a cheaper, more flexible, clunkier rival for Kindle Oasis


Build quality aside, Kobo’s Libra H20 sports a generous 7-inch display with a sharp 300 dpi resolution which makes pages look like they were spat out of a laser printer.

The nature of e-Ink screens makes them much more practical for reading in direct sunlight, compared to a smartphone or tablet.

The Kobo can be read landscape or portrait.

The Kobo can be read landscape or portrait.

When it’s too dark to read you can dial up the Kobo’s backlight, but surprisingly it doesn’t kick in automatically. You need to adjust it manually by sliding your finger along the left edge of the screen.

By default, the cool white backlight makes pages look like bleached sheets of printer paper, but you can change this with the Natural Light setting. You can schedule the colour temperature to gradually grow warmer automatically in the evenings, so you don’t need to constantly mess around with it.

You might choose to leave Natural Light set to 20 per cent all the time, to help the screen look more like a paperback page than clinical sheets of printer paper, but don’t push it too far past 50 per cent or the page turns an unnatural shade of orange.

While it’s not as slick as the Kindle Oasis, the latest Kobo is certainly light and comfortable to hold in either hand. A slight bulge makes it easier to grip, putting forward and back buttons comfortably under your thumb, or you can tap or swipe the screen to turn the page.

Surprisingly, Kobo places the microUSB port and unsightly fine print along this bulging side edge of the reader for all the world to see. Aesthetically it doesn’t help shake that clunky feel and you’d think all this would be better off hidden away on the bottom edge of the device.

You can also turn the Kobo on its side, with buttons at the bottom, and the screen automatically rotates so you can hold it in landscape mode. You might find this more comfortable if you intend to hold it in two hands.

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Of course the biggest factor in choosing between e-readers is not the design of the reader but rather where you can get your eBooks.

If you’re happy to shop with Amazon then naturally go for a Kindle, but you’re trapped in a walled garden. Opt for the Kobo if you want to buy eBooks from anywhere else but Amazon (except for Apple, which has its own iBook walled garden).

With the Kobo you can buy books directly from Kobo’s own eBook store — via Wi-Fi, as the Kobo lacks 4G — or third-party stores like Google.

Many online book stores sell ePub files protected with Adobe DRM, which you can copy to a Kobo — but not a Kindle — from your computer via USB. That said, there are tools like Calibre which let you side-step copy protection so you can shift eBook formats between devices.

Kobo also works with Overdrive in Australia, unlike Kindle, letting you borrow eBooks from many public libraries.

It might not be as slick as the top-shelf Kindle, but Kobo’s Libra H2O is the way to go if you like to shop around for your eBooks.

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