back to article WHSmith Kobo Touch wireless e-book reader

The joys of the e-book reader are considerable. You can carry a thousand books in your pocket and download more in a matter of seconds while you’re sitting in the garden – assuming the Wi-Fi stretches or you have a 3G model. If there are words you don’t recognise, you can look them up with one touch too. And in the case of …


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  1. Bart Tyszka

    Wait for the Bookeen Odyssey

    It's French and coming out in the next week or so.

    The e-ink display is supposed to have a refresh rate fast enough to use it as a B&W tablet.

    Have a look at the vids out there.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    The reader everyone has been waiting for?

    You betcha. I have a Sony PRS-650 and won't be updating (it offers me nothing, as it uses the same 6in e-ink Perl and touchscreen, just no Wifi).

    However for new to e-book consumers, this beats the Amazon hands down. It supports EPUB, which means you aren't locked into any proprietary stores like the Kindle, does everything the Kindle does, and even reads the Kindle format (MOBI), so you can un-DRM your kindle books and read them on here.

    What I don't get, is it scored the same as the new Kindle, despite being better in that it's not locked to a single content supplier. Surely that deserves another 5% In my world it does...

    1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      I'm against proprietary as much as anyone

      But I have to dispel the myth that the Kindle is somehow 'locked in'. You can download Calibre and convert pretty much any ebook format to one that the Kindle will read. You don't have to go through proprietary software, such as the dreaded iTunes to transfer files to or from it, plug it into your PC and it shows up as an external drive. It is a bit of a pain that it doesn't natively support epub, but it is by no means an insurmountable obstacle.

      1. Justicesays
        Big Brother

        Erm, try converting those kindle mobi's to read on a Sony then

        Amazon lock you in in as much as once you have invested heavily in content from them , if you move to another device vendor they wont support the kindle mobi format as it uses DRM.

        So I guess you could keep the kindle for old books and use your new device only for new books?

        (Assuming your kindle didnt break, the most likely reason to buy a new e-book reader)

        Seems unlikely, which is why they like the lock in.

        Obviously DRM isnt unbreakable by any means, and at least Amazon kindle books are formatted to be read on a 6-inch ebook device, as opposed to the dumb adobe DRM where most of the books are formatted to read on an A4 page and the DRM stops you reprocessing it into anything else.

        And they wonder why people spend time working to bypass DRM even if they arnt "freetards"

      2. Rob Davis

        convert epub to mobi

        epubs can be converted to mobi for reading on kindle.

  3. tanj666

    Never going back

    I've had ebook readers for a few years and I'm never going back!

    An 800 page book is a pain to hold, a pain to keep open, its heavy, cumbersome and easily damaged.

    I'm now on my third generation of ebook reader, I've been able to put the books I bought previously onto the newer device with no problems so far. I love the way these devices keep my page as I switch from book to book. My old collection of bookmarks (collected over 30 years) is now a real collection as none are used.

    I made the choice a few years ago that I would not buy a book in paper format again, that I would wait for the ebook version. This year that commitment has been stuck to better than before. No books bought this year so far (I bought 4 last year and 12 the year before, down from 30-40 before that).

    As I replace old books with ereader copies, the paper versions are being recycled - either with other people or the the charity shops (you surely didn't think I mean the council recycling facility did you?!?).

    Ebook all the way for me!

    Oh - that page turn issue? not a problem at all, most of the time I don't even notice it and it has never annoyed me.

  4. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

    I really can't see a lot between this and the Kindle

    The 'closed ecosystem' of the kindle doesn't prove to be much of an issue with mine. You can convert ePub to formats readable by the Kindle using Calibre. Yes, it's an extra step, but not a major PITA. The one thing I find particularly useful is the ability to email PDFs and word documents straight to the device, and the conversion is done for you. This is quite handy if you have docs you need to review and proved a godsend when recently proofreading a dissertation for the GF. Does the Kobo support this? If so, then I'd say they really are much of a muchness. Not sure I like the quilted duvet look though.

  5. Lockwood

    Reading Life?

    I thought that was a community magazine from Berkshire.

  6. CaptainHook

    Loading Books On

    How do you load books onto the device? Is it only though an online service like the kindle or can you use that usb port it has paired with Calibre?

    What affect does turning the WiFi/3G radios on have on the battery life?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      Loading from PC too.

      You can buy books online direct from the device and it downloads direct (Kindle style), and also from the PC using AdobeDigital Editions or the Kobo Desktop software (Sony Reader Style),.

      The best of both worlds.

    2. Paul2724

      The Kindle works just fine with Calibre FYI - I have one and the Wi-Fi was only ever on long enough to activate it...

  7. James 51

    How would you compare it to the touch screen sony e-readers?

  8. Anonymous Coward


    W H Smith is going to pay dearly for this! Steve Jobs invented touchscreens, and gestures! And language!

    You can run, Smith, but you can't hide from the US Patent Office!

  9. JDX Gold badge

    2 cents

    1)I don't see the big deal of page-flashing... with a real book you have a far more prolonged page-turn, with dangerous paper-cut risk :)

    2)Hard without seeing it for real but for some reason, 'kobo' looks like a store-brand copy of Kindle to me, like Sanyo.

    2.5)Does WH have enough of a brand left these days? It used to be the equivalent of Woolworths - but now it's the equivalent of Woolworths.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "with dangerous paper-cut risk"

      That's dangerous? I think you may need to put the books down for 5 minutes and get outside a little more often!

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Lovely books

    e-readers are great for travelling, but actual books are indeed far lovlier. Also, they can be lent to and borrowed from friends which is a lot more social than ereaders

  11. Red Bren

    "...boy, is it slow?"

    I don't know. I was hoping you would tell me. That's why I read the review!

  12. David Gosnell

    "Buy from"

    Tad ironic? Needless to say there's only accessories on the end of the link, not the actual reader.

    1. Tony Smith, Editor, Reg Hardware (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: "Buy from"

      I believe it says 'buy from Amazon' not 'buy the whatever from Amazon'. There's a reason for that.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I replaced my iRiver touch with a Kobo Touch, and it's certainly much better. Massively better contrast and screen, amongst other things.

    The Kobo Touch does a nice job of zooming in on .pdf files.

    Shame it doesn't do so with bitmap diagrams though. I really want an ereader for textbooks, which have lots of diagrams, and they're always bitmaps in ebook format, and no readers let you zoom in on a bitmap in an ebook...

    I accidentally copied a .docx file onto the Kobo, and it just opened it when asked... Some faff zomming in to a useful resolution, admittedly..

    The reviewer mentions that the touch keyboard si slow, which is true, but.. It's much faster than using up/down/left/right with a 5 way button on the new Kindle.. And how much typing do you plan to do? So, I think it's the right balance...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Textbooks etc

      I reckon the e-reader manufacturers are seriously missing a trick. People have been going on about the paperless office for years; with an A4 e-ink reader and some well thought out connectivity and software, you just might get there. Add a touch screen that also can be used with a stylus and you can even scribble on the docs when working through ideas. It really doesn't have to be very sophisticated or capable at all provided it sticks to the basics of emulating the things paper does well now.

      Costs would be relatively high now for large screen sizes, but ereaders are way cheap compared to tablets and mass adoption by businesses would drop prices soon enough.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        > an A4 e-ink reader

        Screw the paperless office; I want an A4 e-book reader for comics.

        The 6" screen is pretty good for manga, but for larger format comics the screen is just too small.

  14. Synonymous Howard

    Had a play with one on the weekend...

    Got collared whilst walking through a Smiths on the weekend and had a play with one .. quite nice and moderately useful (I have a 3G iPad1 so enjoyed the comparison) .. still not completely convinced by eInk (noticed the better page turning) but ebooks in general are good and as I only use books for reference purposes (not novels) they are a great idea .. having access to thousands of reference books with search facilities and annotations would be really useful especially when there is no easy internet access.

    If the other Kindles make it over the pond then next year could be when ereaders get a shakedown and we get cheaper (subsidised) devices which could be hacked and extended!

  15. Code Monkey


    Is the selection of books as rubbish as in bricks and mortar WH Smiths? I don't want to buy this thing if all I can read is James Corden's autobioghraphy.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      More books than Kindle...

      EPUB is a much more widely recognised format than AMZ.

  16. Anonymous Coward

    Just got one, and it's good

    Just got one of these. I was a bit worried when I found that you had to install an application on your computer to register the thing even to the extent of getting its wireless to work. As I run neither windows nor macos, the only OSs for which the application is provided, I thought I would have to return it, but as it happens winetricks has a recipe which meant a one-click install followed by an update worked well. There are instructions on the net for getting the USB connections reliable under wine, and after that, all was fine. Not ideal but OK. Oh, and it was good that just an email address and password are required for registration, along with some opt-out opportunity for reading surveillance, rather than insisting on intrusive personal data capture.

    In use, I find it pretty good, and somehow easier to use than SWMBO's kindle - I must try to work out why. Epub format is an advantage over the kindle. All in all, and for what it's worth, I'm really pleased with the kobo.


    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You need to "install an application on your computer to register the thing"?

      That is totally stupid. Congratulations on getting it to work with WINE, but you should have returned the thing out of principle.

      What inspired me to buy a Kindle was these words on Amazon's web site:

      "System Requirements : None, because it's wireless and doesn't require a computer."

      That is how a tablet or e-book reader ought to work. Why do so many companies fail so utterly to achieve this? Even Apple iPad users are expected to install iTunes on a computer running an approved OS. Idiots, idiots.

      1. Paw Bokenfohr

        Not any more

        "PC Free" is one of the big deals with iOS 5.

        1. Grease Monkey Silver badge

          ""PC Free" is one of the big deals with iOS 5."

          I would have thought any version of iOS would be "PC free" I can't see Apple encouraging their customers to buy a PC. Indeed I'm amazed that they haven't actually made "PC Free" a requirement for owning any Apple device.

      2. Grease Monkey Silver badge

        And how many people are there out there who are going to order an ebook reader who don't have a computer? Let's be sensible, how could you actually buy a wifi kindle, set it up with amazon and use the damn thing without using a computer in the first place?

        That's the least compelling argument I've heard in favour of the Kindle so far.

      3. Balefire
        Thumb Up

        This was one of the major factors when I bought the wifi only v3, I wasn't forced into running either Windows or OSX. Just drag and drop onto the kindle when plugged in via USB and off you go.

        Calibre does a seamless job of converting non-mobi files before uploading to your kindle. You can even configure Calibre to not ask you if you want it to convert and just do it.

        1. Anonymous Coward

          Drag n Drop

          I may have misled you - you can absolutely use it as a mass storage device and drag 'n' drop files to and from it on the Kobo, and indeed, that's how I tend to use it. But you can only register the device by installing the windows or macos software. As far as I can see, you have to do that before the wifi works properly too.

      4. Anonymous Coward

        "...but you should have returned the thing out of principle."

        True - I'm far from being Stallman-compliant, I fear, but to defend myself, all the ebook readers have SOME degree of compromise and, well, to be honest, I just had to choose one. The Kobo doesn't come with a USB charging plug either, so you have to use your PC to charge it.


    2. MuckerDog

      Wot ?

      I was seriously considering one after the review but then I came to this comment. Are they serious? That's this sale lost. Next !

  17. johnnytruant

    touching eink?

    Given how fastidious I am about cleaning my screens, perhaps on my ereader most of all, I'm not entirely sure I want to be swiping my greasy fingers over the reading surface all the time.

    Sometimes buttons are the right answer. Make 'em capacitative buttons or a swipe pad or whatever, but keep my mucky hands away from the display!

    1. Grease Monkey Silver badge

      Well buy the none touch version then. Keeps your screen clean and costs less. A true win/win for you.

    2. Red Bren


      You could wash your hands once in a while...

  18. Matt 70

    pdf ability?

    How good is this unit at reading pdf files, as I would love to use one to access all my tech resoucres, manuals and diagrams.

    1. John Bailey

      Not very

      Save yourself the annoyance. And do not listen to the twits who will swear that they use their e-ink readers for PDF every day. HTey are all without exception.. Rubbish for PDF.

      Get a tablet for PDF, and if you read for pleasure, an e-book reader for fiction.

      End of story.

  19. stu 4

    kindle has no lock in

    it plays mobi, etc, pdf all natively. there is no lock in with kindle.

    epub to mobi conversion is easy peasy - use something like calibre to manage all your books on the computer and it's more or less automatic.

    1. Ian Cunningham

      But the PDF handling in Kindle is near useless (I think that the claim that it handles PDF is a bit misleading) - I have one and was very disappointed to find I couldn't read any of my PDF files on it. Most PDF's are A4 or letter and you can't read them. The zooming does not work with the paging so if you try to use this you are constantly zooming and panning. There appears to be no way to re-flow (if there is and I've missed it, I'll be kicking myself) PDF text.

      Does the Kobo do any better - someone said the zoom worked well but can you read a longish A4/letter PDF using it?

      1. Rob Davis

        pdf to epub via calibre for re-flow

        convert your pdfs to epubs which will reflow the text to fit the page.

    2. Grease Monkey Silver badge

      Yes epub conversion is easy, but you still shouldn't have to do it. Epub is the defacto standard for ebooks so it should be in there as standard. Were the Kindle cheaper than the Kobo then that might excuse it, but they are the same price and otherwise equal in every respect. As such the simple exclusion of epub on the Kindle clinches the deal for the Kobo. Simple.

      I can see no reason why anyone would buy the Kindle over the Kobo unless they were some sort of Amazon fanboi.

      Of course I can see why somebody would defend the Kindle in this respect. Because they own a Kindle and don't have the integrity to be objective. IOW they are an Amazon fanboi.

  20. andreas koch


    Will Apple really let them sell these things, now that they have a patent on touchscreen gestures (OK, for unlocking, but what the heck)?

  21. Mike Richards Silver badge


    I tried using the Kobo site - once.

    I put a stack of books in my shopping cart. Clicked to pay, filled out the details. Got an error message, but was reassured in big friendly letters that I hadn't been billed. Told to try again. Did so, same error message. Gave up, bought the books elsewhere.

    A hour later, two receipts from Kobo for the books. Told customer service that I wanted a refund as their site had not worked and had assured me there had been no charge.

    Response: all sales are final, no refund.

    They edge just ahead of Sony in my league of companies that can go and merrily burn in hell.

    1. Rob Davis

      Distance selling regulations

      No way they could get away with this. If you don't own the books why should you pay. If you can prove it then you should get your money back.

    2. Tommy Pock

      UK Trading Standards

      Even so much as a sign saying "No refunds given" is illegal in Britain. Contact Trading Standards.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I have one and really like, better than the older model Sony my son has. It uses an IR system for touch so there's not an extra touch layer which can have an impact on readability. I think the newer Sony's have adopted this approach as well.

    I believe the IR system is from a company that at one time made touch screen mobiles including a slide to unlock feature that predates the iPhone by some years.

    1. andreas koch


      The touchscreen of a 1988 Xerox DP180 is IR-based and can be unlocked with a gesture; not the first thing that transformed from a PARC- (or Alan Kay-) idea to an 'original' Apple intellectual property like object oriented GUI or the tablet...

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What's in a name?

    I'm fascinated as to why this is called the "WH Smith Kobo Reader", when as far as I can see all Smiths do is sell it. What's next, the "John Lewis Apple iPad"?

  24. Skymonrie

    Why oh why?

    This is more a call to Regheads, I think most of us here know how to use a computer.

    - If you don't want to be locked in to a book store

    - If you don't want to have to send a book through something like Calibre

    - If you want your e-book reader to be more


    - Buy a Barnes and Noble Simple Touch

    - Root it


    - You pretty much get android 2.1 stock

    - You can simply drag books across as USB memory stick

    - You can have calendar

    - You can have mail

    - Take your pick of ebook reading software and read every kind of media...I recommend ezPDF reader. It's got dictionary and annotations amongst other handy features

    - You can even have a wi-fi probe...using an ebook reader

    - It's only limited by the screen speed, which is quite good

    Join the revolution!!! :D

    <-- Happy B&N Simple owner

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Price of the books?

    Do you not think that a comparison of the prices of books for Kobo and Kindle would be helpful in a review like this? At a minimum, compare the prices of newly-released hardback, bestseller paperback, and old or back-catalogue paperbacks would be useful.

  26. JimND


    My Kindle-3 has sound and can turn a book into a badly-read audio book. There was a radio program recently that pointed out the latest Kindle has no sound, and blind people who were just getting used to being able to buy ebooks like the rest of us, were therefore stuffed. How does the kobo fit? is it a possible alternative for them?

    1. Dana W

      Not true

      The e-ink Kindle touch HAS sound, only the super cheap no touch, no keyboard Kindle is missing sound.

  27. K Cartlidge

    RE: Kindle is not locked in

    A couple of people have stated the Kindle is not a lock-in, but in both cases have cited how easy it is to get other formats ON to the Kindle.

    That's not dealing with lock-IN but lock-OUT and, fair enough, they are right on that basis.

    The lock-IN is true though. Buy from Amazon, which you do if you buy from on the Kindle device itself, and the book you get will work on all Amazon devices and in all Amazon reader software. That's it. And that IS lock-in.

    There's talk of Calibre and, true enough, it converts formats. Unless you want to crack the DRM though you still won't get your Amazon-bought ebook onto a Sony, Nook or Kobo. That's lock-in.

    1. andreas koch
      Thumb Up

      @ K Cartlidge

      OK, You definitely have got a point there. Well, I must confess, I never thought about it like that because it's the only eReader I've got. If you have several different eReaders, you can't easily share the same book between them.

      I only ever use the only one I've got, so it wasn't an obvious disadvantage for me and as our household was a regular customer (paper books, ~50 p.a.) with Amazon before the kindle was out, nothing much changed for me...

      Nevertheless, you're right. Thumbsup for you.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Lock in

    The mention of rooting the Nook and using it for simple USB transfer isn't limited to the Nook.

    If you have a card in the Kobo then it can simply be a case of dragging over and dropping in. The advantage of Calibre is that it makes sure format/metadata etc are all in place properly before transferring.

    The other advantage of using a card is that if you have a problem and have to reset or replace the device then reloading your library is as simple as putting in the card.

  29. Rob Davis

    Another review: Kobo vs Kindle vs Nobo

    Conclusion: They say Kindle is best on grounds of page clarity and size of ebook store - which would compensate for the lack of removable storage provided the content you read comes from amazon and not elsewhere.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      However... kobo can use Google ebook store (3 million titles) as well as its own kobo store

      some stats:

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just tried one in Whsmith

    Two things I noticed - on the non-touch version the screen seemed to flash more when changing pages than the touch version. Maybe that was a configuration setting you can change, though.

    The other - and to my mind more important - issue was the screen size. It was about the size of a postcard. Effectively this means you get about two small paragraphs before you need to turn the page. For simple stories maybe you can live with that, but for detailed PDFs with pictures or anything non-trivial where you will need to scan back and forth through the text, it's a no-go.

    On the other hand, at least it supports ePub natively. Something they should prominently display on the packaging, in my opinion. They need to drive home the message of what this means. No vendor lock-in!

  31. RichyS

    Missing important details

    A good review, so far as it went. However, I think the important details missing are:

    - How does Kobo's selection and range of books compare to Amazon

    - Are Kobo's prices similar to Amazon

    - How is the whole process of navigation, book discovery, and buying via Kobo compared to Amazon.

    The hardware looks nice (a fair bit nicer than the Kindle), but as Apple have taught us, that's only half the story. It's the whole experience that counts, and this is where I would worry that Kobo are behind Amazon.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    touch screen

    I've got an older Sony prs600, which really suffers from reflections on the screen because of the touch layer. How does this device compare?

  33. albaleo

    @JDX - Sanyo

    "like a store-brand copy of Kindle to me, like Sanyo"

    Sanyo might "look like" a store brand copy to some, but the company and brand name have been around since about 1950. Sanyo was recently acquired by Panasonic, aka Matsushita.

  34. K Cartlidge
    Thumb Up

    'Fixing' the screen refresh, plus PDFs and more ...

    Speaking as an owner of a Kindle 3, Sony PS-505 and the Kobo being reviewed, it wipes the floor with all of them.

    The major gripe in the review seems to be the ghosting on some books due to the fact that it only refreshes fully every 6 pages - but that is an option in the menu which *can be changed* !

    No mention was made of the Kobo's Shortlist feature. Add a handful of books you want to read to the shortlist (all on the device). Browse the shortlist rather than the full list of books, read one then remove it and repeat. Brilliant.

    For PDFs the screen refresh is quick enough that I can double-tap the screen to zoom in then using the touchscreen simply drag the page around. Again, superb. And the Kobo also lets you install your own TrueType fonts.

    A reasonably fair review, but the above alone would bump it up 10% for me.

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