Kobo: eBooks reader for the iPad

Kobo is a Toronto-based company that makes devices and apps to improve your reading experience. The company holds a significant market share in the eReaders space and is already ahead of Amazon in many countries. It builds four different kinds of eReader devices and also maintains its own Kobo app which is supported in many different devices and platforms.

Indeed, Kobo has probably one of the best (or the best) eBook reader apps in the iOS marketplace. In this article, Let’s take a look at the iPad version of the Kobo app.

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Getting Started with the iPad App

The first step is to log into your Kobo account. This will allow the app to download your library to your iPad for offline reading. You can also sign-in using your Facebook account. If privacy is a concern for you and you are not willing to share the titles you read or the time spent reading, then I advice against signing with your Facebook account. It’s worth mentioning that after signing with Facebook, you can’t opt out and just use your email.

Signing to your Kobo account.

Signing to your Kobo account.

The Home Screen

The Home Screen tutorial.

The Home Screen tutorial.

At first, the app is a bit confusing. Kobo has decided to add lots of features, especially social features. This might add unnecessary noise when you are getting to know the app. Kobo tries to make it easy to know the basics with a navigation tutorial that introduces you to the main parts of the home screen: how to access the navigation bar and controls; how to swipe through the different shelves; My recent reads; and Free Books (Classic and Popular).

The Home Screen shelves.

The Home Screen shelves.

In fact, it’s possible to add eBooks directly from the Kobo app. These two shelves (Classic and Popular) feature a few titles which you can select and start reading. However, it’s limited to these two shelves and also to free books. It’s a bit disappointing and annoying to have such a limitation.

Adding a free book.

Adding a free book.

Your Library

When you purchase a book (or add one for free), it’s added to your library. Your library is accessible from any device that has the Kobo app installed. Kobo lets you download the eBook in the ePub format, which means you can read it in any other device that supports the format and doesn’t have the Kobo app. However, you can’t upload ebooks to Kobo, either online or to the iPad.

Your library is accessible through all your devices which have the Kobo app. Your library is saved in the cloud by Kobo, which means the eBooks that are added via the web will be immediately available in your iPad or iPhone. Once you added some eBooks, you can start your reading journey.

Your Kobo Library.

Your Kobo Library.

Your library is accessible from the navigation bar. The library has four main shelves:

  • All Content: List all the books in your library.
  • I’m reading: Books you are currently reading.
  • Finished: Books you finished reading.
  • Previews: Books’ previews. (Paid books can be previewed)

It’s also possible to add your own shelves, name and add books to them.

Managing your shelves.

Managing your shelves.

Please note that some eBooks doesn’t support all the different platforms and devices. Before purchasing or adding a new eBook make sure that your device of choice is being supported. The devices supported are displayed in a box in the right.

Performance

The app lacks considerably in performance when you are reading. I’m using a third-generation iPad, and the delay when moving pages is quite noticeable. Worse, sometimes you’ll see animation glitches when transiting from a page to another. Checking some comments and the ratings at the App Store, it’s clear that my opinion is shared by other users.

Transitioning pages.

Transitioning pages.

The good news is that Kobo is working hard on improving the app. While I haven’t used prior versions of the app, reviews on the App Store stated that the new updates are making the app better. The app ranking also jumped from 3 to 4 stars. There still lots of room for improvements, though.

Usability

The User Experience was poorly thought of in the E-Reader. While the general design of the app is quite polished and modern, some details can be confusing or annoying.

For instance, there is a little dotted red circle in the bottom of the page. If you hit the area, you’ll get a page with book stats. It’s not clear how this page is useful when you are reading a book. I’m a fan of statistics and I want to keep track of my reading, but not exactly when I’m focused on reading.

Tables of Contents.

Tables of Contents.

On the other hand, the customization menu button is a little gray circle with little contrast to the background color, which makes it almost invisible and also hardly accessible. Even worse, the main menu which will take you back to the Home Screen, and also give you access to the Table of Contents is only accessible by clicking exactly on the center of the page.

Customization

The reader screen has many adjustable settings. You can change the screen contrast and luminosity, set your preferred font and the font size, align text, and set the page transition style.

Reading settings menu.

Reading settings menu.

The eBooks Store

Kobo features its own eBooks marketplace. The store has over 2.5 million free and paid eBooks covering a wide range of categories such as Business, Comics, Fiction, Engineering …

The store is accessible only through their website which is both limiting and confusing if you get to know Kobo through their iPad app. There is no way to search or browse for eBooks using the iPad app, you can only do it through their website. The limitation is probably due to Apple restricting in-app purchases and requiring a 30% commission on sales.

From the Kobo site, you can browse eBooks by category, language or keywords. There is a wide variety of categories and eBooks, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll find any book you are looking for.

To buy a book you must either have a credit card or a PayPal account. You can pay directly when purchasing the book or deposit some credit in your Kobo account and use it later for purchases.

Final Thoughts

Having lots of social features, Kobo might be a prefect fit for social people. The e-reader, or the core functionality of the app, should get much more care from the developers and should be their top priority. It’s important to keep the reading experience clutter-free and make the most important functionality the most accessible. Still, Kobo is one of the best eBooks reader out there and it’s definitively worth giving a try.


Summary

Kobo is a stylish eBooks reader app that helps you manage your online library and keep track of your reading progress and share it on your social networks.

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