Unveiling KOBO's Latest E-Reader Collection: Worth The Upgrade?

In a market where e-readers are rapidly changing, KOBO is a name that stands for quality and innovation. Less than a month ago, in an ongoing development process, colour versions of the Libra 2 and Clara lines of e-readers were joined by an upgraded model of the monochrome Clara. But if you already have any of these devices, is it time to trade up? Time to visit the hardware of KOBO’s newest heart to answer the question of whether you can afford to upgrade or whether you’ve likely already been side-graded into the best e-reader most of us can have – with an important exception.

KOBO's Colorful Leap with Clara and Libra

The future of colour e-paper screens has promised much for a long time. The new KOBO Clara Colour and Libra Colour ereaders featuring E Ink’s Kaleido 3 display don’t quite get there; the colour reproduction isn’t quite as vibrant as I’d personally like, nor others I’ve asked. It’s much better than the few new, poor and ugly colour e-readers that came before it, but still not quite comparison to nearly any other screen on the modern market.

Is Bigger Always Better? The Libra Colour Experience

Similarly, the asymmetrical 7”-diagonal screen of the Libra Colour, with its page-turn buttons, shares the same benefits and exactly the same limitations: it suffers the same reduced saturation of colours and the same reduced legibility (although, due to its larger size, it is marginally more readable); but it doesn’t compensate for the reduced saturation or the very slightly compromised black and white content that results from the requirement for the coloured layer. Should you go for the colour version?

The Clara BW: Standing Apart in Monochrome

With all these colourful Rube Goldberg contraptions weighing down the news, the KOBO Clara BW (monochrome version) stands out. This is the most sensible e-reader you can buy, and it gets even better and more affordable with this glorious upgrade (call it Clara BW unit number two, taking over from the Clara 2E). The screen inside this e-reader is the Carta 1300 series, and it promises higher contrast and slightly faster page-turning performance. Not earth-shattering, but an improvement. If these e-readers were ice-cream flavours, this one would be vanilla, but it’s also the easiest e-reader on the market to recommend because it’s a really good device, and because it’s the sensible go-to gadget. It’s also why the Clara BW is arguably the most sensible e-reader you can buy.

The Accessories Touch: Enhancing Your KOBO Experience

This attention to detail extends to the accessories that KOBO ships with, or at least offers for sale, in order to improve your reading experience – a faux-leather ‘sleep cover’ that doubles as a stand for the device you are currently reading. Again, it’s these little touches that contribute to the luxury of the KOBO experience, and that give you the sense that KOBO is providing you with the best way of enjoying reading on a small electronic device, and making that experience as comfortable and possible for you as it can.

Deciphering the KOBO Upgrade Dilemma

Whether current KOBO fans carrying a Clara 2E or Clara HD should upgrade is more complex. The colour models are still an interesting experiment but may not satisfy those who want to get a quantum leap in colour. For new buyers or those with older models, the Clara BW is the clear win, offering a new device with an upgrade in performance and price.

KOBO: Nurturing a Love for Reading in the Digital Age

And KOBO’s gradual refining of the digital reading experience can be seen with each new product iteration. The company’s much-maligned colour e-readers are just one example of a firm that will, when possible, change with its customers.

Ebooks, unlike digital music, needed more than just hardware to work: they needed a robust platform that supported a broad range of formats, library and retail access, and a great deal of user customisation. By offering not just hardware, but also everything to support it, KOBO is well-placed to stake its claim on the e-reader market.

Final Thoughts: To Upgrade or Not to Upgrade?

With that in mind, while the Klara might appeal to colour e-reader enthusiasts, the majority are likely to find the monochrome Clara BW to be a much better buy, striking an excellent balance between performance and value. Regardless of KOBO’s e-reader sales numbers and whether or not the company will ever turn a profit, its efforts – both successes and failures – are motivated by a commendable drive for innovation in digital reading.

But with e-reading technology evolving rapidly, we can be sure that KOBO will continue to lead the field in developing the devices that speak to the changing needs of the 21st-century reader. Those new to e-readers, or those in need of an upgrade, can turn to KOBO’s newest offerings for a glimpse into the future of digital reading, with practicality and user-experience as their guiding principles.

Jun 03, 2024
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