In Which I Finally Purchase An eReader

I am not what is termed an ‘early adopter’ of new technology. I don’t own a smart phone or an iPad or a digital radio, I don’t subscribe to any streaming services, and my entire music collection consists of cassettes and CDs (played on my trusty 1990s Panasonic boombox). In fact, some people who know me have gone so far as to mention the word ‘Luddite’, but this is inaccurate. I’m not a technophobe. I studied maths, physics and computer studies at high school, I have a science degree, and at Day Job, I’m the go-to person for solving tech problems, whether it’s modifying our database software or unjamming the photocopier.

Outside work, though, I only use new technology if it’s both affordable and essential. That’s why I’ve avoided ebooks for the last decade. I already had a cheap, efficient way to read books, so why would I pay a lot of money to buy some electronic reading device? Anyway, I spend all day looking at screens for work. I didn’t want to spend my leisure time staring at yet another screen.

However, with my library now closed for physical book borrowing for the foreseeable future and with limited access to bookshops, I finally decided to invest in an eReader. There are really only two options for Australians — a Kindle or a Kobo. I don’t much like Amazon and I wanted a device compatible with library ebooks, so that left me with a choice of three different models of Kobo eReaders. I chose Clara, the smallest (and cheapest). Clara has a six inch screen, fits comfortably in my little hand, weighs less than a paperback, but can store up to 6000 ebooks.

Kobo Clara eReader text

There are various options for screen brightness and colour, font type, font size and moving between pages and chapters, some of which work better than others for me. I like being able to increase the size of the print, although as the screen is fairly small, I need to swipe up and down to read a single page. I could have avoided this problem if I’d bought one of the bigger models, but they’d probably have been more awkward to hold. (In different times, I’d have visited a shop and tried out the various models before I bought anything. But if I could go to shops, I’d also be able to go to the library, so I wouldn’t need an eReader.) It takes about two hours to charge Clara fully and this apparently lasts several weeks, as long as you turn the power off whenever you finish reading. I discovered that if you use the Sleep Mode, it eats up energy very quickly. However, if you’ve turned off the power, you need to re-set the viewing options when you open up your book again, which is annoying.

Clara also provides ways to bookmark pages, highlight sections and check word definitions using the built-in multilingual dictionaries, but I haven’t tried out these features yet. I did find it a bit awkward to swipe back to previous pages to re-read an earlier section — that’s definitely easier to do in a paper book.

Kobo Clara eReader

Clara displays nice, sharp images, including book covers, in shades of grey. Apparently you can read graphic novels and picture books with Clara, but I can’t imagine it would be a very enjoyable experience, compared to paper editions.

I bought a separate black leather cover with a magnetic clasp, which not only keeps Clara safe and clean, but can be flipped to make a convenient hands-free stand. This is a vast improvement on my usual propping-a-paperback-against-another-book-and-using-one-hand-to-stop-it-from-snapping-closed, which is how I tend to read books while eating lunch.

Kobo Clara eReader sideview

Clara also asked me about my favourite books and provided some amusingly unhelpful recommendations for future reading. Here’s what she thinks I should read next: all of Anne Tyler’s recent novels (which I’ve already read); The Complete Works of Plato (no thanks); The Communist Manifesto by Marx and Engels (ha ha! actually, I have read that, a long time ago); Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes (what?); and Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. I fear Clara has the wrong impression of me. I hate to disappoint her, but my next read is actually a library copy of Courtney Milan’s Proof by Seduction, a Regency romance whose cover features a lady in distinctly unRegency underwear swooning across a bed. I have downloaded a free copy of Machiavelli’s The Prince, though.

I was interested to see whether I’d read and comprehend ebooks differently to paper books. I think I might read ebooks quicker, with more skimming and less contemplation. But the two ebooks I’ve finished so far have been YA and middle-grade novels, so maybe I’d read them quickly anyway?

In conclusion, Clara and I are getting on very well, thus far. Please do let me know if you have any helpful e-reading tips.

7 thoughts on “In Which I Finally Purchase An eReader”

  1. I do use an e-reader (I have a Kindle) and I have impulse-bought many books on it (eg Mary Trump’s book about her uncle) which I want to read but probably not keep on a shelf or lend to friends (this is a BIG disadvantage of the e-reader, I think, no passing on). It’s handy but I prefer physical books hands-down. I’ve found I don’t retain the information I read on the e-reader as well — something about the physical experience of handling a book, turning the pages, seeing the cover lying around, embeds the content more securely in my brain.
    I’m currently reading Mansfield Park on the Kindle (another impulse purchase, because it was easy and cheap) but I was interrupted in my reading and I’m regretting the inability to easily flip back and refresh my memory on who’s who — so awkward with a screen.
    Good luck!

    1. Yes, I definitely think this is more for quick, fun reads. I don’t think e-reading will work well for me for serious non-fiction, especially if I’m reading it for research purposes. I know there are ways to bookmark and highlight sections, but the swiping back and forth is so awkward and most ebooks don’t have a proper index.

      Kindle books seem to be cheaper and there’s more choice, but unfortunately, public libraries only lend epub and pdf ebooks, not Kindle books, so Kobo was the only real option for me. So far, I’ve only read library books, but I’ll buy some Kobo books later. I am running out of bookshelf space, so that’s one good thing about ebooks!

  2. “My” (New York, Queens, Brooklyn) offer kindle as well as epub, also the option to read in browser – I usually have something undemanding downloaded for short breaks. They use a system called Overdrive.

    I expect you know Project Gutenberg – out of copyright offered in various formate, generally well proofread.

    1. Thanks, Frances. Yes, Clara came pre-loaded with Overdrive, but apparently that only works with US/Canadian libraries. I had to download Adobe Digital Editions to get it to work with my (City of Sydney) library. There is a beta version of some sort of browser on Clara, but I haven’t used it yet.

      Yes, Project Gutenberg! I’m looking forward to reading some obscure, out-of-copyright books. I downloaded the Machiavelli book from there.

  3. I have a Kobo too – apparently there was something about Kindle being a bit dodgy for Australians. I love it for being able to read in dim light, for having a whole library when I travel, and to carry when my current book is too large or too fragile or too precious to shove in my handbag.
    Also great for when I want to read something right now – I can download in seconds.
    I must try borrowing from the library – haven’t done that yet.

    1. Ah, remember the Olden Days, when we could travel…

      Yes, the immediate gratification thing is really good. I can imagine it’ll be really useful when I’m reading a new series and absolutely HAVE to read the next book right away.

      It took a bit of time for me to figure out how to download Adobe Digital and then synchronise my desktop computer with Clara to transfer my borrowed library books. It might be easier if your library uses Overdrive (I think some Australian libraries do use it, just not mine).

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