(wip) why i like the kobo e-book reader


I like my Kobo Aura e-reader very much, and I enjoyed other Kobo e-readers (original Kobo, Kobo Touch) before it. As of this writing you can find pre-owned ones on eBay for $20-$50.

You can find plenty of comparative reviews about its typical use as an e-reader elsewhere. Herein I’ll mention things I care about that typical consumers don’t.

Kobo, Kobo Touch, Kobo Aura

In general: when it comes to hardware, one of my primary criteria for purchase is:

When the manufacturer inevitably abandons the device, will it continue to be useful and free of security problems?

To answer this question, the first thing I investigate is:

  1. Does it run linux?
  2. May I install a modified linux on it?

The second question is necessary because the first is insufficient. Many device manufacturers gleefully build their billions upon free software like Linux but lock users out of their hardware, which is allowed under the terms of Linux’s license, GPLv2. GPLv3 prevents this “tivoization” but Linus thinks tivoization is just fine.

The Kobo does not seem to go to extreme lengths to thwart tinkerers from modifying the device and its software. The manufacturer obeys the licenses of the software they build upon and they post the source code that they are required to. This is more than can be said for many other linux-based devices on the market. In fact, they go beyond that and post source code for more software that the device uses.

I haven’t yet attempted to run a Linux distro or my own software on my Kobo, but that doesn’t matter. That I have the option to do so is important. That the manufacturer doesn’t insist that I ask permission to do anything with its hardware that they did not intend, is important. Being able to install my own software is a good indicator that the device will be able to be supported by the community after the manufacturer no longer does.



to investigate



“I’ve never heard of Kobo.” They hold only 3% of the market in the U.S. but hold 20% worldwide and are more popular than Kindle in Canada and France. —Wikipedia: Kobo eReader