I like eReaders. I like the idea of them far more then the practice of using one, the idea that you can carry about hundreds or thousands of books in a little device that’s easy to hold, take anywhere, etc. It doesn’t have the zest nor the finality of a physical book, but ultimately it’s the content of the book that impresses itself upon us, not the touch. The difference between the two is, in many ways, moot.

But various eReaders are problematic in their own right. As electronics go, this shouldn’t come as a surprise, though readers can take solace that there are devices that are helping to shape the entire category of electronics for the better. The Kobo Touch is one such gadget, a very neat and clever eReader which is compact, convenient, and most of all fun.

What’s fun about a battery powered book? It smiles when in sleep mode, for starters. The  fonts and menus are simple and intuitive, and most importantly easy to maneuver and adjust. There’s a certain courteousness about the Kobo Touch that goes beyond simply reading; it’s the overall feeling that yes, reading is entertainment. And even if you are attracted to dire tales like The Idiot rather than whimsical stories of magic or vampires, everything from the simple welcome screen to the store clearly expresses not the calculating coldness of logical formatting made for machines, but an elegant, human appearance.

This is something that Amazon and Barnes & Noble, the leaders of the eBooks field, can take a lesson from.

Of course, knowing what we know about the two companies, why bother with Kobo? From a device standpoint, the Touch is a very easy handheld to use. It is reminiscent of an iPhone or iPod, with a single button and a full touchscreen. The touch panel reads presses well and is highly accurate, though occasionally misses page turns. It also lacks some of the swipe functions found on competing devices, instead opting for simpler tap controls. Navigation in books and menus is quick, though not notieably faster than the competition.

What I like most about the physical design is the textured rear, a colored surface (up to four colors to choose from) that has large studs that make it easier to grip. Most of today’s eReaders are too difficult to hold comfortably for long periods, but not so with the Kobo Touch. Users will tire of holding a physical book far before this.

The Kobo Touch only works over Wi-Fi, so it does not sync over the air like the Kindle or Nook. Because the software service Kobo offers – Kobo Books – does offer apps for the iPhone, Android and Blackberry, it is a shame that there is no 3G option. Though if you find yourself reading on the phone often, in areas without Wi-Fi, I’d contend that the Kobo Touch isn’t for you.

Unlike Sony’s Reader, the Kobo Touch uses proprietary software that is painless and to the point. It has all of the simple functions required for reading, like adding highlights and performing searches. Books can also be purchased directly through the Kobo Touch, and there are some social media functions through the Kobo Pulse service, though for the Touch it’s very limited.

Overall the Kobo Touch is a fantastic eReader, one I highly recommend for anyone who doesn’t need a 3G connection anywhere and just wants the simplest, easiest way to read books.

Editor’s Rating:

Rating: ★★★★½

Excellent

Bottom Line: A marvelous Wi-Fi only eReader that keeps you reading comfortably.

Pros:

  • Excellent design for holding and gripping
  • Simple menu system with a fun demeanor
Cons:
  • No 3G option for anywhere updates
  • The Kobo stores isn’t as big as competitors, and doesn’t have the same selection



James Pikover

 
Spawned in the horrendous heat of a Los Angeles winter, James was born with an incessant need to press buttons. Whether it was the car radio, doorbells on Halloween or lights, James pushed, pressed and prodded every button. No elevator was left unscathed, no building intercom was left un-rung, and no person he’s known has been left un-annoyed.