindles make it over the pond then next year could be when ereaders get a shakedown and we get cheaper (subsidised) devices which could be hacked and extended!

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Books

Is the selection of books as rubbish as in bricks and mortar WH Smiths? I don't want to buy this thing if all I can read is James Corden's autobioghraphy.

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Stop

More books than Kindle...

EPUB is a much more widely recognised format than AMZ.

http://www.kobobooks.com/touch_compare

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ql
Meh

Just got one, and it's good

Just got one of these. I was a bit worried when I found that you had to install an application on your computer to register the thing even to the extent of getting its wireless to work. As I run neither windows nor macos, the only OSs for which the application is provided, I thought I would have to return it, but as it happens winetricks has a recipe which meant a one-click install followed by an update worked well. There are instructions on the net for getting the USB connections reliable under wine, and after that, all was fine. Not ideal but OK. Oh, and it was good that just an email address and password are required for registration, along with some opt-out opportunity for reading surveillance, rather than insisting on intrusive personal data capture.

In use, I find it pretty good, and somehow easier to use than SWMBO's kindle - I must try to work out why. Epub format is an advantage over the kindle. All in all, and for what it's worth, I'm really pleased with the kobo.

S

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Anonymous Coward

You need to "install an application on your computer to register the thing"?

That is totally stupid. Congratulations on getting it to work with WINE, but you should have returned the thing out of principle.

What inspired me to buy a Kindle was these words on Amazon's web site:

"System Requirements : None, because it's wireless and doesn't require a computer."

That is how a tablet or e-book reader ought to work. Why do so many companies fail so utterly to achieve this? Even Apple iPad users are expected to install iTunes on a computer running an approved OS. Idiots, idiots.

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Not any more

"PC Free" is one of the big deals with iOS 5.

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And how many people are there out there who are going to order an ebook reader who don't have a computer? Let's be sensible, how could you actually buy a wifi kindle, set it up with amazon and use the damn thing without using a computer in the first place?

That's the least compelling argument I've heard in favour of the Kindle so far.

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This was one of the major factors when I bought the wifi only v3, I wasn't forced into running either Windows or OSX. Just drag and drop onto the kindle when plugged in via USB and off you go.

Calibre does a seamless job of converting non-mobi files before uploading to your kindle. You can even configure Calibre to not ask you if you want it to convert and just do it.

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""PC Free" is one of the big deals with iOS 5."

I would have thought any version of iOS would be "PC free" I can't see Apple encouraging their customers to buy a PC. Indeed I'm amazed that they haven't actually made "PC Free" a requirement for owning any Apple device.

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ql
Linux

"...but you should have returned the thing out of principle."

True - I'm far from being Stallman-compliant, I fear, but to defend myself, all the ebook readers have SOME degree of compromise and, well, to be honest, I just had to choose one. The Kobo doesn't come with a USB charging plug either, so you have to use your PC to charge it.

S

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WTF?

Wot ?

I was seriously considering one after the review but then I came to this comment. Are they serious? That's this sale lost. Next !

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ql
Linux

Drag n Drop

I may have misled you - you can absolutely use it as a mass storage device and drag 'n' drop files to and from it on the Kobo, and indeed, that's how I tend to use it. But you can only register the device by installing the windows or macos software. As far as I can see, you have to do that before the wifi works properly too.

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touching eink?

Given how fastidious I am about cleaning my screens, perhaps on my ereader most of all, I'm not entirely sure I want to be swiping my greasy fingers over the reading surface all the time.

Sometimes buttons are the right answer. Make 'em capacitative buttons or a swipe pad or whatever, but keep my mucky hands away from the display!

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Well buy the none touch version then. Keeps your screen clean and costs less. A true win/win for you.

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Joke

Alternatively

You could wash your hands once in a while...

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Boffin

pdf ability?

How good is this unit at reading pdf files, as I would love to use one to access all my tech resoucres, manuals and diagrams.

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Not very

Save yourself the annoyance. And do not listen to the twits who will swear that they use their e-ink readers for PDF every day. HTey are all without exception.. Rubbish for PDF.

Get a tablet for PDF, and if you read for pleasure, an e-book reader for fiction.

End of story.

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Boffin

kindle has no lock in

it plays mobi, etc, pdf all natively. there is no lock in with kindle.

epub to mobi conversion is easy peasy - use something like calibre to manage all your books on the computer and it's more or less automatic.

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But the PDF handling in Kindle is near useless (I think that the claim that it handles PDF is a bit misleading) - I have one and was very disappointed to find I couldn't read any of my PDF files on it. Most PDF's are A4 or letter and you can't read them. The zooming does not work with the paging so if you try to use this you are constantly zooming and panning. There appears to be no way to re-flow (if there is and I've missed it, I'll be kicking myself) PDF text.

Does the Kobo do any better - someone said the zoom worked well but can you read a longish A4/letter PDF using it?

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pdf to epub via calibre for re-flow

convert your pdfs to epubs which will reflow the text to fit the page.

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Bronze badge

Yes epub conversion is easy, but you still shouldn't have to do it. Epub is the defacto standard for ebooks so it should be in there as standard. Were the Kindle cheaper than the Kobo then that might excuse it, but they are the same price and otherwise equal in every respect. As such the simple exclusion of epub on the Kindle clinches the deal for the Kobo. Simple.

I can see no reason why anyone would buy the Kindle over the Kobo unless they were some sort of Amazon fanboi.

Of course I can see why somebody would defend the Kindle in this respect. Because they own a Kindle and don't have the integrity to be objective. IOW they are an Amazon fanboi.

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Joke

IP-infringement?

Will Apple really let them sell these things, now that they have a patent on touchscreen gestures (OK, for unlocking, but what the heck)?

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Kobo

I tried using the Kobo site - once.

I put a stack of books in my shopping cart. Clicked to pay, filled out the details. Got an error message, but was reassured in big friendly letters that I hadn't been billed. Told to try again. Did so, same error message. Gave up, bought the books elsewhere.

A hour later, two receipts from Kobo for the books. Told customer service that I wanted a refund as their site had not worked and had assured me there had been no charge.

Response: all sales are final, no refund.

They edge just ahead of Sony in my league of companies that can go and merrily burn in hell.

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Distance selling regulations

No way they could get away with this. If you don't own the books why should you pay. If you can prove it then you should get your money back.

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UK Trading Standards

Even so much as a sign saying "No refunds given" is illegal in Britain. Contact Trading Standards.

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Anonymous Coward

Kobo

I have one and really like, better than the older model Sony my son has. It uses an IR system for touch so there's not an extra touch layer which can have an impact on readability. I think the newer Sony's have adopted this approach as well.

I believe the IR system is from a company that at one time made touch screen mobiles including a slide to unlock feature that predates the iPhone by some years.

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Devil

ir-touch

The touchscreen of a 1988 Xerox DP180 is IR-based and can be unlocked with a gesture; not the first thing that transformed from a PARC- (or Alan Kay-) idea to an 'original' Apple intellectual property like object oriented GUI or the tablet...

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Anonymous Coward

What's in a name?

I'm fascinated as to why this is called the "WH Smith Kobo Reader", when as far as I can see all Smiths do is sell it. What's next, the "John Lewis Apple iPad"?

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