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Kobo EreaderFor Christmas I received a Kobo e-book reader. This is Border’s answer to the Kindle, but it reads ePub files and PDFs.

Let me come clean and say that: 1) I earn money from the publishing industry by designing book covers, book interiors, and even e-book files. 2) I have never previously read an e-book for pleasure (I’ve downloaded business reports in PDF format and I’ve checked epub and PDF files for my clients, but I have not actually purchased something for my own pleasure.)

The reason I mention those points is to show that even with my ties to the publishing industry, I never felt compelled to buy any e-book reader. My mother in law bought the Kobo Ereader for me.

I do read regularly: A mix of business and technology books to help me with running my graphic design firm and novels, history or biographies for pleasure. I am a member of a book club.

I decided to try out my new reader by buying Cutting For Stone through Border’s web site. It is the selection for my book club this month. Border’s had a deal on New York Times best sellers and it was $5. Hard to beat the price.

Getting set up

I am very much an Apple/Mac/iPhone kinda gal. I love how easy it is to navigate around a Mac or on my iPhone. In fact, you don’t feel like you’re stopping to think about how to navigate; it just happens. This is not the feeling with a Kobo. The buttons are really buttons… like mechanical, actually-have-to-push-them sort of buttons. After switching from a traditional cell phone to an iPhone a number of years ago, those buttons feel pretty clunky.

To get the Kobo up and running I had to set up certain account information. Using the onscreen keyboard and the navigation pad was a pretty torturous experience. You have to use the up/down buttons to get to the key you need and then hit enter. Repeat for the next letter, etc.

Luckily, there’s not a lot of typing involved when doing e-reading, so that’s good! But it did leave me wondering about ordering a book using the WiFi connection. Would I have to enter all my billing information in? Ugh. I would avoid that unless stuck at an airport with nothing to read.

Downloading the software and files

The process of buying and downloading the e-book file was not difficult, but it wasn’t totally intuitive either. I felt like I didn’t get much confirmation along the way that I was doing the right thing.

The Kobo Ereader comes with a USB cord that connects it to your computer. This is also how you charge the battery. To get a book onto the reader you have two choices: go through your computer or use the built in WiFi to order directly to your reader.

I connected via my laptop and then had to install the Borders Desktop application onto my Mac. It installed easily, and after that I chose my book via the web site and downloaded to my desktop. Like I said, nothing about it was complicated, but at the same time I didn’t feel confident it was all going right until the end, when it all worked. Some sort of confirmation of where you are in the set-up process would be helpful.

Reading my ePub book file

Very quickly, I was ready to go with my new book loaded onto the Kobo.

As a graphic designer who creates ePub files, I was eager to experience the ePub format from the eyes of a reader. As I mentioned in a previous post, converting a file prepared for offset print to the ePub format is more than just a push of a button. While the export process should be as easy as that, our experience shows that you need to spend some time double-checking the formatting of the newly created ePub file.

It seems that the publishing company did not take that much care.

At least half of the apostrophes did not come through. Generally they’ve disappeared and she’d becomes shed. There are a few places where the punctuation is replaced with a space. For the first few pages, I kept getting tripped up by these errors. I would re-read a sentence talking about sheds then realize it was she’d. Now that I’m well into the book I am used to the repeated mistake.

There are also other strange spacing and punctuation problems. There are a few hyphens in the middle of lines of text which may have been from a discretionary hyphen being added to the printed book. (Discretionary hyphens are sometimes added by the book designer to make justified type look better or to work around widows, orphans or other poor line breaks.)

I was surprised that a highly popular book would go to market with such poor typesetting. I know that I would not feel comfortable releasing a book design that was this sloppy. And, I have a feeling that my clients would be proofreading my work and making me correct mistakes like this.

I like it despite my objections

Overall, I like the Ereader much more than expected. The screen is very easy to read, and the fact that it is so small and lightweight makes it easy to hold when reading in bed.

Initially, the button-pushing page-turning really bugged me. Each time I need to flip the page, I have to push the button. And there is a bit of a hesitation as the page reloads. The screen sort of flashes. Because of the small screen you “flip” pages more frequently than in a print edition. But I’ve gotten used to that now.

For me, it’s the initial price of getting started that was my obstacle. The fact that my first e-book would essentially cost me more than $100 was enough to stop me. Since my kind mother-in-law removed that hurdle, I expect I’ll continue to buy and read electronic books.

And I’ll continue to watch the typesetting and details such as punctuation in the ePub files. I hope that there is not a noticeable loss in quality and editing in the electronic editions of books.

What about you? Do you have a Kobo or Kindle, and do you like it? What is the quality of the book files?


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