Kobo eReader updated — much better!

Though it’s a great device, I’ve always been a little disappointed with my Kobo eReader. Sure, I got the cool black one, and it will let me read my ebooks, but the reading experience was never that polished. It’s almost as if the software running the eReader was unfinished.

Some of the things that annoyed me were:

  • strong flicker when changing pages
  • confusion over power light status (blue/red/purple — means what?)
  • confusion over charging process / status
  • battery life wasn’t as good as I thought
  • text size was not changeable  for some ePubs

But the key word above is are ‘annoyed’ – past tense.

Not Annoyed
Kobo’s released their latest firmware update, and it addresses many of my concerns. And after doing the update, this thing feels new. Snappy! To quote from their website:

What’s In the Upgrade

Everything that we talked about here, here, and here.

The highlights:

  • The ability to resize fonts for any ePub file, no matter where it comes from.
  • Improved battery management
  • The ability to hide/show the preloaded free classics
  • Charging lights that make sense (red/violet when charging, blue when finished)

The Upgrade Process
Initially the upgrade was available to people who signed up to an ‘early access‘ program — ostensibly to help manage the rollout of the upgrade and catch any bugs that may still be in the code.

Then, after a period of time, the update was enabled for everyone.

Here’s how the upgrade works:

  1. Launch your Kobo desktop software on your computer.
  2. Connect your Kobo eReader to your computer.
  3. When prompted, download and install the updated Kobo desktop software.
  4. Restart the Kobo desktop software, and reconnect your Kobo eReader.
  5. Follow the prompts as the Kobo desktop software recognizes that your eReader hasn’t been updated yet.

It’s really that simple. You may have to repeat steps 1 and 2 a couple of times as it seems that the Kobo desktop software doesn’t always ‘phone home’ to see if there’s an update.

Oh, and you will need a paper clip (to hit the recessed reset button) and a bit of manual dexterity as you have to push 2 buttons and the middle of the Navigation Pad all at the same time to set the unit into update mode.

The firmware it didn’t ship with
Kudos to Kobo development staff for listening to customer concerns and getting this update out. While I’m glad to see this firmware release fix these issues, it’s unfortunate that the Kobo eReader didn’t ship with this version initially.

But hey, it’s out now and it works well. Time to read another book!

Why I’m not recommending an eBook reader this Christmas

This holiday season it seems that the eBook reader is the must-have tech gift.

I can understand why:

  • Portable – it’s easier to carry one eReader loaded with a few hundred (or thousand!) books
  • Searchable – some of the eReaders can  scan and search for text passages, letting you bookmark them for future reference
  • Annotations – in addition to bookmarking your pages, some eReaders let you make notes ‘in the margin’ so to speak. These can be saved out, exported to other docs for use

But even though eReaders are the rage — you may want to wait another few months before you invest;

  • Technology is improving — the nifty eInk process used to display highly readable text on an LCD-like screen is improving. The refresh rate and pixel resolution is improving, so the annoying (to me, at least) flicker when you flip pages will be reduced when eBooks adopt newer eInk tech.
  • More options — Barnes & Nobel has integrated a colour touch screen in their Nook eReader — in addition to the eInk text display.
  • More choice — Apple’s much predicted (yet never announced) Tablet device could arrive in the first half of next year. If so, this’ll be the ‘must-have’ eReader. Not only an eBook reader, the device will likely have all the functions of a current generation iPod Touch. If you think of it as a portable computer then you’ve got it. Though, many don’t like the backlit display of the iPhone and iPod touch for reading — too bright and hard on the eyes for long-term use — I’ve not noticed a problem in long session’s I’ve had.
  • Current eReaders are not discountedIn this ComputerWorld article, it seems that eBook readers have the highest markup of all technology available this holiday season:
    E-book readers aren’t really getting swept up in the cost cutting. While some stores are actually paying you to take free BlackBerry phones, for example, e-book readers still cost hundreds of dollars.
  • Proprietary eBook stores — I’m not sure how this will shake down. Google, Sony, Amazon all have (or will soon have) online eBook shops, and there’s a host of independent ones too. The selection of books available at (or limited to) certain eBook stores may decide which unit you get…but it shouldn’t. I’d look for something that supports the widely accepted  ePub standard.

My recommendation — if you don’t already have one, wait a bit. You’ll get new features, perhaps a better price, perhaps a better unit, and more selection to choose from.