Ebooks – Kindle vs Kobo 2016 – eBook prices, eReaders and apps

Kindle vs Kobo

If you’re looking to buy your first eReader, or are thinking about switching to or from Amazon, then this guide is for you. Based on my recent reviews, Kobo’s excellent eReaders make it the best alternative to the internet retail giant in terms of hardware, but that’s just part of the story. When it comes to choosing an eReader, you also have to consider the price of eBooks, the range available, ease of use and the ability to read your books on other devices, such as your phone.

Now, an eBook reader can’t ever replace a real book. Books feel great to hold, you can easily flick back to an earlier page or a map in the front of the book for reference, they’re easy to lend to friends, they look great on shelves, they don’t require a power source and print has an incredibly high contrast ratio, making them easy on your eyes too.

However, eReaders have their advantages too. You don’t have to go to the shop to the buy eBooks (or wait for them to be delivered), you can take as many eBooks on holiday as you like without super-sizing your luggage, eReaders are now lighter than most books, you can read at night thanks to built-in lights, or easily read one-handed, and they don’t clutter up your home.

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eBook prices explored

Before I get stuck into the nitty-gritty of who’s cheaper, it’s worth taking a little time to explain how Amazon and Kobo differ in terms of buying books.

If you buy a Kindle you’ll then be buying your books from Amazon as the company uses a Digital Rights Management (DRM) system to ensure that its eBooks can only be read on Kindle eReaders and, for the large part, you can’t buy eBooks from anywhere else and read them on your Kindle (or at least not without a lot of legally-dubious fiddling about).

Kobo, however, and others, such as Barnes and Noble’s Nook, use the EPUB file format with DRM provided by Adobe Digital Editions. This means that while you can buy books straight from your Kobo using Kobo’s own bookstore (as easily as using Amazon), you can also buy books from a huge range of online booksellers, from niche publishers right up to the likes of Waterstones, WHSmith and Sainsbury’s. You then use Adobe’s simple software to transfer them to your eReader using a USB cable.

Now let’s look at some actual prices. I’ve taken the Top 10 bestselling books at bookshops and looked to see how much they cost on both Kindle and Kobo. I’ve also shopped around a few other sites to see if they offered better prices for EPUB books and have created a column for best EPUB prices.

Title and author Kindle Price Kobo Price Best EPUB price
Grey – E. L. James £3.66 £3.66 £3.66
The Sunrise – Victoria Hislop £2.99 £3.99 £3.29
Burn – James Patterson £4.79 £5.99 £5.99
Personal – Lee Child £3.32 £3.32 £3.32
Mary Berry’s Absolute Favourites – Mary Berry £6.99 £9.99 £6.99
Us – David Nicholls £3.66 £3.66 £3.66
Guy Martin – My Autobiography – Guy Martin £3.66 £4.99 £3.99
Twisted – Lynda La Plante £5.99 £5.99 £5.99
Waterloo The History … – Bernard Cornwell £3.80 £5.99 £5.99
The Woman Who Stole My Life – Marian Keyes £3.49 £3.49 £3.49
TOTAL £42.35 £51.07 £46.37

Amazon is obviously a step ahead when it comes to prices on bestsellers

As you can see Amazon is hard to beat when it comes to pricing on these big-selling books. With a Kindle reader saving 90p a book on average compared to Kobo and around 40p a book even if you shop around. I’ve found that the price differences become less pronounced when you look at older and less popular titles; if your reading tastes are less current or more offbeat you’ll find the gap far smaller. It’s worth grabbing the last five or so books you’ve read and doing your own price check online. I have to say though, that I’d be very surprised is Amazon actually turned out to be more expensive than its rival, although short-term sale prices can make things a little unpredictable.

So, Amazon is firmly in charge when it comes to a straight price shootout. However, it’s worth considering a few advantages of the more open EPUB format on the Kobo. First, as you’re free to shop around, you can take advantage of special offers on a wide-range of different stores. Secondly, if you avidly read a specific genre publisher you may well be able to buy from them directly, helping the publisher continue to produce the kind of books you like.

Free books and sharing

There’s a wealth of free books available, with the most interesting being out-of-copyright novels from classic authors. These are available for both Kindle and Kobo, most notably through Project Gutenberg at www.gutenberg.org. With either Kindle or Kobo it’s easy to download said books and copy (or email them in the case of Kindle) to your device. For Kobo you’ll be looking for EPUB versions, while Kindles accept MOBI files (often simply marked as Kindle).

With a Kobo eReader, you can also borrow books from your local library in the UK. A quick search on our local library website pulled up eBooks by most of the authors in our top 10 list above, although not the latest examples admittedly. With an Adobe Digital Editions software and your library card number, you can quickly and easily download books to borrow online. Typically you can borrow up to five books for 21 days at a time.

Amazon lends books for free to Amazon Prime members, one a month, one at a time, with no due dates, from a fairly large (if not always high-quality) collection. Although if you’re a Prime member (at £79 per year) you’re probably sold on Amazon already.

More tempting for most is its Family Library feature, whereby up to two adults and four children can share eBooks freely between them – with parental controls of course. It’s possible for two people to share books from a single Adobe Digital Editions account, but it’s not supported or condoned.

Project Gutenberg

It may not look all that, but Project Gutenberg is a huge resource packed with classic novels

eReaders and reading experience

I’ve written at length elsewhere about the precise pros-and-cons of Amazon and Kobo’s various eReaders. At present the two leading devices are very close in terms of their capabilities, with both the recently-updated Kindle Paperwhite and the new Kobo Glo HD both using the same E Ink Carta 6in display with 300 pixels per inch. Look a little closer and the Kobo just edges it over the Paperwhite, as it’s slightly more compact, slightly lighter and its touchscreen has a pleasingly smooth finish – but there’s really not much in it.

They are roughly the same price too, with the Kindle currently costing £90 or £100 without ‘Special Offers’ which amounts to advertising on the sleep screen and at the bottom of the home screen. The Kobo simply costs £110 and although there are entries on its home screen, such as ‘Top 50 books’, these can be easily removed.

They’re easiest to differentiate when you’re actually reading a book. Kobo has a more book-like appearance onscreen with page furniture, such as the book title at the top of the page. It also has a wider range of fonts, and of font sizes, plus it can pull custom fonts from EPUB documents so that you get the look the publisher intended. It also has text justification options, so you can choose how the words are arranged onscreen.

Amazon by comparison has lagged behind here, with only a handful of fonts and font sizes to choose from (it too can use custom fonts, although this is rarely an option in my experience). It rejects a book-like layout, preferring to use most of the screen for text and offering a landscape reading mode too. I rather like having the longer lines of text but the poor text options are a sticking point.

Amazon has released a new font, Bookerly, recently, which is very clear and easy to read; a new typesetting engine is also now available which fixes the ugly old text layout, where spaces where littered throughout each line in order to fully justify (line-up) the words at either end of the line. The new system allows for subtler spacing and can split words across lines (with hyphens) when required.

Kindle new interface text

ThePaperwhite is a little cheaper at present and there’s not much to choose between the two for most people. However, if you really want your books to look how they were intended on the page, or you’re keen to fiddle with text justification, font sizes, margins and more, then the Kobo is the better choice for you. Kobo also has a larger 6.8in model with waterproofing in the form of the Kobo Aura H2O, while Amazon only has the now somewhat overpriced Kindle Voyage.

Apps and ecosystem

We don’t all carry our eReaders around with us all the time, but with a smartphone or tablet you can dip into your current book anytime you like. Both Kindle and Kobo have apps for all the common operating systems: Android, iOS and Windows.

Any progress you make in a book will be synced between your devices, so you can pick up reading just where you left off. On Kindle this works for any book you’ve bought from Amazon as well as with books you’ve uploaded via the email-to-kindle service. So if you’re reading a copy of Alice in Wonderland from Gutenberg, it will sync across your devices. This doesn’t work with Kobo’s app though, which will only sync books you’ve bought from Kobo’s own store. You can separately copy the same DRM-free book to both your eReader and phone, but they won’t track your progress from device to device.

Kindle eReader and app screenshots

Being able to switch between your eReader and a smartphone or tablet app is really handy, it’s also nice to browse your virtual bookshelves in colour

So, which is best for you?

You may be thinking primarily about buying an eReader, but this is really the tip of the iceberg. That said, while both companies have similar and reasonably-priced hardware, the Kobo Glo HD just pips the new Kindle Paperwhite for us. In addition, while both systems have their ups and downs, I personally prefer the more book-like appearance of the Kobo and its more flexible font and typesetting options.

Kindle wins out when it comes to pricing, though. Even if you’re willing to shop around, you’ll probably end up a little out of pocket come the end of year with a Kobo. Now if you don’t read a lot that may only be a few quid, but it’s certainly something to think about. With Kobo you’re free to shop where you want though, you can borrow from your local library, and your books aren’t tied to Amazon, though that won’t bother many people, who simply want consistently low prices on the big sellers.

Finally, Amazon wins out when it comes to apps, simply because it will sync your progress on any book you’re reading, wherever it originally came from.

To sum up, if you’re independent minded and like your eBooks to look like books then Kobo is the better choice for you. If you’re simply looking for low prices and simplicity then Kindle is the better choice.

Kobo’s excellent eReaders make it the best alternative to Amazon’s Kindle, we compare the services on price, eReaders and apps

Kindle vs Kobo

If you’re looking to buy your first eReader, or are thinking about switching to or from Amazon, then this guide is for you. Based on my recent reviews, Kobo’s excellent eReaders make it the best alternative to the internet retail giant in terms of hardware, but that’s just part of the story. When it comes to choosing an eReader, you also have to consider the price of eBooks, the range available, ease of use and the ability to read your books on other devices, such as your phone.

Now, an eBook reader can’t ever replace a real book. Books feel great to hold, you can easily flick back to an earlier page or a map in the front of the book for reference, they’re easy to lend to friends, they look great on shelves, they don’t require a power source and print has an incredibly high contrast ratio, making them easy on your eyes too.

However, eReaders have their advantages too. You don’t have to go to the shop to the buy eBooks (or wait for them to be delivered), you can take as many eBooks on holiday as you like without super-sizing your luggage, eReaders are now lighter than most books, you can read at night thanks to built-in lights, or easily read one-handed, and they don’t clutter up your home.

eBook prices explored

Before I get stuck into the nitty-gritty of who’s cheaper, it’s worth taking a little time to explain how Amazon and Kobo differ in terms of buying books.

If you buy a Kindle you’ll then be buying your books from Amazon as the company uses a Digital Rights Management (DRM) system to ensure that its eBooks can only be read on Kindle eReaders and, for the large part, you can’t buy eBooks from anywhere else and read them on your Kindle (or at least not without a lot of legally-dubious fiddling about).

Kobo, however, and others, such as Barnes and Noble’s Nook, use the EPUB file format with DRM provided by Adobe Digital Editions. This means that while you can buy books straight from your Kobo using Kobo’s own bookstore (as easily as using Amazon), you can also buy books from a huge range of online booksellers, from niche publishers right up to the likes of Waterstones, WHSmith and Sainsbury’s. You then use Adobe’s simple software to transfer them to your eReader using a USB cable.

Now let’s look at some actual prices. I’ve taken the Top 10 bestselling books at bookshops and looked to see how much they cost on both Kindle and Kobo. I’ve also shopped around a few other sites to see if they offered better prices for EPUB books and have created a column for best EPUB prices.

Title and author Kindle Price Kobo Price Best EPUB price
Grey – E. L. James £3.66 £3.66 £3.66
The Sunrise – Victoria Hislop £2.99 £3.99 £3.29
Burn – James Patterson £4.79 £5.99 £5.99
Personal – Lee Child £3.32 £3.32 £3.32
Mary Berry’s Absolute Favourites – Mary Berry £6.99 £9.99 £6.99
Us – David Nicholls £3.66 £3.66 £3.66
Guy Martin – My Autobiography – Guy Martin £3.66 £4.99 £3.99
Twisted – Lynda La Plante £5.99 £5.99 £5.99
Waterloo The History … – Bernard Cornwell £3.80 £5.99 £5.99
The Woman Who Stole My Life – Marian Keyes £3.49 £3.49 £3.49
TOTAL £42.35 £51.07 £46.37

Amazon is obviously a step ahead when it comes to prices on bestsellers

As you can see Amazon is hard to beat when it comes to pricing on these big-selling books. With a Kindle reader saving 90p a book on average compared to Kobo and around 40p a book even if you shop around. I’ve found that the price differences become less pronounced when you look at older and less popular titles; if your reading tastes are less current or more offbeat you’ll find the gap far smaller. It’s worth grabbing the last five or so books you’ve read and doing your own price check online. I have to say though, that I’d be very surprised is Amazon actually turned out to be more expensive than its rival, although short-term sale prices can make things a little unpredictable.

So, Amazon is firmly in charge when it comes to a straight price shootout. However, it’s worth considering a few advantages of the more open EPUB format on the Kobo. First, as you’re free to shop around, you can take advantage of special offers on a wide-range of different stores. Secondly, if you avidly read a specific genre publisher you may well be able to buy from them directly, helping the publisher continue to produce the kind of books you like.

Free books and sharing

There’s a wealth of free books available, with the most interesting being out-of-copyright novels from classic authors. These are available for both Kindle and Kobo, most notably through Project Gutenberg at www.gutenberg.org. With either Kindle or Kobo it’s easy to download said books and copy (or email them in the case of Kindle) to your device. For Kobo you’ll be looking for EPUB versions, while Kindles accept MOBI files (often simply marked as Kindle).

With a Kobo eReader, you can also borrow books from your local library in the UK. A quick search on our local library website pulled up eBooks by most of the authors in our top 10 list above, although not the latest examples admittedly. With an Adobe Digital Editions software and your library card number, you can quickly and easily download books to borrow online. Typically you can borrow up to five books for 21 days at a time.

Amazon lends books for free to Amazon Prime members, one a month, one at a time, with no due dates, from a fairly large (if not always high-quality) collection. Although if you’re a Prime member (at £79 per year) you’re probably sold on Amazon already.

More tempting for most is its Family Library feature, whereby up to two adults and four children can share eBooks freely between them – with parental controls of course. It’s possible for two people to share books from a single Adobe Digital Editions account, but it’s not supported or condoned.

Project Gutenberg

It may not look all that, but Project Gutenberg is a huge resource packed with classic novels

eReaders and reading experience

I’ve written at length elsewhere about the precise pros-and-cons of Amazon and Kobo’s various eReaders. At present the two leading devices are very close in terms of their capabilities, with both the recently-updated Kindle Paperwhite and the new Kobo Glo HD both using the same E Ink Carta 6in display with 300 pixels per inch. Look a little closer and the Kobo just edges it over the Paperwhite, as it’s slightly more compact, slightly lighter and its touchscreen has a pleasingly smooth finish – but there’s really not much in it.

They are roughly the same price too, with the Kindle currently costing £90 or £100 without ‘Special Offers’ which amounts to advertising on the sleep screen and at the bottom of the home screen. The Kobo simply costs £110 and although there are entries on its home screen, such as ‘Top 50 books’, these can be easily removed.

They’re easiest to differentiate when you’re actually reading a book. Kobo has a more book-like appearance onscreen with page furniture, such as the book title at the top of the page. It also has a wider range of fonts, and of font sizes, plus it can pull custom fonts from EPUB documents so that you get the look the publisher intended. It also has text justification options, so you can choose how the words are arranged onscreen.

Amazon by comparison has lagged behind here, with only a handful of fonts and font sizes to choose from (it too can use custom fonts, although this is rarely an option in my experience). It rejects a book-like layout, preferring to use most of the screen for text and offering a landscape reading mode too. I rather like having the longer lines of text but the poor text options are a sticking point.

Amazon has released a new font, Bookerly, recently, which is very clear and easy to read; a new typesetting engine is also now available which fixes the ugly old text layout, where spaces where littered throughout each line in order to fully justify (line-up) the words at either end of the line. The new system allows for subtler spacing and can split words across lines (with hyphens) when required.

Kindle new interface text

ThePaperwhite is a little cheaper at present and there’s not much to choose between the two for most people. However, if you really want your books to look how they were intended on the page, or you’re keen to fiddle with text justification, font sizes, margins and more, then the Kobo is the better choice for you. Kobo also has a larger 6.8in model with waterproofing in the form of the Kobo Aura H2O, while Amazon only has the now somewhat overpriced Kindle Voyage.

Apps and ecosystem

We don’t all carry our eReaders around with us all the time, but with a smartphone or tablet you can dip into your current book anytime you like. Both Kindle and Kobo have apps for all the common operating systems: Android, iOS and Windows.

Any progress you make in a book will be synced between your devices, so you can pick up reading just where you left off. On Kindle this works for any book you’ve bought from Amazon as well as with books you’ve uploaded via the email-to-kindle service. So if you’re reading a copy of Alice in Wonderland from Gutenberg, it will sync across your devices. This doesn’t work with Kobo’s app though, which will only sync books you’ve bought from Kobo’s own store. You can separately copy the same DRM-free book to both your eReader and phone, but they won’t track your progress from device to device.

Kindle eReader and app screenshots

Being able to switch between your eReader and a smartphone or tablet app is really handy, it’s also nice to browse your virtual bookshelves in colour

So, which is best for you?

You may be thinking primarily about buying an eReader, but this is really the tip of the iceberg. That said, while both companies have similar and reasonably-priced hardware, the Kobo Glo HD just pips the new Kindle Paperwhite for us. In addition, while both systems have their ups and downs, I personally prefer the more book-like appearance of the Kobo and its more flexible font and typesetting options.

Kindle wins out when it comes to pricing, though. Even if you’re willing to shop around, you’ll probably end up a little out of pocket come the end of year with a Kobo. Now if you don’t read a lot that may only be a few quid, but it’s certainly something to think about. With Kobo you’re free to shop where you want though, you can borrow from your local library, and your books aren’t tied to Amazon, though that won’t bother many people, who simply want consistently low prices on the big sellers.

Finally, Amazon wins out when it comes to apps, simply because it will sync your progress on any book you’re reading, wherever it originally came from.

To sum up, if you’re independent minded and like your eBooks to look like books then Kobo is the better choice for you. If you’re simply looking for low prices and simplicity then Kindle is the better choice.