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Old 10-14-2010, 05:25 AM   #1
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I was really happy with Kobo until...

I picked up a Kobo reader at Borders yesterday, after weighing all the options it seemed like the right device for me, I wanted an elegant, no-frills reader.

I brought it home, already knowing that my first purchase was going to be Snow Crash. I first signed up with the Borders eBook store only to discover it's not available there (what), so I search kobobooks.com and find it, so I make an account there and buy it. I go with the native Kobo edition and not the ePub because I figure, hey, it's going to look the best on the Kobo, right?

I spend the rest of yesterday and some of today reading the book, really digging the Kobo. I even post on Facebook about how awesome the thing is, and hype it up to a bunch of people. Tonight I'm finishing the book and I see this (major Snow Crash ending spoiler ahead):



Now, this is almost the very end of the book. Past this chapter you don't hear anything else about this character, and you don't find out how the main plot of the story turns out. I hadn't read this book in years, so I was confused. I didn't remember it cutting off like that, I wondered if maybe the OCR was bad or something and the text had been cut off, hey, it's an eBook, it happens.

I load up the ePub version in ADE and discover something much more irritating:



Turns out, the official Kobo format doesn't render anything that isn't text only. Flipping through the ePub I noticed this book was full of graphics and other things that not only added flavor to the work but sometimes were integral to the plot.

Last time I buy anything from kobobooks.com, borders.com, or anywhere else that sells the broken Kobo-specific format. I encourage others to do the same, until they stop charging a premium for an inferior product.

EDIT: Also forwarded this to Harper Collins, I guess it might interest them. I'm not sure if they have any control over these things, honestly I just did it in hopes the author sees it and gets a laugh out of it.

Last edited by dos; 10-14-2010 at 05:39 AM.
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Old 10-14-2010, 05:58 AM   #2
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It would also be nice to hear from Kobo if this bug is being worked on or if this is "working as intended"- so I know whether or not to sell my reader on eBay (because the christing thing can't be returned to the store, only exchanged [what]) and get a Kindle, or hang on to it in hopes of a firmware upgrade.

I really like the reader hardware and Kobo philosophy (who the hell wants to see the web rendered in glorious 16 shade eInk?)... but if they can't get something this utterly basic working on their own format then their resources are probably not concentrated on development as much as they should be, and this is probably a warning sign of things to come.

I read an article somewhere comparing the CEO of Kobo to Apple's Steve Jobs. That's so off the mark it's hilarious. Say what you will about his company's walled gardens and cultish fans and et cetera, but the man is a perfectionist. Kobo seems to be happy just cruising along with something that "mostly works" as long as the money from their eBook stores keeps rolling in. This is depressing considering it seems like they have some talented people designing the stuff who just aren't being utilized in the right way (fix the bugs BEFORE wasting those resources rolling out a new product!). As is usually the case the problem is probably with management.

Last edited by dos; 10-14-2010 at 06:12 AM.
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Old 10-14-2010, 06:44 AM   #3
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Kobo reader can display graphics in epub files. So, I wonder if this is publisher's fault for incorrectly formatting the epub file?

On the other hand the given example doesn't even require graphics as it is a simple text box. And here is a well known bug (or you can call it a feature) in Kobo epub rendering that it ignores centered block text attribute. That explains why you can see this text on your computer but not on Kobo. I too think that this should have been fixed long time ago.
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Old 10-14-2010, 07:03 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by karunaji View Post
Kobo reader can display graphics in epub files. So, I wonder if this is publisher's fault for incorrectly formatting the epub file?

On the other hand the given example doesn't even require graphics as it is a simple text box. And here is a well known bug (or you can call it a feature) in Kobo epub rendering that it ignores centered block text attribute. That explains why you can see this text on your computer but not on Kobo. I too think that this should have been fixed long time ago.
All the graphics present in the book are missing, text boxes or otherwise. In fact, all the graphics, in every book that is available in Kobo's proprietary format are missing, because the format does not support graphics.

Everything looks fine when I load the ePub into my Kobo (after breaking the DRM and using Calibre to make it look fine on the Kobo, thanks to the ePub margin bug that requires consumers to break the DRM on things they purchased from the Kobo store so that they display correctly on the Kobo reader *wild applause*). This is strictly a problem with Kobo's proprietary format (protip: the problem is it sucks).

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Old 10-14-2010, 07:04 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by karunaji View Post
And here is a well known bug (or you can call it a feature) in Kobo epub rendering that it ignores centered block text attribute. That explains why you can see this text on your computer but not on Kobo.
You say well known; guess what... I have NEVER heard of that and I do read all posts in the Kobo forum here....
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Old 10-14-2010, 08:40 AM   #6
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Have you tried downloading it as an ePUB and then using ADE rather than sync? Images display just fine when you use ADE. I only use ADE (or Calibre) and I see images and centered text boxes without any problems at all.

Many people want to sync with various devices and the WiFi version of the reader makes that happen more easily. So although I don't know what they are doing about the quality of the display through Kobo sync, I would be very surprised if they were not working on it.

When you bought your reader from Borders *on sale* the terms of the sale were that it could be exchanged, but not returned for cash. I always ask about that sort of thing when I buy sale items, but that's me. It's not unusual for stores to do that with sale items, is it?

You said you had weighed all the options--and exactly what, other than price, did you take into consideration? Surely if you had done much pre-sale investigating you would have realized that images are not displayed when books are loaded through the desktop software sync rather than by ADE. I was surprised to discover that, btw, but I bought my Kobo the first day it was available for sale here, not 5 months later when its strengths and limitations had been extensively reviewed.

Last edited by taming; 10-14-2010 at 09:40 AM. Reason: gave in to my annoyance
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Old 10-14-2010, 09:19 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dos View Post
It would also be nice to hear from Kobo if this bug is being worked on or if this is "working as intended"- so I know whether or not to sell my reader on eBay (because the christing thing can't be returned to the store, only exchanged [what]) and get a Kindle, or hang on to it in hopes of a firmware upgrade.

I really like the reader hardware and Kobo philosophy (who the hell wants to see the web rendered in glorious 16 shade eInk?)... but if they can't get something this utterly basic working on their own format then their resources are probably not concentrated on development as much as they should be, and this is probably a warning sign of things to come.

I read an article somewhere comparing the CEO of Kobo to Apple's Steve Jobs. That's so off the mark it's hilarious. Say what you will about his company's walled gardens and cultish fans and et cetera, but the man is a perfectionist. Kobo seems to be happy just cruising along with something that "mostly works" as long as the money from their eBook stores keeps rolling in. This is depressing considering it seems like they have some talented people designing the stuff who just aren't being utilized in the right way (fix the bugs BEFORE wasting those resources rolling out a new product!). As is usually the case the problem is probably with management.
I find it odd that you've only had the reader for less than 24 hours and already you've decided it's a pos product and the company is worthless. If you really did do your homework on the reader before buying it, you would have found that it is this company's first reader and it has quirks. They are working on a second firmware release which takes time.

I also don't see how this is a problem with the reader. Your op said that your problem was that the book did not show images. That would be a formatting problem with the book. You've downloaded the epub and used calibre to put it on the device and everything's ok now. So what are you still complaining about? I'm not sure what I'm missing here.
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Old 10-14-2010, 10:40 AM   #8
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To me epub is the best format for such a device. You could think of it
as of html file in a container. Whatever you like or dislike on html...
More than one book is formatted poorelly. Blame on device if you like,
but the very problem is in css file of tags inside html code. If you have
time, check both manually. I'd reiterate it through Calibre to my liking.
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Old 10-14-2010, 10:43 AM   #9
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You say well known; guess what... I have NEVER heard of that and I do read all posts in the Kobo forum here....
You are right, I wrote about this on Kindle forum and nobody really paid attention so I was under impression that it is like telling that the sky is blue

To make it official I now tell how appalled I am with the current state of e-book format rendering. I understand that many traditional print finesses are unnecessary or impossible in e-readers due to freely selectable font size or screen area changes, or limitations due to memory and processor constraints of e-readers. However, there are many simple and critical features that are being ignored by current ebook moguls. Centered block text is one of them, another is "keep x lines together". I won't go into details for better indexing and dictionary support.

As a historic note, PostScript language, pdf predecessor, that enabled precise rendering of electronic data for printing was released in 1982 when most people had no idea what a computer looks like. So, what is the problem of current IT companies to develop a decent product?

As for publishers, current e-reader limitations is not an excuse for extremely sloppy formatting and proofreading I have encountered in some books. I give a leeway to self-published authors who don't know the difference between hyphen and en-dash when these books are appropriately priced. They will learn proper formatting with time. But paying more than $10 or $15 for e-book, in fact sometimes more than for a paperback version, only to discover that it lacks some important features or one third of the book is a useless index, or non-corrected OCR mistakes like 1 instead of I, is unacceptable.

It is even more shocking that such books are coming from respectable publishers like Penguin Publishing and others. Are they predicting their forthcoming demise in e-book age, so they no longer care about their reputation and rush to make a quick buck in their remaining time?
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Old 10-14-2010, 01:59 PM   #10
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I think the problem is that like so many tools, there are a myriad ways of doing things.

Look at even Word Processing; sure Microsoft Word for instance has wonderful support for Styles, but how many people bother using Styles, and changing the formatting in them, as opposed to applying formatting directly to words or paragraphs.

I think what we are seeing in the ePub world these days, is publishers taking formatted material from whatever tool they manage the book in for hard-copy formatting, and then trying to convert to ePubs as cheaply as possible, and of course, still trying to convert to as many formats as they can.

It's almost as though they have a checklist that includes "Produce eBook version" and there is little or no review of the final product.

I wonder if there could be a business opportunity in reviewing eBook formatting for publishers?
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Old 10-14-2010, 03:12 PM   #11
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The Kobo can definitely handle graphics. My son is currently reading Jackson Jones, Book 1: The Tale of a Boy, an Elf, and a Very Stinky Fish. There are graphics sprinkled throughout the ebook, and I purchased this from Kobobooks and it is being read on a Kobo. I did download the book to Adobe Digital Reader first, removed DRM, loaded it into calibre and then loaded it into the Kobo.
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Old 10-14-2010, 04:20 PM   #12
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You've downloaded the epub and used calibre to put it on the device and everything's ok now. So what are you still complaining about? I'm not sure what I'm missing here.
The problem isn't with the reader, it's with the Kobo eBook format (Not the ePubs, although it's kind of funny the hoops one must jump through to get a product sold on Kobo's site to display properly on their own hardware).

The Kobo proprietary format runs faster and displays better on their reader, but it has absolutely no support for images.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Zyzomys
The Kobo can definitely handle graphics. My son is currently reading Jackson Jones, Book 1: The Tale of a Boy, an Elf, and a Very Stinky Fish. There are graphics sprinkled throughout the ebook, and I purchased this from Kobobooks and it is being read on a Kobo. I did download the book to Adobe Digital Reader first, removed DRM, loaded it into calibre and then loaded it into the Kobo.
Again, you're talking about the ePub. I'm talking about Kobo's own format, which should be superior to the ePubs, but instead is severely broken.
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Old 10-14-2010, 04:30 PM   #13
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I think some of you guys are misunderstanding me here. I know that the Kobo hardware is capable of displaying graphics. I know that the ePub version of books display graphics. My gripe is not with the reader hardware (which I kinda love) but with the Kobo proprietary e-book format, which is a completely different file than the ePub.

You can get the same ePub from many different places, but the only place to get the file specifically made for the Kobo is through one of the sites powered by them. It's the whole incentive to buy eBooks from Kobo themselves and thus should have the most care put into it.

Instead, one has to go through all kinds of stuff to get a format that doesn't run as well on the Kobo (ePubs are noticeably slower, take longer to load, don't display covers on load, usually have poorer formatting etc) working just to get the "correct" reading experience. At this point you might as well warez the things.
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Old 10-14-2010, 05:19 PM   #14
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I believe one of the problems is with scaling of images--we see a related thing making reflow of PDF files such a challenge. I do not agree that the reason to buy books from Kobo is the proprietary version of DRM on the machine--not at all. However, if people want to sync devices including the reader, than an improvement in the Kobo format would be a huge deal. It's just silly to say "you might as well warez the things."
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Old 10-14-2010, 05:37 PM   #15
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I believe one of the problems is with scaling of images--we see a related thing making reflow of PDF files such a challenge. I do not agree that the reason to buy books from Kobo is the proprietary version of DRM on the machine--not at all. However, if people want to sync devices including the reader, than an improvement in the Kobo format would be a huge deal. It's just silly to say "you might as well warez the things."
Why else buy from Kobo if not for the files made to (supposedly) look and work best on the machine? You can get ePubs from anywhere. The warez comment came from the fact that to get legit, purchased ePubs looking good on the machine you have to go through a process similar to what you would have to do to get pirated ones looking good... and the pirated ones don't cost ten bucks.

EDIT: it's not really an endorsement of piracy, if I bought this thing to steal books I wouldn't be on a forum talking about how I wish the legit versions were better so I could start throwing money at Kobo.

Last edited by dos; 10-14-2010 at 05:40 PM.
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