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Old 01-27-2010, 02:01 PM   #1
nekokami
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Is iBooks Kobo?

I'm following the presentation through a couple of blogs, and this image came up. Looks a lot like the Kobo app for iPhone that I just reviewed....
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Old 01-27-2010, 02:08 PM   #2
Terisa de morgan
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It's exactly the same than the anobii app I have at my iPhone. Indeed, it's like watching a BIG photo of the iPhone. What an original look!
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Old 01-27-2010, 02:34 PM   #3
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It has to be Kobo. The animation of the page turns is the same, the "shelf" graphic is the same, and Kobo supports ePub with Adobe DRM. More here: http://kobobooks.com/

I have a review of Kobo that I've been meaning to post. I'll get that up today.
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Old 01-27-2010, 02:38 PM   #4
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Here's my review of Kobo, which appears to be the same as the iBooks app. The full review of Kobo, including the online store, will be posted on the MR wiki later today.

Summary: Kobo (formerly Shortcovers) is an online eBook store featuring books in the ePub format (with Adobe Adept DRM, where applicable) and their own reading software for iPhone, Blackberry©, Palm Prē™ and Android™. I reviewed their reading software on the iPod Touch, which generally functions in the same way as an iPhone, except that one connects via wireless rather than cell. These days, I do most of my reading on the iPod, so I was interested to see how the Kobo app would compare with the other apps I use (Stanza, Kindle, and eReader/B&N).

The Good, the Bad, and the Other:

Advantages:
Several mobile devices supported
ePub format
User control over justification
User selection of font face and size
User selection from assortment of color schemes
Pretty "shelf" view for recognition by book cover image
DRM support (Adobe DE)
Bookmarks
Configurable page-turn gesture (tap or swipe)

Disadvantages:
Only one font face, size, etc. supported per book
Limited selection of color schemes, and only one "night" scheme
No way to group books by author, series, etc.
No sort choices (e.g. by title, author, etc.)
Access to TOC not obvious
Switches back to "control" mode with every chapter
No way to check position in book
User's personal ratings not stored locally or displayed
No brightness control for app

Other features:
Animated page turns (I'm not a fan, but some may like this)
Can email or tweet from application

The app itself is downloaded from the Apple/iTunes app store. A link is helpfully provided at the Kobo website. If one is using a computer to browse when one downloads the app, a sync will be required to transfer the app to the mobile. The app does not include any titles with the initial download.

The initial screen on the Kobo app is the "I'm Reading" screen, which shows books currently downloaded to the mobile. This offers two view modes: "List" and "Shelf." "List" displays a miniature book cover on the left and the title (or an abbreviation of it) with author on the right, along with the rating from the Kobo site and an annotation indicating that the title is an eBook. The "Shelf" view displays a grid of slightly larger book cover images, where they exist-- not all books have usable book cover illustrations. Classics are sometimes illustrated with only an image for a cover, or even a generic icon, leaving one guessing as to the title. There are no searching, sorting, or categorization options in either view, so a large collection of ebooks would quickly become unwieldy.

At the top left of all the non-reading screens is an email icon so one can send ones friends a prewritten advertisement for the Kobo app. I don't know if this option will be present in the "iBook" version.

The bottom of the "I'm Reading" screen offers several other icons: "Discover," "Browse," "Search," and "More." I suspect that these will be replaced in the "iBook" app with a link to iTunes.

So how is the actual reading experience? Acceptable, but not outstanding. There are the usual options for page-turning gestures, i.e. tap vs. swipe. All the options for page turn "effects" are animated, i.e. there is no simple "switch to next page without effect" option. While reading, each chapter loads separately, and the Kobo reader switches back to control view each time, requiring a tap in the middle of the screen to clear, which is rather annoying. What bothered me even more is that it is impossible to tell how far through the book one is while reading. The "control" display (tap center) only shows how far through the current chapter one is. It was also difficult to see how to return to the beginning of the book. This option is hidden in the "i" icon (upper right), where one can choose the table of contents, then select the first chapter.

I had read a previous book by this author in a Kindle version, which had really awful formatting. Part of this was a result of trying to emulate the printed book, which used different font faces for different character points of view, including a font for the main text that was nearly unreadable on the iPod screen, but part was just bad formatting (e.g. a word would suddenly be superscripted for no reason). There was no way in the Kindle iPod/iPhone app to reset the font. Justification was forced to "full," which was a terrible choice on the small iPod Touch screen. The Kobo ePub book had better formatting than the Kindle version of the previous book, but lost the font variation and the information about character viewpoint that it was meant to convey. The Kobo reader only allows one font to be set at a time for all books, apparently. (This is not a limitation of the ePub format or of this particular book -- Adobe Digital Editions does display multiple font faces, though apparently they were not used for the ePub version of the book in the way they are used in print and on the Kindle.) While this might be the best solution if the source text is badly formatted, it seems an unfortunate limitation. Happily, the Kobo reader does have options to select preferred justification, and defaults to left.

The display was acceptable. Normally I read on my iPod Touch using Stanza. Since I am often reading at night, I set my background to black and my text to amber, which avoids keeping my partner awake and is comfortable for my eyes in a dark room. Unfortunately, while the Kobo viewer has a "night" view mode, like the Kindle reader it does not allow the user to change the text color. White on black is the only option, which I found rather harsh. The "Advanced Settings" option allows one to select from a small number of "daytime" color schemes, but like the Kindle app, does not allow the user to customize their own choice of colors.

While reading, the "Do More" icon in the lower left provides a few options, including the ability to look for other "related" books. At this point, the only point of similarity the system seems to understand is author; I was reading a "cozy" mystery, but no other mysteries of any kind were recommended. Other options included sending an email to friends about the book (complete with ad-like boilerplate text), rating the book, and tweeting about the book. While I would like to see more reading software integrate book community features, I found the email and tweet options unexciting. As noted above, rating a book does not register immediately, requiring a connection back to the Kobo server.

Overall, the Kobo experience was passable, but nothing spectacular. I would not be comfortable using this app as my primary ebook reading tool, but it was acceptable for an occasional novel.

Last edited by nekokami; 01-27-2010 at 08:14 PM. Reason: Added summary, removed references to Kobo store experience as irrelevant to iPad
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Old 01-27-2010, 03:06 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by nekokami View Post
Here's my review of Kobo, which appears to be the same as the iBooks app. This will be posted on the MR wiki later today.
Very nice review, helpful and thorough. I do seriously hope, for the benefit of the people who buy an iFap to read on, that they aren't locked into this program for reading.
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Old 01-27-2010, 03:08 PM   #6
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If all current apps will run, it seems to me that Stanza would be a better choice (with books loaded through Calibre). That may require some manipulation of DRM, however.
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Old 01-27-2010, 03:27 PM   #7
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As you explain it, I think Stanza is quite a lot better for reading. By the way, the shelves and cover looks are EXACTLY the same than which appear at the anobii app. I hadn't seen the other things, so I thought about it. Same looks for all of them, I guess.
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Old 01-27-2010, 03:28 PM   #8
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Great review, thanks! I've played around with it a bit, but am pretty comfortable with Stanza as well.
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Old 01-27-2010, 03:46 PM   #9
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Since Amazon now owns Lexcycle, what do you think the possibilities were that they would do a deal with Apple to help create an Apple controlled distribution channel.
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Old 01-27-2010, 04:13 PM   #10
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Since Amazon now owns Lexcycle, what do you think the possibilities were that they would do a deal with Apple to help create an Apple controlled distribution channel.
Probably correct, but Lexcycle and Kobo are not the same company. And while the reader looks like Kobo, the distribution channel will be iTunes (which does make part of my review, above, irrelevant to the iPad).
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Old 01-27-2010, 06:16 PM   #11
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Fantastic review! What I particularly liked is that you obviously know your ereader apps-- and discussed key aspects of reading with them (especially color choices and page turning). It's those two things that can make or break an ereader.

I hope that Apple has taken over Kobo (if that is indeed what it is using) and applied some of its usual magic to it-- magic similar that displayed by Stanza!
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Old 01-27-2010, 08:19 PM   #12
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Hm. I may have been wrong about the iBooks app being Kobo after all. I thought the "shelf" view looked the same, but here's the actual screenshot of Kobo:
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Old 01-27-2010, 08:27 PM   #13
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I stand corrected. I think Terisa de morgan is right-- it's aNobii. Sorry, everyone! (Though Kobo, Stanza, etc. will probably still run on the iPad.)
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Old 01-27-2010, 08:33 PM   #14
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Ok, now I'm really confused. It doesn't look to me like anobii is a book reading application, but rather a library management application. And the animated page turn effects and ePub support still strongly suggest Kobo or a variant thereof. I'll have to watch the youtube video and see if I can get a better idea of what's going on.
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Old 01-27-2010, 10:12 PM   #15
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nekokami, iBook's interface looks really familiar to me-the bookmarks, the completed so far indicator, the page turning..I just don't know where I saw it before. The bookshelf looks taken from Delicious Library or Classics.
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