Tech 28 May 2024 3 MIN

Finally, the colour e-reader that could kill the Kindle

Do you need the new Kobo? Probably not. Will you want it? Definitely, yes

It is a truth universally acknowledged (even by those who love tangible books and swear by the smell of new pages) that the ease of an e-reader has made Kindle a rite of passage for any avid reader. If your reading habits are anything like mine, you probably have one in your bag or your desk drawer. The joy of reading without the distractions of notifications and the temptations of social media, on a device that lets you carry around an entire library’s worth of books, is every book hoarder’s dream.  

E-ink screens are certainly easy on the eye, they come with a battery life that seems to last forever, and the new and improved Kindle versions have slimmed down over the years (and even have a fancy night light). But the reading experience they offer has remained as static as the pages we tapped when they launched in 2007.  

It seems Amazon may have been stubbornly holding out on giving us the one thing we may not need but definitely deserve—colour e-ink displays. But Kobo gets us.

A Canadian company under the Japanese e-commerce conglomerate Rakuten, Kobo recently launched not one, but two colour e-readers! These devices use a kind of colour filter that renders richer imagery and text while still retaining the paper-like reading experience. The resulting hues lean pastel, but it’s still a huge shift from black and white.  

The Kobo Libra Colour is a 7-inch e-reader with 32GB storage (US$219.99), and the smaller Kobo Clara Colour is 6 inches across, with 16GB storage (US$149.99). Bigger is better for fully appreciating those luscious colour comics and magazines, but you can choose the smaller one if you’re always reading on the go. Also worth mentioning is that the former’s stylus is a delight to use—besides its note-taking capabilities, this e-pen serves as a highlighter and an all-round tool to underline, doodle, write, and erase.  

 Although Kobo is available in India, it is yet to launch these two models here, so if you’re in the US, UK, Singapore, or Japan, or know someone who is, snag one and be the envy of your fellow book nerds. 

 Kindle devotees will argue, rightfully, that no reader offers the range of books that Amazon does, but the Kobo is a close second that allows various formats like ePub, PDF, and even CBR and CBZ for comics—all DRM free. With 32GB space, the Kobo Libra can store upto 24,000 eBooks and about 150 audiobooks. That it has a higher battery life compared to the B&W Kindle makes it a modern-day victory. Also know that the Kobo is waterproof, made from recycled plastics, and comes with a button to turn the pages—so if beach reading is your jam and you gave up paperbacks to reduce your carbon footprint, here’s another reason to Kobo it.  

Now, do you absolutely need a colour e-reader? Probably not, if novels are your reading material of choice—but colour e-readers can finally do justice to illustrated books, comics, and graphic novels (Marjane Satrapi’s Woman, Life, Freedom is on my TBR list). Amazon’s e-bookstore has a good collection of comic books, but they’re all rendered in greyscale, which takes away a lot of the impact, so you’d be better off buying the hard copy. However, on a colour e-reader like Kobo, the experience is much closer to what the authors intended. It’s also useful for students, as the illustrations in textbooks are much clearer and easier to understand in colour, rather than in flat, monochrome versions.   

You can argue that your phone or tablet already handles your e-book fix, and maybe it does, but where’s the fun in that? The Kindle gave you a nice upgrade for your reading habit once upon a time, and now, this new breed of colour-coded devices is taking your reading experience one notch higher.