Kindle vs Kobo: Ereader showdown

In the battle of the ereaders, who comes out on top?
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Choosing an ereader is not like picking a smartphone. When opting for a new handset, you’ve got dozens of manufacturers and models to choose from. In the ereader world, however, you’ve got to settle for one of only two options – and it comes down to Kindle vs Kobo. So which one should you pick?

Well, after spending the last few weeks with both, nit-picking their features and downfalls, we reckon there’s a clear winner. But first, a little background.

In the red corner, we have the Kindle, Amazon’s super-popular ereader brand that’s been around for over a decade. In the blue corner is our challenger, Rakuten Kobo, which has been in the game for almost the same amount of time and has millions of loyal fans.

Let’s get ready to rumble.

Round 1: Price

The current generation of Kindles and Kobos are pretty evenly-matched in terms of price, with only a few $10 notes between them at both the lower and higher end of the price range. Both Kindle and Kobo have an entry-level model and a premium model, but while Kindle has just one mid-range ereader, Kobo has two. Going by the cheapest price overall, we have to give this one to the kindle.

Winner: Kindle.

Round 2: Features

ModelScreen sizeScreen resolutionStorageBacklightWaterproof
Kindle Paperwhite6-inch300ppi8GB or 32GBYesYes
Kindle Oasis7-inch300ppi8GB or 32GBYesYes
Kobo Nia6-inch212ppi8GBYesNo
Kobo Clara HD6-inch300ppi8GBYesNo
Kobo Libra H2O7-inch300ppi8GBYesYes
Kobo Forma8-inch300ppi8GBYesYes

Feature-wise, the differences between the Kindle and the Kobo are pretty minimal. Both offer waterproof models, models with page-turn buttons, backlights and decent storage across the board. Even their software is quite similar, allowing you to import your own books and documents, check your reading stats, changing font size, taking notes, highlighting passages and more. Since they’re both so similar, this one’s too close to call.


Round 3: Content

As an Amazon product, Kindle is naturally suited to Amazon Prime subscribers. Why? Well, As part of your Amazon Prime subscription, you get access to over 1,000 free ebooks as part of Prime Reading. They’ve also got something called Kindle Unlimited, which gives you access to over a million titles for an additional $13.99 per month. On the downside, since Kindles aren’t compatible with regular .epub files, you’re pretty limited in terms of where you can buy your ebooks – generally only through the Kindle Store itself.

Kobos, on the other hand, don’t have any fancy-schmancy subscription services, but since they’re compatible with regular .epub files, you have way more avenues for getting new reads. You can buy titles through the Kobo store or pretty much any online store that sells .epubs, and you can even borrow them from your local library for free.

Check out the table below to see which files are compatible with Kindle vs Kobo.

.htmlNo (conversion supported)Yes
.doc/.docxNo (conversion supported)No
Adobe DRM protected contentNoYes

Because of Kobo’s greater compatibility, it’s getting the win for this category.

Winner: Kobo.

Round 4: Hardware

ModelPage-turn buttonsAdjustable warm lightAuto brightness
Kindle PaperwhiteNoNoNo
Kindle OasisYesYesYes
Kobo NiaNoNoNo
Kobo Clara HDNoYesNo
Kobo Libra H2OYesYesNo
Kobo FormaYesYesNo

The one thing Kindle has over Kobo in terms of design is its display, which, in each model except the cheapest, is flush with the rest of the body, so you don’t get dust and dirt gathering in the bezels. For Kobo models, you’ll only find that flush screen on the most expensive model.

Apart from that one sticking point, Kobo does a really great job with their hardware. There are more screen sizes to choose from (6, 7 or 8 inches instead of just 6 or 7 in the Kindle), and all their models (except the cheapest) come with adjustable warm light, so you can protect your eyesight from damaging blue light when reading at night. Kindle has it too, but only on their most expensive model, which is a shame.

Winner: Kobo.

Kindle vs Kobo: Verdict

So, at the end of the Kindle vs Kobo match, which comes out on top? While most readers will be happy with either manufacturer, overall, we reckon the Kobo is hard to beat. Both interfaces are easy to use, but Kobo’s superior hardware and greater range of compatible files puts it at the top of the ereader pyramid.