Thursday, January 20, 2011

In which I find out the Kobo sucks

Today is Thursday, also known as RANT DAY on the McGill campus (yes, I totally made that up).

It wasn't so long ago that I praised the Kobo. In retrospect, what I think I was praising was the e-reading technology itself rather than the device. It was new and exciting.

The feeling washed away, folks.

Though the battery life is adequate, I didn't know the e-ink technology it uses was slightly out of date (compared to the pearl ink used on Kindle3 and the Sony Reader). I became quickly annoyed when I tried to buy a book on the Wi-Fi, since the Kobo has no keyboard or touch screen. Like my old blackberry from 1999, you got to use the little control pad and select each letter one by one.

Strike 1.

Then I was looking to buy FIRE IN FICTION, Maass's (that's a lot of s) latest book about writing. Having loved WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL, I thought it'd be an interesting read. I fire up the Kobo store: it's not there. WAT????66??666

Three books I tried to find were available on the Kindle store (at 9.99$) but not on the Kobo store. Then, I tried Googling it to see where else it might be sold in PDF or ePub. The cheapest place had it in PDF for 15.99$. WTH 15.99 when the Kindle has it for 9.99$? IT'S ABSURD! How can I try to go green if you won't let me buy my books the green way, Kobo?

Strike 2.

Last but not least, the books the Kobo DOES have are generally pricier than that of the Kindle or Sony store. A PDF is a PDF. It probably has the same amount of bytes, whether Amazon, Sony, Chapters or B&N sends it to me. A 1-2$ discrepancy is perfectly acceptable (the Sony store is generally more expensive by that amount), but not 6$. There is no shipping cost, warehouse renting costs to stock it, or delivery costs when it comes to eBooks. ISN'T THAT THE POINT? Why are some content providers trying to screw us so badly?

Strike 3. You're done.

I've put up my Kobo for sale and will be getting the Sony Reader Touch instead. Though the Kindle3 is much cheaper (by about 100$), I like the idea of using your finger to highlight passages and use the included stylus pen to make handwritten annotations. Should make editing my manuscript IN MY BED so much more fun and easier. It's only 3g heavier (if you can feel a 3g difference I salute your keen kinesthetic sense) than the Kobo and 1mm thicker, but it has a much better screen (touch + latest pearl e-king technology) as well as better battery life. The eBook selection appears very similar to the Kindle store, too (which, in Canada, has 200,000 less books than the US Kindle Store. Canucks get fooked again).

And since this is RANT DAY, I thought I'd mention something else about book prices (paperbacks) and piracy. Piracy appeared to be a big topic this week, and I read a very interesting piece about it here.

Just like for PC games, music and movies, I very much doubt piracy will kill the eBook industry, but there's also no doubt it will hurt some authors. My point herein lies on the price point distributors choose to set. This epiphany came to me while I was looking for a paperback edition of the CHICAGO MANUAL OF STYLE (which, I'm ashamed to say, I still don't own). I went to THREE libraries (all different chains) and found the CMOS at all three places between 65-68.50$. Being a diligent shopper, I fired up Safari on my iPhone and looked at the price on for the EXACT same edition (16th). Amazon sells it for 42$ with free shipping.


How is a 25$ price difference justified for the exact same book. Yeah, I'm sure these big retail stores need to pay for rent and the nice décor they showcase, but nice wooden bookcases with fluffy stuffed animals placed around the store for the "look at how cute our store is" emphasis ISN'T worth 25$. I wouldn't mind if this were a Mama & Papa store as I'm all for encouraging the indies, but Chapters isn't an indie. They're greedy bastards.

I'll be ordering my 16th edition from (I really prefer a hard copy over a digital one for reference literature such as this). I must thank technology again for allowing me to see the light.


Christine said...

Hello Francis

Just wanted to let you know in
Canada, Kobo has to adhere to their licensing restrictions, which means some titles are not always available according to their publisher’s agreement. Agency pricing prevents Kobo from altering the price on a given title (the titles mentioned were all agency titles)


Christine Korda
Kobo Community Manager

Francis said...

Dear Christine,

Thanks so much for stopping by! :) I hope they pay you well at Kobo, that's quite the PR work you do there!

I understand the market limitations, but at the end of the day, your clients only care about the end game and how much money is coming out of their wallet. I certainly appreciate you taking the time to explain it, it speaks a lot about your company's standards of quality.

But, like I said, if your competitors managed to secure better deals, it will hurt you a lot if you can't mimic them, especially since the Kobo is the least technologically advanced reader of all four popular brands (outdated e-ink, smallest capacity, awkward navigation pad, no dictionary). I actually had to exchange mine two days ago because the screen stopped working less than 30 days after purchase. Exchange went super smoothly though, and the staff was positively brilliant and nice!

I finally did purchase the Sony Touch PRS-650 the same day I exchanged the Kobo (it's now sold) and I must say the 100$ price difference is perfectly justified. The Pearl e-ink contrast and sharpness is much superior, the speed of the reader itself (operating, especially turning pages) is also much improved and the touchscreen is just a marvel (and 100x more convenient to type searches, highlight, navigate TOCs, etc.) to use.

Only thing I miss from the Kobo is the rugged back, which provided a much better grip!

I imagine you are browsing the net to see what your clients think of your product and I can only commend that! I do believe that Sony (which improved its model drastically compared to the PRC-600)has is the direction to move towards to in regard to practicability. Incorporating either a keyboard or partial(a la Nook) or full (a la Sony) touchscreen capabilities would greatly help the Kobo.

Thanks for addressing my concerns so quickly. It's rare to find a company with such a consumer-oriented attitude and I will always support that. I'll make sure to suggest the Kobo to friends who are looking for a more wallet friendly eReader!

Best regards,


Kay said...

Hey there, how the heck are you? Thanks for stopping by my blog and checking out George's interview...I meant to give you a shout much sooner house sort of burned down. Okay, not the whole house, but 2 rooms were totally consumed in flames, as was the attic. Serious smoke damage took its toll on the rest of the house. No flames in the kitchen, but that room got so hot from the attic fire it literally melted pictures and artwork off the walls...cutting knives that were pretty low to the ground got so damaged from the heat, the handles have been snapping off. Freaking crazy. Batshit crazy, lol. :-)

But here I am, alive and writing you this message...feel blessed to be able to do that.

Miss our chats -- just realizing I miss a lot of things, actually, one of which includes going out into nature and just...absorbing (probably should do that more, life's short) -- so I wanted to stop by and say hi.

Take care, Francis. Tell your dad I said "howdy" and "Comment allez-vous?" I hope his answer is "Très bien!" (I probably need to work on my French, huh? LOL ;-P)

Peace out,


Francis said...


You need to get on Twitter :D

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the posts, interesting reading. Next time I'll do a little research before buying a new product like this. KOBO -- terrible product and terrible customer service. After getting my new Kobo I attempted to download new e-books. I received the error message: "There was an error connecting to the server." My Wifi is fine, I tested it. Then I called Kobo's customer service. After 20 minutes, a recorded message said I was calling during peak hours (11 a.m. EST) and then it hung up on me. I tried that several times with the same result. I will return my Kobo. I will get a Kindle. I will give my kids Kindles for Xmas. I'm very surprised Kobo is still in business. Anyone else have similar issues?