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Are eBook Readers Perfect for London Commuters?

BY Boon Koh
Published 15 March 2012

For the past two weeks, I have been testing out the Kobo Touch, an eBook Reader that is one of the best in the market and very slim and light. I’ve always been a big reader of books, but have hesitated to get an eBook reader as I still loved the feel and touch of a normal book.

So I decided to give the Kobo eReader Touch a trial. I’ve seen other commuters on the Northern Line on the way to work each day, happily reading their eBooks, but I’ve always worried about reading off a screen, and also about the experience of reading a book – its more than just the words, there’s the touch, the feedback that you’re making progress through the pages, and for some books, the lovely smell and sound of book paper.

On the first point, it was very easy to adapt to reading words off the Kobo Touch screen. I had thought that it might be hard to get used to, like reading off the iPad, but the screen is perfectly optimised for reading. It is only black and white, of course, but the words look crisp and clear, and crucially, look almost exactly like they’re printed on the screen, rather than just merely displayed.

There’s also something secretly powerful to being able to carry thousands of books with you. And one of the great things about the Kobo eReader Touch is that it has loads of free eBooks to download. They tend to be copyright and royalty free, like Sun Tzu’s Art of War or Aesop Fables. But there’s loads of classic reads. And prices of popular eBooks on the Kobo Touch aren’t that bad either, although sometimes they’re not that much cheaper than the equivalent paperback or hardback, which I find is hard to justify since its delivered electronically.

Page turning was where the Kobo Touch let me down. While the pages turned quickly, I didn’t like the transition between pages, which was like a blur between the old and new page. The Northern Line is already such a shaky and wobbly ride, and when I was “cheating” by turning several pages in quick succession to skip the boring parts of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, there was a momentary dizzy feeling.

The Kobo Touch device itself is rather slim, but I’m not that big a fan of the knobbly, patterned back of the eReader. It feels a bit weird when holding it for long periods of time. They look like they’re there to provide extra grip when holding, but it took some getting used to.

Overall, I think eReaders are the future, and the Kobo Touch is a great eReader. It can store lots of books, the screen is really sharp and clear, and its slim and tiny – perfect for even fitting into my winter coat pocket. Somehow though I would still like to buy physical books, if only partly to be able to fill my bookshelf at home! But for commuting, I can see the value of a small eReader like the Kobo Touch, as it’s perfect for when space is a constraint like on a Tube train packed like sardines.

Do you own an eReader? What are your thoughts on the usefulness of one for your morning and evening commutes in London?


  • http://twitter.com/thelondoneer The Londoneer

    I’m certainly seeing an increase in the number of iPads, and a decrease in the number of Kindles – these days I don’t really get one-purpose devices. Give me something that does everything please :)

  • http://www.twentysomethinglondon.com/ Rachel

    eReaders are great for commuting.
    You get a wide choice of books for each journey, and it’s so much lighter than carrying a book around.
    iPads are great because they do everything a Kindle does anyway with the kindle app, plus much more.