Review: Kobo Glo HD

I’ve had two generations of Nook ereaders. I liked holding them better than the Kindles that were available, I wanted to feel good about buying ebooks after browsing at my local Barnes & Noble, and I didn’t like the way Amazon was waging war against book publishers (and, as a consequence, on authors).

But B&N hasn’t updated their Nook in almost two years. Their last Nook’s screen resolution is good, but still not as good as a printed book. It has an annoying habit of setting the margins so wide that the text forms a three-word column down the screen, and then locks me out of making any adjustments. It doesn’t sync the last page read between the ereader and my iPhone. Its illumination is noticeably uneven. The covers for it are terrible and expensive, so when I travel I put it back inside the box it came in. I have to re-adjust the fonts and margins everytime I open (or re-open) a book, because it doesn’t remember my settings.

None of which are show-stoppers, for sure, but over time they add up. The final straw was when B&N locked users out of downloading our ebooks to our computers. I used to do this on a regular basis, so I could save backups of the books to Dropbox. That changed a few months ago, when they took down the download link next to all the books in their users’ Nook online libraries.

So I went shopping for a new ereader. I worried that I might have to go with a Kindle, since they seemed to have the best screen resolution out there.

Then I heard about the Kobo Glo HD. I knew Kobo already, since they stepped into the breech left behind by Google dropping its ebook partnership with independent bookstores. I knew they produced ereaders, since I’d seen them for sale at Mysterious Galaxy (as part of their collaboration with Kobo). The reviews I found of them were generally positive, and the Glo HD – which hadn’t come out yet – promised a screen resolution as good as the Kindle, and at a cheaper price.

I couldn’t find one locally to try out, so I took the plunge and ordered it. I’m very, very glad I did; I’ve been using it for a month now, and I can honestly say this is the ereader I’ve been waiting for.

The screen resolution is sharp enough that it looks like a printed book when I set it down on a table to read. And unlike the Nook’s dark screen, the Glo HD’s is bright enough that I don’t feel the need to turn on the reading light during the day.

Syncing? My bookmarks sync between the Kobo app on my phone and the ereader no problem, easy as pie, even for books that I didn’t buy from Kobo.

Sideloading was a little more complicated than I’d like. I had to use Adobe Digital Editions to connect to the reader and transfer books over, but it moved all 142 of my backed up B&N books without a hitch, and they all showed up in my Library on the Glo just fine.

I still have to adjust the fonts sometimes between books, but I no longer care. I don’t care because the options for tweaking are incredible: I’ve got a dozen different fonts, sliders for font size, line spacing, and margins, as well as the ability to set justification to full, left, or simply off. And I’ve yet to encounter a book that locks me into reading a certain way. I’ve got full control over how the book looks, and it’s about freaking time.

Even the case they sell for it is amazing. Its the first case for any portable device — Nook, iPad — that actually makes the original device better. It doesn’t add to the Glo’s weight, closing it puts the reader to sleep and opening it wakes it up, and when its open it folds back behind the reader to make it feel even more like a book in your hand. Oh, and it kept the screen scratch-free in my backpack over four cross-country flights.

So this is one gamble that’s completely paid off. It’s the first ereader that I prefer reading on to a paper book, so much so that I have to stop myself from buying ebook versions of the hardcovers on my bookshelf just so that I can read them on the Glo HD.