I didn’t bring a book to Turks & Caicos… I brought an iPad with some books on it via the Nook application. I had never really tried to read outside with the iPad, but found it, well, not possible. There was simply too much glare and the back-lit screen isn’t bright enough. When I got home I decided to invest in an eReader.
I knew that I didn’t want a Kindle or the Sony reader, and the new Nook Simple Touch and Kobo Touch seemed very appealing. I read reviews and summaries but couldn’t decide which to get, so I got them both and took back the one that didn’t measure up. I’m not going to get into specifics comparing the hardware specs, since Kobo has an accurate comparison chart right on its website.
First and foremost, lets talk about the content. Nook is a Barnes & Noble product and has an excellent selection of books, as well as a more active social community reviewing books. This makes shopping easier since most of the books have at least one user review and a few stars to average out. I had a more difficult time finding books on the Kobo store, since the user community is actively reviewing and rating them with the exception of the best sellers, which all get high marks anyway. (Kobo is partnered with Borders book, but as my experience and research, this doesn’t appear to have really effected the book selection) Barnes and Noble edges out the Kobo store in regards to access to magazine and news papers, although this seems notably slim on both devices. When cross referencing content between Kobo, Nook and Kindle, there were only a few technical books that I could find in some stores and not others, but otherwise prices and selection remain consistent across the board.
The Kobo does have an advantage of being an international reading device. I found more books came in multiple language formats than on the Nook. It should also be noted that on some forums users complained that they were unable to access or download books on the Nook when traveling abroad. So if you plan on taking your Nook out of the USA you may want to fill it with all your reads prior to departure.
Actually reading the devices is great on both and will probably come down to personal preference. The Pearl eInk displays are all sharp and clear, with minimal ghosting from page turns. (Ghosting is very light grey text from the previous page that appears at times) Both devices will cache up to 6 pages which reduces the ‘flash’ when turning pages. The Kobo touch has the upper hand here in that you can set how many pages to cache before a full page refresh which can reduce ghosting. However, I found the actual page refreshing quicker and more fluid on the Nook.
The Kobo is slightly less wide, thinner in depth and a bit lighter. Its rubberized, ‘quilted’ backside made it a bit more comfortable to hold for long periods of time. Despite this, I feel the Nook gets the upper hand in ease of use and comfort because of its physical page turn buttons. Even though the touch screen is responsive and easy to use on the Kobo, I found having to tap or slide every time a bit tedious. When trying to read one handed, it took a bit of dexterity to click the screen or swipe.
The interfaces of both are essentially the same while reading. As of the last firmware update, the Kobo actually gets the upper hand on text display formatting, with easy slider adjustments for changing text size, fonts, line spacing and margins. I preferred the homepage of the Kobo as well for its simplicity. A few headers at the top to show you your full library, link to the store or view your Read On accomplishments and then clickable covers of your last 5 reads. It doesn’t suggest new books or clutter up the screen with store suggestions.
Lending and access to Library books is better on the Nook since its built in. Lending is currently not an option on the Kobo, although its said to be available by end of 2011. Kobo does allow viewing of more file types, but many of them are obscure and most likely never used by your average reader.
PDF support is better on the Kobo, with zooming and scaling much smoother without distorting the content. Tables and images in a PDF on the Nook don’t display correctly when zoomed in, and often times don’t display at all. Initially, PDF support was my primary reason for wanting a Kobo over the Nook, but after trying for an hour to read a work PDF, I gave up. The screens (on both devices really) are too small and full page eInk refreshes every time you move around a PDF while zoomed in are too obnoxious to really make eReaders a viable option for PDFs at the moment. With its Android base though, I feel the Nook is more likely to catch up and get advanced PDF functionality sooner than the Kobo.
Bottom line: Both devices are well made and as far as simply reading go, function fantastically. I’m keeping the Nook though. The fact that library checkout and lending are available now, the physical page turn buttons and longer battery life are the pros that stick with me. I love the simplicity of the Kobo’s interface, the slightly lighter smaller form, and the fact they don’t jam their store down your throat every time you turn on the device, but these weren’t enough to give it the edge.