Sunday, January 15, 2012

“Kobo eReader – friend or foe?” by Francine H. Lee

I am a better person with a book in my hands.

Having no ability to play music, to paint, to keep green things alive, my options are limited for creative self-fulfillment. From my very first memories, there has been a book near my bed – a book from school, from the public library, or the one my father was reading to me, sans bookmark. (We had to memorize the page, or he would not read to us the next night!)

Books have been a comfort through my childhood, through high school, through college, and into my adult life. A book is what I placed into the hands of my 15-month-old son when my identical twins were born. "Here sweetie, read to Mummie!"

There is something sensual about a book. Hardcover or paperback. Novel or short story. Fiction or study guide. It engages my eyes, my ears (flip, flip, flip,). A dusty old dusty copy of King Lear makes me sneeze when I caress the yellowed pages, the rumpled covers and profound words.

I usually have a hot beverage nearby, an unscented tea light flickering; perhaps heat from a nearby electric fireplace, but the feel of the book is paramount.

"I will never use an eReader!" I told my son. "It doesn't bend! But I will look into it for you."

The excuses continued to build as I paced through my local bookstore. A helpful young woman saw that I was trying to justify approaching the eReader zone. I listened to what she said and remembered nothing but still walked out with the little box in tow.

At home, even I could figure out how to charge it, download the installation data onto my PC, sync the 200 free e-books onto the Kobo, and marvel at the tingles I felt at the back of my neck. It was working! I could do this! No need for a teenager to thrust me aside and say, "Here, let me, Mum."

I sat a little taller, almost giddy at the thought of holding 200 books in my left hand. I even dared to buy a book, with credit card in hand, just to see if I could accomplish this, never stepping foot out of my home.

The Kobo (anagram of book?) has black text on a grey backdrop, rather than glaring white pages. The font can be changed to one of their limited options, allowing me to feel slightly in control. The size of the font can be magnified as the day progresses and my eyes fatigue. I can change from a tiny concise font for books, to a large decadent fancy font for poetry.

The entire thing is touch screen (no buttons) – there is an on/off for sleep mode and a menu button discreetly placed at the bottom centre. Nothing else distracts the eye from the words. No pictures (except of the cover). No adverts. Nothing but a tiny reference to what page you are on, and the remaining number of pages to go in the chapter.

I am entranced. This Kobo is my new pet (allergies prevent any other kind). It has barely left my side. It is the start of a beautiful friendship.

When not skulking in the lobby of the Stratford Festival hoping for a rush seat in the balcony, Francine Lee can be found in flux between watching Henry Fonda in Grapes of Wrath again, or Archimedes in The Sword in the Stone. Someday she hopes to grow up to be older than her 4 children! ;-) Until then, back to the kitchen for another batch of peasant soup.

See Brian Henry's schedule here, including writing workshops and creative writing courses in Kingston, Peterborough, Toronto, Mississauga, Brampton, Georgetown, Oakville, Burlington, St. Catharines, Hamilton, Dundas, Kitchener, Guelph, London, Woodstock, Orangeville, Newmarket, Barrie, Gravenhurst, Sudbury, Muskoka, Peel, Halton, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.


  1. I have been so adamantly opposed to e-readers, but I don't know... I can feel myself slipping. The temptation is growing, and this doesn't help!

  2. I am on the cusp. Is the Kobo better for Canada than the Kindle?

    1. The "Kindle Keyboard" as it's now called, is better if you want to type notes and annotations on what you read. It also keeps a file of your highlights that you can transfer to your computer. For straight reading, the Kindle and the Kobo are both fine.

  3. I initially looked at the Sony e-reader last cmas but settled on the kobo - fits into my vest pocket for bits of reading time after a nature walk or shopping - also love the find feature, when writing pieces and need a quick quote that is in the back of my mind but just out of reach... the kobo finds it instantly - would take forever trying to find it in a 300pg book (for me!). I also really try to support Canadian companies when able, and this was easily available at Chapters, and emails are received from Kobo Toronto (follow up new releases, etc - they even have perks to congratulate your consistent reading efforts - not necessary but motivating!). Enjoy whatever you choose. F.H.Lee

  4. If you want to borrow ebooks from your local library, you can do that with a Kobo but not with a Kindle. I don't know if that applies to all libraries in Canada or just in our area. It's very easy to borrow ebooks. Our Markham library has over 12,000 ebooks.


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