One book, nine e-reader apps – Part 5
I should start by saying that I really like Kobo as an e-book retailer. I buy a lot of my e-books through Kobo, and I’m continually impressed by the range of books they have available to buyers, like myself, who live in Australia. I like their web site, and the ease of purchasing through it.
Having said all that, however, I find the Kobo e-reader app for the iPad to be a little disappointing.
A few things to notice here. Firstly, a minor point perhaps, but the chapter heading has been forced into all-caps. There’s no indication of the title of the book (it’s my collection of SF stories, Islands). Also, the text is now set in block-style, that is, with no first line indent and extra space between paragraphs. The line spacing is also very wide, and in this mode we only get 20 text lines to the chapter start (compare this with 23 for Kindle and 26 for iBooks).
There’s a setting in the app which lets you turn off ‘Kobo Styling’, on by default. Turning this off shows the book more in the format in which I styled it: indented first line, no space between paragraphs, and reduced line spacing.
There are no separate settings for margins or line-spacing, but you can choose between full-justification and left-justified text.
At the bottom of the page is something which really annoys me – not a page number showing how far we are through the book, but an indication of how far we are through the current chapter. I feel lost in terms of sensing how far through the book I have come, and how much more there is to read. I much prefer the way that iBooks shows you a page number out of the total in the book, with a subtle indication when controls are visible of how many more pages remain in the current chapter.
Page turning is, as usual, via a tap on the left or right margin. You can select between a page fade or a page curl. The page curl is much swifter and smoother than the Kindle version, so that is what I normally have it set to in this app. The page fade, to my mind, is too quick and too subtle. I find myself having to double-check to see that the page has actually turned.
Controls and settings
Touch the center of the page, as in all these apps, and controls pop into view. I’m not very fond of the heavy dark borders that the controls live on in the Kobo app, however, and I can’t imagine reading a book with these showing:
At the top we have Back / Table of Contents / Overview / Annotations.
At the bottom we have a progress bar showing how far you are through the book (hate the magenta color here!) / Return (?) / Social / Font settings / Brightness / Bookmark this page / Settings .
‘Back’ is almost as confusing as in the Kindle app. It always takes you back to your previous view if you’ve used the Table of Contents, Overview or Annotations. Or to the Library. It took me quite a bit of messing about with this button to get out of the book and back to the Library view. I’ll discuss the Table of Contents view below. ‘Overview’ takes you to a ‘jacket blurb’ view (though why you need this once you have bought the book I’m not sure). ‘Annotations’ takes you to your notes and bookmarks. I like these three controls more than the ‘Go to’ popup you get in Kindle, I think.
At the bottom, the ‘Return’ button takes you ‘back to where you left off’, but it’s not all that clear how this is defined.
The ‘Social’ button is worth a look, as it’s a real point of distinction from iBooks and the Kindle app. It takes you to this rather quirky ‘Reading Life’ screen:
I’m not sure why I need to be told all of this stuff, nor why I would bother sharing it with Facebook or Twitter followers. But then, I came very late to the social networking thing and so maybe I still don’t get it.
The ‘Show icons for characters and locations’ selection is intriguing, but I have no idea what it does.
The slider works to move you through the book. Puzzlingly, outside the current chapter you only get the chapter title and a percentage value, but within the current chapter you get a page number within the chapter. Frankly, I don’t understand this chapter-focused navigation business.
So far as I can tell, there is no means of searching within Kobo books. A big disappointment this. As I mentioned in my review of iBooks, my aged brain often relies on the Search function to remind me who a particular character is when they are re-introduced after a while. I don’t think I could have gotten through A.S.Byatt’s The Children’s Book without this!
Table of Contents
Nothing to complain of here.
The Library view is neat enough, no fake bookshelves here. Not sure why Kobo failed to include the cover of my book, however, as it is picked up by other apps. You can see that I’m a big Kate Atkinson fan!
Holding down your finger on a particular word brings up a small call-out menu with the choices Dictionary / Highlight / Add Note / Share. The ‘Share’ choice is interesting, and gives you the new call-out menu above.
Kobo are obviously very big on social networking, but I can’t imagine why I would want to tweet a single word out to the world at large.
The ‘Dictionary’ choice from the first call-out gives you a very comprehensive result without having to touch any other controls:
By and large, not a bad e-reader app, but with some serious design quirks. I particularly dislike the chapter-focused paging and navigation. This may not seem like a big deal, but to me it is. I started to read Kate Atkinson’s When Will There Be Good News through the Kobo app, but then shifted it to Bluefire (of which more later) after I became to irritated with not knowing how many pages remained in the book.