While I'm a big fan of the Kindle 3, I think that Kobo may have got it beat with its new eReader Touch Edition. Featuring the latest Pearl e-Ink technology that so improved Amazon's models last year, Kobo's new Wi-Fi-enabled device also boasts optical touchscreen interaction courtesy of Neonode, is powered by a processor specially developed for e-Readers and comes with support for multiple languages.
There has recently been some talk of our hunger for e-ink-based digital reading devices lessening in favor of LCD readers, tablets or even smartphones sporting reading apps, yet sales figures appear to tell a different tale. In July last year, Amazon announced that sales of eBooks had overtaken those of hard back printed books, and has just revealed that the format has overtaken the paperback to become its most popular format.
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I have to admit that my 3G Kindle is never far from my eyes and the e-Ink screen is a pleasure to view, but despite my overall satisfaction with my move from printed to digital reading, I do have a few niggles. Keyboard and 5-way controller input and navigation is OK but touch would be better. Even though I haven't yet filled up the device's 3GB of available internal memory to bursting point, expansion via media card is something I would have liked to see. The lack of support for the ePub format is also a bit of a pain.
The new 6-inch eReader Touch Edition from Kobo appears to satisfy all those requirements and more. The latest high-contrast e-Ink technology with 16 levels of gray scale is featured but touch interaction has also been provided with the inclusion of Neonode's new zForce infrared touch technology first announced at the beginning of last year. Users can now tap or swipe to turn a page instead of using navigation buttons - in fact, there are no navigation buttons save for a home button underneath the display.
Gone, too, are the physical keys of a built-in keyboard, the new device features a virtual onscreen keyboard instead. Image and document zoom, touch highlighting and predictive search also feature.
Whereas the Kindle's content home screen is a little basic, the new Kobo's library view offers a mosaic of book cover images, multiple views and a number of ways to sort content for easy location. Reading comfort is enhanced by the choice of two font styles and 12 font sizes.
Kobo promises a snappy and responsive user experience thanks to the inclusion of the new Freescale i.MX508 processor, which comprises an ARM Cortex A8 800MHz processor and an integrated e-Ink controller. There's 1GB of onboard storage and expansion via SD card, 802.11b/g/n wireless connectivity and there's a distinctly international flavor with versions available in English, French, German, Spanish, and Italian.
Users can choose from over 2.3 million books, newspapers and magazines from the Kobo Store - including a million free titles - or import ePub and PDF files from other sources via the mini-USB port.
At 4.5 x 5.5 x 0.4-inches (114 x 165 x 10 mm), the Kobo eReader Touch Edition is thinner than the Nook Wi-Fi, but not quite as slim as the Kindle, and is lighter than both at just 7.05 ounces (200g). Its battery is said to be good for up to two weeks or 10,000 page turns between charges and it comes in lilac, blue, silver or black with a soft quilted back.
It will be available in the U.S. from early June for a suggested retail of US$129, with international editions ready for shipping the following month.
Readers may also be interested to learn that with a new kid on the Kobo block, the price of the first generation non-touch Kobo Wireless e-Reader gets reduced to US$99 effective immediately.
The following video shows what the new e-Reader can do: