Kindles are so ubiquitous and dominant in the ereader market that they have attained Kleenex status — become a brand so widely recognised that their trademark stands in for the whole category.
But the best ereader, in my opinion, isn’t a Kindle at all. It’s the Kobo Glo HD.
Though the $130 Glo HD is priced close to the the $120 Kindle Paperwhite, it’s spec’ed closer to the pricer $200 Kindle Voyage. All three devices sport identical 300 ppi 6″ touchscreens from the same third-party manufacturer, but the Glo HD and Voyage are a slimmer 6.3 oz to the Paperwhite’s 7.2. Like the Voyage, the Glo HD features a comfortable, even backlight. And mine’s rattled around in my backpack for a year without any noticable wear. That makes the Kobo dollar-for-dollar the best value ereader on the market.
But the real reason I love my Kobo has nothing to do with specs; these gadgets have pretty much all landed on the same high quality plateau, as evidenced by Amazon minorly tweaking the Paperwhite and branding it a $290 Kindle Oasis. I love my Kobo because it makes it possible to live outside Amazon’s walled ebook garden and buy books direct from publishers and independent booksellers.
Where Kindles are built to buy and read books exclusively from Amazon’s Kindle store in Amazon’s proprietary .MOBI ebook format, Kobos will read .EPUBs — the ebook format used by everyone but Amazon — as well as .MOBIs from any seller. It’s a pleasure to go to local independent bookstores to hunt for books and then support that bookstore by buying the .EPUB directly from their website.
With that open system I can also be more confident that neither Amazon nor any other big corporation will have a say over what I get to read. A 2014 dispute between Amazon and the publisher Hatchette blocked Kindle readers from accessing new Hatchette titles for months. Plus, if you buy all your books through the Kindle store you don’t actually own any of them and can’t do basic things like read them on non-Kindle devices or pass them on when you die. Not so with Kobo books purchased from third parties.
If you do like buying within a closed ecosystem, Kobo also offers a Kobo bookstore. It’s very well stocked (I’ve never had trouble finding anything, including every current New York Times bestseller,) but not quite as massive as Amazon’s enormous Kindle library. But that’s where third-party buying comes in handy.
Another great thing about Kobo is that they like to experiment with truly interesting and innovative designs. Right now, if the Glo HD isn’t your style you can check out the waterproof $180 Kobo Aura H2O and read by the pool worry-free.
I understand that diehard Kindle fans will probably never waver, but if you’re in the market for an ereader I strongly recommend an open, customer-friendly Kobo.