Join Date: Sep 2012
Location: Bristol, UK
Device: Sony Xperia Arc; Kobo Glo
NB: I am aware that there is a new firmware available (2.1.5), which mainly contains some emergency bug-fixes, and I will update to it and cover it once I finish this base review.
The Kobo Glo that I purchased from new in the first week of it going on sale had Software Version 2.1.4 (r43703, 10/1/12) after running an update. It is possible to downgrade the firmware version from 2.1.4 to an earlier, pre-release version, but as the Glo had version 2.1.4 from day one, this is the version I will be looking at. To check your firmware version, go to Settings >> Device Information. Future updates to the firmware (software version) could change many aspects of the user interface, readability and functionality, so I will update these sections in future when new firmware versions are released.
For those interested, update 2.1.4 includes the following changes (quoted directly from v2.1.4's Release Notes on the device itself):
- Install dictionaries in your preferred languages
- Enjoy faster page turning and book loading
- Benefit from better text selection, highlighting and Wi-Fi performance
- Watch a new Quick Tour (available in Help)
This list all sounds like good stuff which I want (other than #4)!
So moving away from firmware and back to User Interface, the Home screen is the main thing you will be looking at when you are not reading an ebook.
NB: These are very long sections, which will be boring to anyone who is familiar with the Kobo Home screen layouts, hence the Spoiler tags.
MAIN HOME SCREEN VIEWS
Let's start with a view of the Home screen itself:
From the photo above, you can see all the main elements of the Home screen. Besides the five books in the middle, I have pointed out in red the sections that can be selected.
The home icon in the top left, unsurprisingly will take you to this screen and is generally available every time you bring up any on-screen prompts.
The three horizontal lines in the top right corner bring up an Information bar, which can be seen in the photo below:
Next down, are the Reading and Discover panes. These only change the items in the middle of the screen, with the Reading view always being the default.
The Discover view shows a selection of books from the Kobo website, which appears to be a truly random selection of "top" books. The layout can be seen on the left-hand side of the image below:
Upon clicking on any of the images, it brings a window of that book up on screen (seen on the right-hand side of the image above), where you can:
- Choose to buy it (taking you to that book's entry in the Kobo shop)
- Add it to your Wishlist menu (by selecting the push-pin icon)
- Read its Synopsis
- Read a Preview of the Book (downloading the preview it to your Preview menu)
- Rate it (if you've already read it)
- Select "Not Interested" (this closes the window and I assume saves your preference when compiling your Recommended titles)
I was initially confused by the "Not Interested" option. After selecting it for the majority of the titles that came up, those titles didn't disappear from the list. It was only when I went back to the Home screen and then entered back into the Discover screen that the device updated the list and excluded those titles.
Moving on, and heading back to the main view, clicking on one of the three selections under the main book view brings up the following menu options:
FIND BOOKS SUB-MENU
Library >> Books
The Library >> Books option brings up a list of all books stored on your device. This can be sorted by:
- File Type (NB "epub" and "Kobo epub" are different file types here)
- Recent Reads
My personal preference is to leave this on "Recent Reads" so I always have a quick option of getting back to my last read book should I load / buy new ones. This is the only practical workaround for the issue raised in the last section of replacing last read titles with newly purchased ones. You can see the "Books" window view in the image below:
Each book has an options menu (the three horizontal lines to the right of each title), which brings up the following options when clicking on it:
- Read Now
- View Details (Book details, including publisher, language, file size, file format, how much you've read in % and a 5-star rating toggle)
- Add to Shelf (discussed a bit lower down)
- Mark as Finished
The arrows at the bottom of the screen progress you forward or backward one page, and the circle in the middle can jump you to a desired location by holding on it and dragging. The square at the bottom right lets you change view from the detailed view (shown in the image above) to a grid view (which only shows book covers).
Library >> News & Magazines
Unfortunately, the Library >> News & Magazines section is useless to me, as the relevant Kobo internet page (www.kobobooks.com/newsstand
) informs me that "We currently do not offer newspapers and magazines in the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, Channel Islands or Isle of Man." The website does hint at potential future availability in my area, though, so I may use this in future.
Library >> Previews
The Library >> Previews option takes you to a list of any book previews you may have downloaded. It looks and behaves exactly like the Books window as seen above, including a Sort List that has "Title", "Author" and "Recent Reads".
Library >> Shelves
The Library >> Shelves option takes you to a great feature of this device. Shelves allow you to categorise your library. You can create a shelf and call it anything you like, and can add any of your ebooks (of any file type) to that shelf. There are no limits to how many shelves you can create or how many books you can add to a shelf. You can also save the same title to multiple shelves. The image below shows the Shelves window.
My personal preference is to only use 7 shelves, as this is the maximum number of shelves visible on screen, and that way I don't need to scroll through multiple pages of shelves to find the one I'm looking for.
Selecting the three horizontal bars to the right of a shelf brings up three options:
Rename and Delete are obvious, but Edit is where you need to go to Add new books to that shelf. Adding a book brings you to your full library (sorted by Title, which you cannot change) and you can add or remove a book from the shelf by clicking on a plus icon to the right of a book. You can also add a book to a shelf by selecting the relevant book's menu option from the Library >> Books view, as mentioned above.
Of the Library options, I have only really used Books (to return to my last read book) and Shelves (to quickly browse my books by Genre to find a new read), though I could use Previews more often as I download more book previews in future. I strongly doubt I will ever use my Glo for viewing newspapers or magazines, though.
READING LIFE SUB-MENU
Find Books >> Similar Books
The Find Books >> Similar Books window shows you what you would expect. The biggest feature here is that you can manually select which books from your library you would like to be included in this selection by clicking where it says "See All" in the image below.
Touching a similar book at the bottom of the screen brings up the synopsis view of the book, as we saw earlier in the main Discover window view.
Find Books >> Recommended For You
The Find Books >> Recommended For You section displays a list of books that have been determined by Kobo to be of interest to you, probably based on your Wishlist, Ratings and purchase history from Kobo. You can see this screen below.
Personally, if I will be buying a book from Kobo, it is easier to use their website, so I won't be using this feature very much.
Find Books >> Categories (aka Kobo Store)
The next section in Find Books is Categories. This is effectively a way of browsing the Kobo store on your device by looking at books in different categories. It thankfully displays prices next to each book, but you will have to have a WiFi connection to use it. The image below shows the main Categories view on the left and the book list view on the right, once you have chosen your category.
You can sort the selection of displayed books by:
- Price: Low to High
- Title: A-Z
- Title: Z-A
Unfortunately, there is a really cluttered hierarchy for Categories which I don't particularly like. For example, to get a list of Horror titles, I had to choose the following Categories: "Fiction & Literature" >> "Fiction" >> "Horror". Likewise, to get to a list of Science Fiction books, I would have to choose: "Page 2" >> "Page 3" >> "Sci Fi & Fantasy" >> "Science Fiction" >> "All Books in this category". This is an incredible 5 screen presses, each requiring a refresh and a WiFi connection, in order to see a list of Sci Fi books. They also did not include either a Sci Fi or Fantasy option anywhere under the Fiction & Literature heading! This area really needs some major work.
Another area for improvement can be seen in the image above for the book without a cover ("The Haunting of Harriet"). For some reason they have not fixed the height of the book selections, so if a book does not have a cover, the "Buy Now" button combines with the price of the book.
For now, I will continue using a PC browser to look for and purchase new books.
Find Books >> Free eBooks
The next Find Books section is "Free eBooks" which includes a book list of free books that you can download. There is only one category, but you can sort it in the following ways:
- Top Matches
- Title: A-Z
- Title: Z-A
I don't know what drives "Top Matches", but there certainly weren't any books I'd be interested in from the first five options on my screen and certainly did not reflect the sorts of titles showing up in my Recommendations view (Sci Fi, Fantasy and Horror titles, mainly).
Find Books >> Reading Lists
This section brings up a list of categories as can be found on the Kobo website, and can be seen in the image below.
At the time of writing this review, the lists span four pages and (other than page 1, which can be seen in the image above) includes:
- p2: Blood and Sand
- p2: Books on Film
- p2: Bundle Up!
- p2: Contemporary Fiction
- p2: Dazzling Debuts
- p2: Fantastical Finds
- p2: Guilty Pleasures
- p2: Historical Fiction
- p3: Intriguing True Crime
- p3: Kobo Writing Life Bestsellers
- p3: New & Hot Indie Reads
- p3: New from Mills & Boon
- p3: New & Hot Non-fiction
- p3: Paranormal Fiction
- p3: Real People, Real Stories
- p3: Royal Reads
- p4: Science Fiction
- p4: Short Reads from Kobo
- p4: Sports Stories
- p4: Teen Reads
- p4: Top Free eBooks
Clicking on any of these list entries takes you to a standard list of titles, exactly the same as seen in the Categories section above.
It looks as though the first 7 lists on the first page are the "featured" reading lists as found on the Kobo website's homepage, and the rest are added in Alphabetic order. There is no way to sort the reading list, either. I doubt I will use this feature on my device.
Find Books >> Search Kobo
Choosing Find Books >> Search Kobo brings up a simple search window, which allows you to either search for a title in your own library or the Kobo shop. I did a quick test of the Kobo shop using the phrase "warlord chronicles" to see if it would find any of the Warlord Chronicle books by Bernard Cornwell. The image below shows the main Search screen and the results of my search.
This works well and even has a real-time drop-down list of potential matches. There is one niggle, though, which is that despite connecting to the Kobo website to show search results, it omits the price from the results view.
Find Books Conclusion
Using the Find Books section should allow a user to fairly easily either find specific titles or browse for titles that may be of interest. Unfortunately, only the Search section is of any real use, as the others are let down largely by bad design decisions which make looking for books a lengthly chore.
As it stands, this is not an eReader that I can see many users using to browse for new books to purchase from the Kobo store. Instead, I suspect those users (myself included) will use a browser and "shop around" anytime they want a new book.
I actually find the clunkiness of this potential "sales" section strange, considering how keen Kobo are to ensure you log in to and sync your device with them. This could be quite lucrative for Kobo if they got it right.
I don't want to spend too long on this section. Essentially, the image below shows the two elements of the Reading Life interface.
"Reading Stats" on the left shows only basic reading stats for both your current book and all the books on your device.
The one on the right shows "Awards" which are essentially a list of Achievements you can unlock when using your device. To be honest, I find it gimmicky, considering I've not really read a book properly and I've already unlocked the majority of the awards.
GENERAL THOUGHTS ON THE HOME SCREEN
Finally, we come to the last element of the Home screen, the Wishlist. This simply shows the books from the Kobo Store that you may have added to your Wishlist.
Unfortunately, there is a major issue with this feature, and has to do with the Kobo website (which needs a lot of work!). The issues is that adding something to your Wishlist is only possible on the device itself. Despite being logged in on the website, I am unable to add any titles to my Wishlist, or even view a Wishlist at all. I am also unable to do this on my Kobo Android app.
For a Kobo Shop Wishlist to actually be useful, Kobo really need to add it to all of their platforms and ensure it is included anytime a user syncs one of their devices.
Something I didn't touch on in the sections above was how easy it was to navigate the menus
So looking at the Home screen and sub-menus, here are a list of my major quibbles:
SETTINGS (INC EXTRAS)
- Selecting the Discover option should default to the "Recommended for You" screen
- Every time the "Buy Now" button is present (mainly under the "Find Books" sub-menu), the price for that book should also be present.
- The "Find Books >> Categories" sub-menu needs a lot of work to make it useful - there are currently far too many menus to go through before you can look at a list of books.
- I'm not sure why "Free eBooks" and the "Reading List" sub-menus are not included in the "Categories" sub-menu as options. When they are on their own, they seem a bit redundant.
- Reading Life Awards feel gimmicky.
- Kobo are really missing a trick with the Wishlist by not making it available on other Kobo platforms (especially their website).
USER INTERFACE RATING - 7/10 stars
I'm reluctant to spend too long on the Settings sections. Suffice it to say that the list of Settings you find can be seen in the image below:
- The "Account" section contains your Kobo, Facebook and Adobe Authorisation account details.
- "Light, Sleep & Power" lets you set details for (you guessed it!) light, sleep and power options.
- "Date & Time" and "Language" are straightforward (the latter allowing you to manage your dictionaries).
- "Reading Settings" lets you choose your page turning layout, page refresh options and setting whether page numbers appear in the margins.
- "Reading Life" only has two settings: one to toggle it on or off and the other to toggle notifications on or off.
- "Wi Fi Connection", "Device Information" and "About Kobo Glo" are all pretty standard settings menus.
It is under "Extras" where things become more surprising. This is where Chess, Sudoku, a Sketch Pad and the Web Browser are all found.
This actually works fairly well, without any bugs that I could spot. I played one match against the dapper, pipe-smoking Glo AI and it seemed to respond logically to my moves. Pictures below:
Sudoku didn't work as well.
I could add potential numbers to each square, but there was no way I could find to remove those small numbers off of a square. This kind of ruined the whole implementation of the game for me. I probably would have used this quite often, too, seeing how much I play sudoku on my Android phone.
Due to the rather clumsy infrared touch interface, a sketch pad was never going to be that good.
Still, it does what it says and you can save your sketches as PNG files. Note that these actually show up on the Home screen as new ebooks, which is a bug that will need ironing out. I personally won't be using it.
Ah, the browser. Here is a shot of Google in the browser, and the browser's menu options.
I could spend a lot of time on the browser feature, but I won't. Suffice it to say that it does work, but there are a lot of things to point out:
- It takes four screen touches to actually access the bloody thing (Menu >> Settings >> Extras >> Browser).
- The keyboard layout is rubbish for web browsing. It needs to have a dot / comma and a backslash on the main display to be taken seriously.
- The keyboard requires firm touches to actually register a button press, which slows the whole process down significantly. You would not want to write a forum post on this device.
- When typing in a url, you cannot select a point in the address bar with your finger; you have to use a left and right arrow and backspace to modify. This means that if you are in a website with a really long url, it will take you a bit of time to delete it and type in a new one.
- Scrolling horizontally and vertically works without any major issues.
- The zoom slider at the bottom of the browser window works to zoom in and out, but it zooms in so closely after the first zoom that it is impossible to fine-tune. Luckily the widest / furthest setting (also the default) is at a decent level, so there is probably very little need to zoom in more than one stop.
- Pages render quite well.
- The mobile Wikipedia website is worth bookmarking, if not setting as your homepage - it looks great and the zoom works perfectly with it.
- The small number of websites I tested with mobile versions appeared to load the mobile version on the Glo, which is reassuring. These sites look and operate quite well on the Glo.
- The lack of a browser settings menu is surprising and disappointing.
Despite these quibbles, the fact that I can use Wikipedia fairly well is quite good, and setting a number of useful mobile websites as favourites will make the experience much better. I would personally not recommend this for normal web browsing, though.
Overall, I would say that the User Interface needs work. There is potential here for quite a high score, and the framework exists to just tweak slightly to bring everything together.
Extras (like the browser & the games) are nice to have, but not essential for an eReader, so I will not be docking any stars for some of the issues I had with the browser and Sudoku. The bug where saved sketches appear on the Home screen is annoying, but not enough to justify a deduction in stars.
The same cannot be said with the rest of the User Interface, and I have deducted stars for the following major issues:
- General poor design decisions overall on the User Interface (-1 star)
- A rubbish Categories hierarchy that is extremely confusing and seems to want to prevent you from finding new books (-1 star)
- Not having the price available when browsing books in the various "Find Books" sub-menus (-1/2 star)
- The Wishlist only taking note of Kobo store books which have been earmarked on the device itself, practically forcing you to use the sub-par "Find Books" sub-menus to build up a useful Watchlist (-1/2 star)
Last edited by 9littlebees; 01-03-2013 at 06:19 AM.