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Old 09-06-2019, 09:18 PM   #1
StephenCM
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Angry Kobo Clara Impressions

I dropped my 2009 hand-me-down Kindle3 and it broke so I bought a Kobo Clara wanted to like it, but to be honest, I've been really disappointed.

This post isn't a troll, it's just a way to vent a bit of my honest disappointment.

The reasons I got a Kobo were these:
  • A good opportunity to get away from the Amazon hegemony
  • I'd additionally be able to borrow books from the library. (Which you can't do on a Kindle outside of the USA.)
  • The thing would actually show the book cover on the off screen.
  • Backlighting. (Not unique to Kobos, but not present on my old Kindle.)

I was so excited. I wanted so much to like the Kobo. But to be honest, I now long for the nine-year-old Kindle.

The Clara so far has had so many limitations...
  • Awkward to hold. When holding in one hand, it often slips and I worry I'm going to damage the screen as my nail digs in to it when it slips.
  • No portrait mode. Related to the above point, portrait mode might make it easier to hold in some situations, but does not exist.
  • Page-turning swipes and taps seem unreliable.
  • Slow page turn. (Sometimes resulting in double-turns if I tap again after I don't think the first one worked.)
  • Dictionary is atrocious. (I know, there are hacks where I could install a new dictionary. I've even downloaded a bootlegged Websters that I now need to convert to Kobo format. But that's a lot of work required on my part to make up for Ratuken's failings.)
  • Navigation in a book (if for instance you want to keep referring to end-notes) is awkward and unpredictable, even if you keep setting bookmarks.
  • Logging in to Overdrive and reserving books through my library seemed a bit of a black art. In the end it seemed easier to do most of it on the PC and then once that was all handled, just tell the Kobo to sync with already-borrowed materials.
  • The menus/UI all feels slow and laggy. Surprising for a much newer device.

Even the library ability is, to be honest, only of limited utility to me it turns out. This is not really Kobo's fault, it's that my library only pays for so many copies of ebooks so I never get a book right away, I get on a waitlist and wait and wait and then at an inconvenient time I get an email saying drop everything and finish this book in three weeks.

I just figured that something that was a decade newer than my old Kindle (an eternity in Moore's law electronics) would be infinitely better, but other than the backlighting it is in no way that I found better.
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Old 09-08-2019, 09:00 PM   #2
StephenCM
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Oh, one more thing I forgot...

- Periodically the Clara won't wake up when I press the power button and I have to hold it down to reboot it. Hey, every device needs this occasionally, but this is far far more frequent than I'd expect.
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Old 09-08-2019, 09:35 PM   #3
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I believe you meant it lacks landscape mode?

You might try a cover to change the feel of it in your hand or provide more traction. I have the expensive OEM cover but others here have aftermarket covers that are cheaper.

I turned off the tap-to-turn because I kept tapping in the wrong place and activating settings. The problem I have with swiping is sometimes the page turns backwards when I want to go forward (or vice versa). Sometimes I swipe and the page flashes but doesn't turn.

Like you, I use my smartphone or PC to browse the library.

It's true that popular books often have waiting lists at the library. Of course this would likely be the case for popular hardbacks at your physical library also.

Last edited by 4691mls; 09-08-2019 at 09:37 PM. Reason: Typo
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Old 09-08-2019, 11:01 PM   #4
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Quick tap on the on/off button wakes it up ... longer it will reboot.
I suggest Cover cause you can scratch it... has some kind of coating & been thru 3 for pealing as I call it.
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Old 09-08-2019, 11:15 PM   #5
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I agree the power button is tricky. I find that it requires one hand to hold the reader while pushing the button with the thumb of my other hand. If you get a sleep cover you can wake the reader and put it to sleep by opening and closing the cover.

The buttons on my old Sonys were much easier to use and could be operated one-handed.
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Old 09-08-2019, 11:48 PM   #6
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Put a cover on it. If it's a sleepcover it will also sleep/wake for you (set "turn off automatically" to Never). No need to use the power button.

Are you using epubs or kepubs? If epubs, your page turning and endnotes issues may well be immediately fixed by just switching.

Last edited by meeera; 09-08-2019 at 11:50 PM.
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Old 09-09-2019, 12:28 PM   #7
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I'll admit the Clara's backing does seem cheap and plastic-y. I wonder why they didn't use the rubbery backing most e-readers use?

At any rate, an inexpensive sleepcover would solve the problem of it feeling slippery and the sleep/wake power issues. I'm using this case. It's inexpensive and works fine for me.

The books you are reading, are they ePub or kepub? I only use kepub and haven't noticed any page turning speed issues or unreliable page turns.

I've also not seen issues with slow/laggy UI. Anyone else?
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Old 09-11-2019, 09:08 PM   #8
StephenCM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Barbara1955 View Post
Quick tap on the on/off button wakes it up ... longer it will reboot.
Thanks.

Yes, I know that's how it works. What I'm saying is that for a while I was having a problem where the quick tap would not turn the Clara on so I was forced to hold the button longer to reboot it just to turn it on.
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Old 09-11-2019, 09:12 PM   #9
StephenCM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ZodWallop View Post
The books you are reading, are they ePub or kepub? I only use kepub and haven't noticed any page turning speed issues or unreliable page turns.
I generally load books via Calibre. So I don't really pay attention to what format they were originally in nor do I know what format Calibre converts them to when downloading them to the Clara.

In any case, in this "moore's law" world, where a $5 processor can do millions of calculations per second, I can't think of any excuse for slowness.
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Old 09-11-2019, 09:38 PM   #10
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It’s fun when people throw out jargon to make themselves sound informed. The processor has only so much to do with page updates.

You don’t mention what firmware you’re running, and to cover it ‘most recent’ isn’t the answer.

You don’t pay attention to the format of books you load on to the Clara, which is just bad practice no matter what ereader you use and no matter how much newer it is than one you previously used. Find a Kindle and load an ePub on it, your experience will be disappointing.

Kobo can read mobi, which some of your books might be in, but it’s not an ideal format for a variety of reasons. It reads ePub markedly better but the best is always going to be the native format. In this case that’s kepub.

Now back to the firmware depending on the version the issues you’ve listed might be improved upon. There’s also a new firmware coming soon which cleans up the UI/UX when accessing settings in a book. There’s no ETA on that officially but I’d wager in the next month or so. Or you can check the firmware 4.16 thread out and update from the link there it’s not officially out for anything but the Libra however people have successfully updated to it on their Clara’s.
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Old 09-11-2019, 10:32 PM   #11
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I suggest you install Koreader. I use it on a Kindle. It will probably handle epub better than the kobo base OS which might cause some of your problems. You could try kepub files instead. But I'm a Koreader entity It takes a bit of getting used to. It has lots of options.
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Old 09-12-2019, 12:14 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by StephenCM View Post
In any case, in this "moore's law" world, where a $5 processor can do millions of calculations per second, I can't think of any excuse for slowness.
The more power the CPU uses, the more power the battery needs to supply and the less time the battery will last. These devices are deliberately underpowered to give them the longest battery life possible. And small batteries are used to keep the weight down.
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Old 09-12-2019, 06:51 PM   #13
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To answer some questions, I'm currently using firmware version 4.15.12920 (b231bfea36 5/27/19) . (I have always had Overdrive-enabled firmware, I don't know what version range that is, but I believe it puts a lower bound on the versions I've ever had.)

Actually I work in software for a living, specifically real-time embedded firmware. Which doesn't make me any better or worse than anybody else but yes it actually does make me somewhat qualified to comment on technical matters. I realize there are all sorts of factors related to UI responsiveness and page turn speed not the least of which are e-ink technology and power use. And I realize that possibly all my page turn problems are not related to any of that but to my high expectations of "tap-to-turn" and maybe it's just the touch-screen that's letting me down.

You know what though, I hack around with software all day for my job. When I'm relaxing and reading a book, I want something that "just works". I don't want to have to worry about what format my ebook is in, I expect it to "just work". (I assume Calibre will convert appropriately.) If Rakuten can't provide me a "just works" experience, if I have to hack it and side-load firmware to make it a usable experience, then no I am not a satisfied user.

Look, I'm not trying to be argumentative, or a troll. I'm just trying to relate my not fully satisfied experience with the device.
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Old 09-12-2019, 07:31 PM   #14
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You assume a third party program which neither Rakuten or Kobo had any part in developing would flawlessly work with their devices and convert your books to the right format.

So can I complain about whatever your software is if it doesn't flawlessly work with third party software you never even touched? Would that be fair to you or the company for which you work? No, it wouldn't.

Kobo sells ebooks, that's where their focus is going to be because that's where their money comes from. They allow sideloading because it's a feature which makes sense, they're also one of the few to have such wide support for formats other than epub/kepub.

You want to sideload books? Great, many of us do that. But do the basic tasks of ensuring you're using the tools correctly rather than blaming a company that never touched the tools you used.
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Old 09-12-2019, 08:03 PM   #15
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Yes, you're going to notice responsiveness issues when coming from a Kindle, especially if that's something you're sensitive to to begin with. That said, coming from a K3, which was far from a speed demon, that seems a wee bit harsh nonetheless .

I perfectly understand your PoV, so this may be beating a dead horse, but, do try KOReader if you want to see how the hardware *could* theoretically behave (Hello, menus that actually open on tap! Hello, page turns that effectively take < 100ms and actually barely make a dent in the CPU).

Otherwise, yeah, some stuff might feel slightly less than snappy. Some of it is somewhat outside of Kobo's hands (f.g., Adobe RMSDK's performance is atrocious on Kobos, for some reason, even if there has been some progress on this front, so, prefer KePubs over plain ePubs; and relying on Qt5 takes a heavy toll because it's really not tailored towards grayscale pixel formats).

Last edited by NiLuJe; 09-12-2019 at 08:06 PM.
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