By David Nield
When it comes to deciding on which one of the best eReaders you should buy, you've really only got two main brands to pick from: the Amazon Kindle eReaders and the Kobo eReaders. So what is it that distinguishes the Kindles from the Kobos?
In this eReader guide we'll give you an overview of the models that are available with each brand, and how they differ in terms of design, features, software and stores. There are some key differences to consider, as well as some similarities.
There isn't really a best choice for everyone – it depends what you want from your eReader and how much you want to spend – but we’ll help you make the most informed choice possible.
Kindle vs Kobo: eReader models
There are three Amazon Kindle eReaders to pick from:
The two cheaper Kindles are available for £10 less, if you let Amazon put adverts on the lock screen. The two more expensive Kindles come with a 4G connection (at an extra cost) - so you can download e-books while you're away from Wi-Fi.
With Kobo, you've got four choices:
There are no 4G options for the Kobo eReaders.
What do Kindles and Kobos have in common?
With both the Kindle and Kobo ranges, paying more gets you the same sort of extras: waterproofing, larger screens, physical page turn buttons, up to 32GB of internal storage, and a screen with temperature as well as brightness adjustments.
The designs aren't identical, but they're along similar lines - with the more expensive models giving you bigger eReaders with buttons you can press to turn pages, instead of using the touchscreen.
It's worth checking the screen resolution when you're comparing specific models against each other – in general the more pixels per inch, an eReader has, the sharper and crisper the display is, which is better for reading. The £79.99 Kindle has a screen resolution of just 167 pixels-per-inch (ppi), for example, while the £89.99 Kobo Nia offers 212 ppi.
Kindle vs Kobo: software
The software running on the Kindles and Kobos is actually quite similar – first and foremost they both let you buy and read e-books, of course. As you read, models from both brands will tell you how far you are through each book, how many pages you've got left, how long it's probably going to take you to finish, and so on. You can look up the definitions of words with a tap, add notes and highlights, and search through e-books very easily on either a Kindle eReader or a Kobo eReader.
There’s little difference between the customisation options on the Kindle models and the Kobo models. Both brands let you adjust the font style and size to suit, with options for changing the margins and paragraph spacing as well. It's perhaps worth noting that the Kobo Forma lets you read in landscape orientation as well as portrait, whereas the Kindle Oasis sticks to portrait.
The Kindle eReaders do have a few extras on the software side, including integration with the GoodReads community site, and the X-ray feature that lets you dig into specific characters, topics, events or places (in e-books where the feature is supported). These are nice extras to have, but perhaps not so important that they would tempt you away from buying a Kobo model that you've really taken a shine to.
Kindle vs Kobo: store and formats
The general consensus is that Amazon has a bigger e-book store than Kobo does, but that Kobo eReaders support a bigger range of e-book and document formats (though that doesn't include Amazon's own bespoke e-book format, of course). At the same time it's probably fair to say that most users are going to be able to do most of what they want in terms of reading with either a Kindle or a Kobo device.
In terms of the online stores, while Amazon's is undoubtedly larger, there are still some 5 million e-books in the Kobo library. You can find titles from popular authors, like JK Rowling, Lee Child and Hiliary Mantel, on both platforms. It’s worth checking out the Kindle store and the Kobo store for yourself, to see if your favourite literary works are included before you pick a device.
When it comes to formats, Kindles can handle Amazon's own e-book formats as well as text, PDF, MOBI and PRC files natively, plus there's support for audiobooks on Audible. Kobo eReaders can handle a broader range of formats, including the more open EPUB e-book format, HTML webpages, and standard formats for digital comics and graphic novels without any conversion. It's a slight win here for the Kobo range.
Kindle vs Kobo: verdict
There's not much to choose between the Kindle eReaders and the Kobo eReaders in a lot of key categories: the design of the devices and the prices you can pick them up for are broadly similar, for example, and there aren't really any major differences in terms of the software that runs on these eReaders either. Both brands produce eReaders that are affordable and a pleasure to use.
With Amazon and the Kindles you're really buying into the Amazon ecosystem: think the Amazon e-book store, other Amazon services like the Audible audiobook platform, and subscription options such as Kindle Unlimited (a bit like Netflix for e-books). Go for a Kindle and you get a lot more in the way of a supporting ecosystem, and other connected devices and services.
If you'd rather keep yourself from falling down the Amazon rabbit hole though, and locking yourself in, then the Kobo eReaders are an excellent alternative. They lag behind the Kindles in one or two areas (there's no audiobook support for example), but they can work with more file formats (including digital comics) and they still have bags of quality on both the hardware and software side.
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