Review: Kindle vs. Kobo

I got my first Kindle for Christmas in 2010, and have used one ever since. I’m now on my third, after falling asleep with my head weighing firmly down on my first one, and scratching up the second. My third one also has a scratch, but that wasn’t the only prompt for me to start exploring ereaders beyond the Kindle.

The first is that it locks me into purchasing from Amazon, a cartoonishly evil corporation. The wrongs of Amazon are well-documented elsewhere, so I’ll take them as read.

The second is that I’ve become hooked on Libby, a digital library service available worldwide through your local library. It has audiobooks (helpful for extracting myself from Audible, another Amazon company), but also has ebooks. And while you can read these using the app, on your phone or tablet, I’ve always liked the comfort of reading on Kindle, along with the fact that you’re not distracted by dozens of other apps and notifications.

You can’t access Libby’s ebooks on the Kindle, of course, just as you can’t get Kindle books (usually a lot cheaper than other ebook shops) on other ereaders.

So with my birthday coming up, I began to explore other options, chiefly the Kobo Clara and Nia. I won’t go into the differences between the two here, but ended up picking the Clara.

Intuitive layout and usability is roughly equal for the Kobo (left) and Kindle

Now that I have both ereaders, I’d struggle to pick just one. They both have distinct advantages (and disadvantages). Here they are:


As I mentioned above, one of my key considerations for moving away from the Kindle was to stop financially contributing to Amazon.

Of course, the key attraction of shopping with Amazon is its competitive pricing. Yes, we know why this is (tax avoidance, poor worker conditions, low pay, etc.) but in reality it’s a factor for many people’s buying choices. So let’s look at a few examples of books I’ve bought or added to my wishlist recently:

The President’s Daughter (President Bill Clinton, James Patterson)
Kindle: £9.99 (around NZD $19.70)
Kobo: $34.72
Libby: Not held by Auckland Library

Material Girls (Kathleen Stock)
Kindle: £8.99 (around $17.72)
Kobo: $16.99
Libby: Not held by Auckland Library

Small Pleasures (Clare Chambers)
Kindle: £0.99 (around $1.95)
Kobo: $13.99
Libby: Not held by Auckland Library

Dark Skies: A DCI Ryan Mystery (LJ Ross)
Kindle: £1.99 (around $3.92)
Kobo: $N/A – not available in store
Libby: Not held by Auckland Library

Total spend on the 3 books available in both stores:
Kindle: $39.37
Kobo: $65.70 (2/3 more expensive)

As you can see, Libby is a complete fail here, with none of the four books even stocked by the library. And of the three of the four books available in the Kobo store, two are significantly more expensive than the Kindle equivalents. Overall, the three books come to 67% more in the Kobo store than on Amazon.

Being a huge corporation means you can easily get sucked into using Amazon’s family of subsidiaries. I add my books to Goodreads as I go, and use my notes and highlights when I read to remind myself of the content and craft my reviews. Being owned by Amazon means that all of your Kindle books and highlights feed through to Goodreads automatically – a totally seamless experience.

The other benefit to my Kindle is that it has 3G internet, meaning that you can buy new books when you’re out and about. This has been a lifesaver for me, as I always find myself finishing a book on the move and wanting to jump into my next read. Unfortunately, Kindle has been phasing out this feature in its new Kindles for a while, and all 3G access will stop working by 2022. For the last 10 years, though, it has been super useful.


Since getting my Kobo a couple of weeks ago, I’ve found it around equal to the Kindle for usability. The ability to change font size, navigate around, etc, are all much of a muchness. Size-wise, they both fit into a small cross-body bag.

Kobo (left) and Kindle

The key benefit of the Kobo to me is the access to free library books, using Libby/Overdrive.

Access to Overdrive (library books) straight from the Kobo

However, as mentioned above, many books aren’t available in the library, particularly new releases or British writers, like Mark Watson or Romesh Ranganathan. Even when books are stocked, there can be a long wait to get hold of them. My holds range from a 2-18 week wait at the moment. You have to be quite organised about what you have on hold, to avoid ending up with five books at once that you won’t be able to finish in the time limit.

My current library hold list

There’s one feature missing from Kobo that I had taken for granted with Kindle. My highlights and notes don’t automatically upload to the cloud. Instead you have to connect the hardware with a cable to a computer and manually transfer them over. It’s been so long that I’ve had to connect any device to my laptop that I was taken aback that this was really the case. I love having all my Kindle highlights in one place, instantaneously. I often copy and paste them into messages, notes, blogs, book reviews (on Goodreads) and even into documents for work. It is a real pain not having this in the Kobo. I honestly can’t imagine hooking it up to the laptop to transfer my notes and highlights, so will probably just use my Kindle for any books where I think I’ll want to use this.

Kobo is definitely clunkier to use with things like this. I downloaded the app to my phone, thinking it would be faster to browse and buy than using the black and white Kobo. Trouble is, you can’t see prices or purchase in the app, so you have to go back to the Kobo or online through your phone or laptop to buy the book you’ve selected. This is not a great user experience, adding an extra step of frustration to what should be fast and easy.


If you could overcome Amazon’s atrocious reputation, the Kindle would be the winner, hands-down. Yes, you miss out on the library access, but as we’ve seen, the selection is limited and the books I want to read are almost never available straightaway. The Kindle is a little easier to navigate, but we could totally overlook that if it weren’t for all the other points that let the Kobo down, and features that make the Kindle shine. For me, the seamless access to my notes and highlights makes Kindle the clear winner. But it depends on how you use your ereader, and how bothered you are by Amazon’s bad practices. Over to you to choose.

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