Using Kobo as your go to e-reader

I’ve worked in an indie bookstore for the past year and nothing has radicalized me against Amazon more. It’s a lot of things: Jeff Bezos is the standard villainous CEO, their business model is undercutting prices for small businesses, and their shipping practices have pushed any other shipments aside (the holidays were FUN.) So my biggest thing against Amazon is of course, bare minimum, don’t buy your books there. There’s indies, Barnes and Noble, used bookstores… that’s really it. Just start there.

But what about e-books?

Most purists will say that e-books are inherently bad or wax poetic about the feel of a physical book in hand. Not sure about you, but I don’t really like the feel of 1,000+ pages in my hand, or my bag for that matter. I think there’s a lot of perks to e-books beside the sheer lightness of e-readers; the font size can adjust for large print, it can hold a whole library easily, and online library systems like Overdrive are insanely convenient. Most e-readers have black and white e-ink displays which are lifesavers on the eyes on sunny days, and given the cost of other luxury tech devices, e-readers are on the more affordable side. I love books, but I also love e-books.

Now the question is how and where to read e-books, if not on the Amazon Kindle. And I will admit, the Kindles are some of the best e-readers out there. But if my friend can shame me out of my Kindle ways and turn me to other devices, so too can you. I wrote about those options a few years ago on Forbes, “E-Readers Other Than The Amazon Kindle For Last Minute Gifts,” for a quick 101 introduction. Overall I think at this point I’d recommend going with a Barnes and Noble Nook simply for its company brand. I don’t know how B&N will do in the future, but you know its name, what it does, and that it will guaranteed have the same books Amazon offers.

But if you’re looking to go super indie, that’s where Rakuten Kobo comes in. I myself have the Aura One because I wanted a bigger screen than my previous Kindle Paperwhite. I love the bigger screen and its integration with Overdrive. I can easily figure out its user design and how to use al the features, the color tone (blue to orange) is a nice break for my eyes, and the LED light is adequately bright when I need it. The touch screen itself is a bit buggy, so it’s not good for highlighting text or making notes. Overall, I like it just the same as the Paperwhite because it still performs the same job: reading e-books.

The real reason I chose Kobo though is for its connection––however strenuous––to indie bookstores. It’s not as clear anymore about what partnership Rakuten has with Indiebound (and its subsequent bookstores) anymore after Rakuten’s deal with Wal-Mart. But all the information is still out there and in theory still works for those who want to use it. But be warned: it’s not super clear and you have to really want it. If that’s you, read on.

First thing is to figure out if your chosen indie has any sort of ties with Kobo. This info is usually pretty buried on any website, and might even require a friendly email to the store. If they do, it should look something like what the Harvard Book Store has set up:

That sign up link is crucial, it’s the only way to create a Kobo account and have all your purchases link back to your chosen bookstore. In all stupidity, there’s no way (that I’ve found yet) to go back and add a store to an account. So again, poke around the website or send a friendly email to see if your local indie has this option. Not every store will, and some that do might not even know what you’re talking about; back in the day Kobo affiliation was more hassle than it was worth given the buggy devices and low percentage shared on each purchase. But if it’s still around and a possible option, it’s better than Kindle, right?

The last thing about making the switch from Kindle to another e-reader is how to switch over all the Kindle books. It’s a pain of a process, and not every book will make it over. It requires downloading a whole third party program, and probably an hour or two of idle free time. But again, if you’re determined (like I was) then I’d suggest starting with some how-to’s like this “How to convert a Kindle e-book to a different format” and downloading Calibre, which is necessary. Depending on the DRM (digital rights management) on the file, you might have to download other software on top of Calibre as well.

It’s a long way to leave Kindles behind, I’ll admit. That’s why if at all possible, I’d recommend jumping in with Nook when you can. There’s nothing wrong with the Kobo route either, it’s just a bit more convoluted. But while it’s not exactly easy, it’s still definitely possible. And of course, there’s also Indiebound and the new Bookshop.org for the old-fashioned reading experience.

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