I’ve used a Kobo e-reader for quite a while now — and I use it a lot.  I like it because it can read basically any format of book and is easy to transfer books to it.  I can read Kindle books after a quick conversion along with epub, mobi, pdf, CBR/CBZ comics and more making it perfect for my needs.

Early this month Kobo released their competitor to Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited, Kobo Plus and it seemed a good time to not only check out this new service but also the upgraded version to my Kobo Libra H2O.  I’ve been using both of these for a couple of weeks now and am fairly impressed with what I’ve seen so far.

Kobo Libra 2

The Libra 2 is a slight upgrade over its predecessor, the Libra H2O with a slight change to the front design, an upgraded display and USB-C charging.  

Old (left) vs New (right)

The design is an e-reader, but with physical, page-turn buttons.  The side where the buttons are located has a lip in it is an effort to improve grip of the device while reading — like the spine of a physical book.  This is handy (pun intended) when reading as you are much less likely to accidentally turn the page with an incidental touch of the display.  

The Libra 2 weighs just 215 grams making it just 5 grams heavier than my Pixel 6 Pro.  Obviously you do not want a heavy e-reader, especially if you are planning to read for a long period of time.  I like to read at lunch time or before I go to sleep to relax my mind and switch off so having a light e-reader means I can relax just that bit more.

The display

The display is a 7-inch, 300ppi E Ink Carta 1200 screen, the same as that on the latest Kindle Paperwhite  (review coming up in a week or two).  This upgraded, glare-free display is a lot more responsive than the previous generation Libra.  The display is once again recessed into the bezels which is a bit of a dust magnet — in comparison, the Kindle PaperWhite is now flat with the bezels and a continuous flat front of the device.

The display is set up to change colour (warmth that is) based on the time of the day — you can customise this yourself — meaning you can have it be a very warm colour at night which is apparently recommended to help you get to sleep better.  I prefer a warmer colour when reading at all times but it’s an easy change while reading if your surroundings change and you want to change the display.

One new change to the Kobo Libra 2 is the ability to change to a dark mode.  Eventually you could with the older Libra but you had to enable it within developer mode and that was hidden away and required “unlocking”.  I (and my sleeping wife next to me) much prefer the dark mode at night where the text is white on a black background.  During the day I switch over to light mode.  The change is not as hidden as it was but you still need to go into settings and swipe down to turn the dark mode on and off.  The new Kindle Paperwhite has it as a very quick swipe down from the top and toggle dark mode so it is much more accessible.

Other features

The Kobo Libra 2 is also waterproof meaning that if you are a bath reader it will survive a drop in the bath — but I’m not convinced the Kobo SleepCover for it would survive it as well. — IPX8 – up to 60 mins in 2 metres of water.

The battery of e-readers seems to be extraordinary — especially if you are coming over from using a tablet such as an iPad or Android tablet as an e-reader.  They just seem to go on and one and one.  I find that they seem to last me a week or so before they need to be recharged.  The new Libra 2 is now charged using USB-C which means a much faster recharge but also a more compatible charging cable considering how many other devices these days are charged using USB-C.

The Libra 2 now includes Bluetooth support for Kobo audiobooks — but only Kobo audiobooks which is a strange move by Kobo given their wide support for various reading formats.  It will not play MP3 audiobook formats from other providers.

As with most e-readers, you can easily change the text style of your book — there are multiple fonts available, along with an ability to change the font size (I need a bigger font size in the middle of the night compared to during the day), line spacing, margins and justification.   The end result is a very comfortable and relaxed reading experience.

The Libra 2 has direct support for OverDrive — the online digital reading solution that most Australian public libraries use.  This will allow you to automatically access your library’s online catalogue and read books from it.  This is a great addition and to be honest, not something I’d used before now. 

Inside the Libra 2 is 32GB of storage, equating to a bucketload of books.  Kobo say it will fit “up to 24,000 eBooks” and although I am yet to test out that many I have easily dragged and dropped around 50 or so onto it and have barely scratched the surface of the storage.  If you are going on a holiday and are someone who likes to read on holidays, e-readers are perfect to cut down on luggage — of course you could always subscribe to Kobo Plus and just download the books when you want to read them.

If you are going to use a Kobo e-reader I also highly recommend their SleepCovers which not only protect the display while travelling but also provide a stand that can be used to prop up the book meaning you don’t have to hold it yourself — very handy in bed or if reading while eating lunch.

Kobo Plus

Kobo Plus currently offers over 580,000 eBooks to read with more being added every month.  The problem is finding them.  You can try going to Booktopia who are meant to be partnered with Kobo for this venture and even though I log in using the same email etc for my Kobo Plus account it won’t recognise me as having a Kobo Plus account.  Instead you will need to head over to the Kobo Plus website to find a book and add it to your “My Books”.

Of course it may be easier for most people to use their phones to discover books — using the Kobo Books Android or iOS app.  It is still not super easy to find books because you still have to go the extra step when searching for books and select “show Kobo Plus books only” but at least it’s a bit easier.  Once you have added a book to your “MyBooks” then it will appear as added to your books on the e-reader — although you may have to hit the sync button if it doesn’t automatically appear on your e-reader.

So will you find the books you really want on Kobo Plus — unlikely unless it’s an old book and not a best seller.  There appears to be an abundance of romance novels but I had issues finding anything I wanted to read — even older books such as Red Rising by Pierce Brown (although they did have the graphic novel of it).

One advantage of using the Kobo Plus app is that it will automatically sync your progress with your account so that if you are somewhere — such as a Vax line (this happened to me a couple of months ago) and don’t have your Kobo e-reader with you, you can still continue reading the book you currently can’t get enough of you.

Is it any different to Kindle Unlimited (although unlimited is a stretch)?  Nope. I had a Kindle Unlimited subscription for quite a while and I had the same issue.  Whenever I found a book on Amazon I wanted to read, it would not be available on Kindle Unlimited.  I mostly had the service for my son to try and get him to read more but he also had issues with finding certain books he wanted to read.  Maybe one day these stores will offer true “unlimited” books.

The good news is that you can try a free trial of Kobo Plus to see if it is for you and you have a month to figure that out.  Would I continue to pay for Kobo Plus after the free trial ends?  Unlikely just because I like certain authors and although I could (and should) branch out more the Kobo Plus app does not help with that — “You searched for Pierce Brown Red Rising, you may also like……” would be a nice option.  If it is up to me to try and find suitable books to read it is a no go.  As I said you get a free trial so check it out and see if it’s right for you. 

For me, if Kobo Plus had more books I actually wanted to read then the Kobo Libra 2 would be a great option.  With a Kobo e-reader you get Kobo Plus books, plus any others you already own that you can just drag and drop from your PC onto it and you also get access to your local library’s OverDrive catalogue.  Even without Kobo Plus the Kobo Libra 2 is great as it means I can read any book that I have downloaded from anywhere.  If you don’t want to be stuck in any one provider and want to be able to read most formats easily then Kobo is for you.

You can pick up a Kobo Libra 2 from Booktopia or the Australian Kobo website now for $279. For more information on Kobo Plus and to check out the library head on over to the Kobo Plus website where you can sign up to a 30 day free trial, after which it is $13.99 per month.