Join Date: Jan 2012
Location: Victoria, BC
Device: Kobo Vox, Kobo Glo
A different take: a tablet e-reader switches to a front-lit e-reader
I wanted to do a thread from the perspective of a tablet e-reader switching to a front-lit e-ink e-reader. I will approach it largely from a general perspective, and for the most part avoid observations specific to the one I'm switching from (a Kobo Vox) to the one I switched to (a Kobo Glo). I imagine there are Kindle Fire users interested in the Paperwhite, and Nook tablet users interested in the front-lit Nook option.
Though I've been interested in e-readers for a lot of years, I finally came to e-reading later than a lot of people on this site. It was about a year ago that I finally got one, and I selected a tablet e-reader (the Vox) as my first. This was after first purchasing one for my partner, though.
I first bought her a Kobo Touch, but it was quickly returned for the the recently-released Vox. The lighting in our place didn't seem to work well with e-ink a lot of the time, and the included web browser was hard to use because the greyscale rendered a lot of the text virtually un-readable. The tablet e-reader, in contrast, was great in low light conditions, acceptable in direct sunlight, and the included web browser provided far more readable text. Based on brief use of a traditional e-ink device and a tablet, the tablet was the easy winner for me as well. I loved the ability to switch to the browser and read up on things I was inspired to learn more about after reading a book (I read a lot of alternative history, and it inspires me to read up on actual history).
But I have upgraded my smartphone over the last year, with a bigger screen, and I increasingly find myself using that for those quick bought of web browsing. My tablet e-reader is normally now used just for e-reading, so a front-lit e-ink e-reader (wow, that's a lot of hyphens in a row) has obvious advantages: better battery life, better reading in direct sunlight, smaller, and lighter. So how's it gone so far (I'm about 20 hours in)? Largely quite well.
The Kobo Glo is dramatically smaller and lighter than either of my tablets (I also have an iPad, and do use the Kobo app on it as well, especially for Kobo-purchased graphic novels). That's entirely good on the weight side of the equation, and mostly good on the size. Why only mostly re: size? Because to get the text up to what I was accustomed to on a tablet, I now have to do more page turns. About 50% more, actually: a 62 page chapter on the tablet is over 90 pages on the Glo, with what looks to me to be about the same font size. You wouldn't think going from a 7" screen down to a 6" screen would make such a difference, and maybe I actually set the text a bit bigger than it was on the 7" tablet, but either way you'll have to accept either more page turns or smaller text. Not a deal breaker, but worth noting. For people used to larger tablet (9", 10", etc.) this might be a bigger deal for them than it was for me.
I have had a love-hate relationship with the backlighting on tablets. I love their versatility, but it's hard to look at a light-source in the dark, and I do a lot of my e-reading after my partner is asleep and there is no ambient light whatsoever (not even a night light). I have never liked watching TV in an entirely dark room, though movie theatres are fine (because, contrary to popular perception, there's actually lots of ambient light in movie theatres, and movie theatres use reflected light unlike a typical TV). I love the front-lighting on this e-reader, I find it just as easy to read in the dark as I did on the tablet. And so far I find it easier on my eyes, too. The light is softer because you're looking at reflected light, rather than directly at a light source. At its lowest setting the front-lighting is dimmer than the backlighting on any tablet I've used in the dark, making it more pleasant for me and less likely to disturb my girlfriend.
I do have to accept that I now either don't read graphic novels on the device, or that they'll be in greyscale and smaller than ideal. The obvious solution is to use the tablet when I want to read a graphic novel, but that does open up the possibility of occasionally having to bring both (such as when traveling).
One of my concerns about switching to an e-ink e-reader was screen refresh. I've used a variety of them (thanks to in-store kiosks) and always hated how frequently and slowly they refreshed the screen. Technology is obviously improving because the Glo updates the screen really quickly, and only refreshes the screen every 6 page turns. It's fantastic, and does a great job of keeping my attention in the book I'm reading. I understand the Glo is higher resolution and has more horsepower than most other e-ink e-readers, but I imagine most/all forthcoming models will be upping their resolution and horsepower because it does make a real difference to the reading experience.
I had worried that the screen would seem less animated and vibrant than tablet e-reading; that by trying to mimic paper too much that it would seem lifeless in comparison to the fancy page turn animations and other features of quality tablet e-reading. I was pleasantly surprised by that; the high-res e-ink screen is attractive to look at, and the font-weight options (which I haven't enjoyed in the past with tablet e-reading) really helped with that as well.
All in all, it's mission accomplished. I'm pleased with having switched from a tablet to a front-lit e-ink e-reader. Had I not had a good smartphone I might have continued to prefer a tablet, but I'm now a front-lit e-ink convert.