Last week, while passing through Victoria Station (on my way to see Sharon Gless [yes, my Cagney and Lacey roots are impossible to shake off] in ‘A Round-Heeled Woman‘ – fantastic production) I was accosted by the floating glass advert for the new Kobo e-reader. From the outside, the stationers formally known as WHSmith seems to have been transformed into a publicity machine for Kobo.

And it worked. I made a beeline for the (very modest – smaller on the inside than it looked on the outside) Kobo e-reader display right at the back of the store. The display at the front featured an empty metal bracket. The promotions person on hand to answer customer queries about the device had only just received her training the day before and was immediately out of her comfort zone with pesky customer questions. I really felt for her – she hadn’t been equipped with the info she needed to field anything but the most basic enquiries.

I’m still umming and ahhing over whether or not to splash out on an e-reader (I do like books, Luddite I may be, but there is something more inherently sensual about binding sheets of paper into a single easy to handle volume that beats slabs of metal/plastic any day. NB I reserve the right to change my mind completely about this). I’m even more undecided about which one to plump for. I’ve seen other people’s Kindles close up and they seem OK, for slabs of metal/plastic, but the Kobo seems to have given up any hope of stylish design. Not even a fan of Jonathan Ive got anywhere near the product design stage of this device.

Kobo e-reader familyFrom the image above you may be wondering about the quilted effect of the reverse. That’s just what it is – a raised quilted pattern stamped into the material. And that lilac colour? Chick-lit ready, I suppose. According to the Kobo representative, she was told by her trainer that the quilting prevented that much reported, well documented issue associated with electronic hand-held devices: fizzy fingers. I realise that sounds more like something you’d buy from your local sweetshop in the 70s, along with your cola Spangles, sherbet dip and Curlywurly, but apparently, it’s a thing. I’ve not come across the phenomenon before, but then I don’t own an e-reader… if it does exist I’m thinking that’s another reason to stick to printed books – the odd paper cut occasionally, but definitely no effervescence.

The touch screen itself doesn’t seem particularly responsive, and it did feel a tad small – handy for slipping into a handbag, but an awful lot of pageturns to get through even a Dan Brown-length chapter. Given the Kobo Touch is available right now (god knows how many months ahead of the Kindle equivalent) I was seriously tempted by them. But now I’ve seen one up close, I’m prepared to wait a little longer. Oh and the much advertised price of £109.99? That’s a special offer – the WHSmith’s man thought that might finish after a fortnight or so.

I’m a tad disappointed. I’ll just have to carry on sniffing paper pages until something hits the market that’s properly worth getting excited about.


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