Published On: Sat, May 11th, 2024
Technology | 3,722 views

I’m never using a Kindle again – the Kobo Libra Colour is that good

The Kobo Libra Colour

The Kobo Libra Colour is an outstanding if expensive eReader (Image: Kobo)

What we love

  • Colour screen
  • OverDrive for library books
  • Page turn buttons
  • Stylus support better than Kindle’s
  • Good battery life

What we don’t

  • Lower contrast screen than other eReaders
  • Expensive

There’s a reason the Amazon Kindle has become the default when it comes to eReaders, but it’s not because they’re necessarily the best out there – it’s because they’re sold and marketed by one of the richest companies in the world. That’s very hard to compete with.

Thankfully, a large but not-Amazon-large company is flying the good flag of competition, and after a couple of weeks with its latest eReader, I don’t see why I would use a Kindle again. That company is Kobo, and its new Kobo Libra Colour is one of the first readers with a colour screen, beating Amazon to that milestone in the process. It has a better design, more features, and more personality than any Kindle I’ve used, and I’ve used many. It costs a little more than the average Kindle, but I think the extra spend is worth it.

Kobo is a Toronto-based company that is owned by Rakuten, the Japanese tech giant. It makes very good eReaders at various price points but its products have clear advantages over Kindles for avid UK readers. In the US, you can check out ebooks from your local library on your Kindle, but this is not an option in the UK. Kobo offers it for Brits though thanks to integration with a service called OverDrive and the Libby eBook borrowing app. This has genuinely changed how I acquire and read books, as I now try more titles out because I’m not paying for them.

Kobo Libra Colour

Kobo Libra Colour (Image: Kobo)

Anyway, back to the product in hand. The Kobo Libra Colour has a lightweight and functional waterproof design with two page turn buttons. You can hold that side in either hand as the screen auto-rotates quickly to adjust, and you don’t have to tap the touchscreen to change pages (though you can if you want). I much prefer this design to screen-only readers. You can read on the 7-inch screen this way or even in landscape if you want more text on a line.

I easily devoured several books on the Libra Colour thanks to its ease of use and inviting design. The pages refresh quickly after a press of a button and the device is light enough to hold in one hand comfortably. I also tested it in a protective case that holds the stylus, which is handy to cart the package around but adds a fair bit of weight.

The headline feature here is the colour screen, still rare to find on eReaders

The headline feature here is the colour screen, still rare to find on eReaders. It’s an E Ink Kaleido 3 display with a pale colour palette, but it now means book covers in the Kobo store and pictures in books are no longer black and white. The main downside to this is the screen is a lower resolution than other eReaders including the identically styled Kobo Libra 2. Side by side, there’s a clear difference, so if you mainly read, you know, normal books then you don’t necessarily need colour.

But its addition is simply fun, and reading should be fun. The Libra Colour is also compatible with the Kobo Stylus 2, and this is an area it also one-ups the Amazon Kindle Scribe, the only Kindle with stylus support. On the Scribe, you can only make handwritten notes as a sort of sticky note attached to a section of text.

… integration with a service called OverDrive and the Libby eBook borrowing app … has genuinely changed how I acquire and read books

With the Kobo, you can write directly onto the page like you would a real book, with no restrictions. Hold down the button of the stylus and you can highlight text in several colours, while the end of the pen serves as an eraser for both types of scribble. It’s great, and you can also create and store blank notebooks and use the Libra as a portable E Ink notebook.

I’ve used a few other Kobos over the past few years and they have all been excellent. All include OverDrive for library book borrowing and integration with Pocket, the app that lets you save articles in your web browser to read later on the eReader. Many Kobos including this one can also play audiobooks over Bluetooth headphones, too.

Kobo Libra Colour

There are several cases available for the Kobo Libra Colour (Image: Kobo)

Unlike Kindle, you can also export your Kobo purchases to read on other devices whereas Kindle books are an Amazon-only, restrictive file format. The Libra Colour can also link up and view your Dropbox or Google Drive files.

Overall though I think the Kobo Libra 2, which is still on sale for £169.99, is a better buy unless you’re dead set on a colour screen. It misses that and the stylus support, but for pure reading of books it has a sharper contrast display. Side by side with its colour counterpart, the Libra 2 gets brighter at 100%, while the Libra Colour has a visible grain to the blank parts of the screen due to the lower contrast.

Kobos are full of excellent, thoughtful features such as the ability to slide your finger up and down the left edge of the screen when viewing any book or document to change the backlight brightness. On a Kindle, this much-used setting is several taps away, though no Kobo has an auto-brightness sensor unlike the £179.99 Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition.

you can write directly onto the page like you would a real book, with no restrictions

The Kobo Elipsa 2E is also a good choice, though it is expensive at £349.99. It has the same functionality as the Libra Colour except it is monochrome, is not waterproof, has no page turn buttons, and sports a much larger 10.3-inch display that’s much easier to make extensive notes on.

Prices of Kobo books compared to Kindle are also very similar. Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel was £3.99 on both platforms at the time of writing, To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee was £6.99, while Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings was £10.49. Many titles are identically priced, and I found that sales of books for 99p were reflected across both. In my experience, the notion that Kindle books are cheaper simply isn’t the case.

If you want to get the Kobo Libra Colour with a stylus and case that holds it, the package becomes quite expensive at £304.97. That’s a lot to pay, but the eReader should last you for years as Kobo has made it user repairable thanks to a partnership with iFixit.

You might find the price worth paying if you want to read books in colour and also enjoy taking notes and making highlights. The Libra Colour is also a good size to use as a digital notebook in a pinch, and if you borrow all your books from the library, it’ll never cost you anything to read on after purchase. Best of all, if it’s too much eReader for you, I can heartily recommend the Kobo Libra 2 for £169.99 – the extra spend over a Kindle is worth it for the better design and features for UK buyers.

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