Checking out Kobo

I’m behind on my reading, in part because I’ve once again immersed myself in The Goldfinch, in part because I’m still on track to finish my Nanowrimo “novel.”* But tomorrow something very important happens: the new Kate Daniels book will be available for sale, and I need to figure out how to buy it.

In a previous post, I mentioned that I’m increasingly uneasy putting so much of my book-buying money into the Kindle format. I love e-readers and I can’t imagine my life without one. But essentially what you’re buying from Amazon is the right to lease a digital copy from them. If Amazon decides you’re violating their terms of use, they are within their rights to lock your account and delete all of your purchases.

Yeah. Not awesome.

But it turns out Amazon isn’t our only option, even if you adore your Kindle and have too many Kindle books to switch formats right now.

My local bookstore has partnered with Kobo, an ebook retailer. Sign up through your bookseller, buy through the Kobo website, and your local bookstore gets a cut. (I’m guessing it’s a tiny cut, but it’s there.) A lot of the books it sells are in DRM-free EPub format, which you can easily convert to Kindle-friendly MOBI using the free Calibre program. I tried this out on a Cherie Priest short story, “Tanglefoot,” and it worked like a charm. Witness my success:


The bad news? Kobo also sells a lot of books as Adobe DRM EPubs, which are emphatically not easy to convert to a Kindle-friendly format and come with the same limitations as the Kindle format. Worse, the website doesn’t seem to tell you which format you’re buying until you’ve paid for it and it’s in your library, which is sneaky at best. Also, a lot of the books Kobo sells are $2-5 more expensive than their Kindle counterparts.

So, alas, Kobo isn’t a magic bullet for those of us looking to break free(ish) of Amazon’s clutches, and I’ll probably be buying the new Kate Daniels via Amazon (sigh). But if Kobo made it possible to see which format you’re buying before you pay for it, I think I would spend a lot more of my ebook money there. I would also advise anyone buying their first eReader to seriously consider one of Kobo’s devices, which seem to be comparable in price and quality to the Kindle.

Has anyone else tried out Kobo, or another non-Amazon ebook retailer?


* Other possible terms for this work: “novella,” “very very very rough draft,” and “weird lumpy story-thing with plot holes big enough to drive a tank through.”


2 comments on “Checking out Kobo

  1. vadoporroesq says:

    Can I switch my Kindle books to any other format? I can also still access my kindle books on my tablet if I do ever switch eReader companies, but it might not be such an advantage.

    Would love to have your thoughts on the new Amazon Kindle Unlimited…

    • Vado, I think you can switch Kindle books to other formats if you’re willing to remove the DRM, but that technically violates your renting-the-digital-copy agreement with Amazon, I think.

      I have to admit I’m not very impressed with Kindle Unlimited. $10/month seems steep to me given how restricted their titles are at the moment; nothing on my to-read list seems to be included in a Kindle Unlimited subscription. Also, the Boston Public Library has a kick-ass digital collection and has been very willing to listen to my suggestions about what they should purchase! So I’ll probably donate that $120 to them instead 🙂

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