Kobo is a line of electronic reading devices connected to a store, similar to the Amazon Kindle. Just like the store built into the Kindle, Kobo features a lot of books you can pay for. This makes sense; publishers need to make money somehow. Do a quick search, however, and you can find a lot of free books to download from Kobo and read on whatever device you like. Some of these are in the public domain because of their age; others are offered free.
Syncing books and bookmarks across devices is automatic, giving Kobo a slight edge over other platforms. For example, you could combine Dropbox and Calibre to sync your ebooks across all devices, but you cannot use this to sync your bookmarks to your mobile devices. Kobo can sync everything about your reading between all of your devices, and also offers access to newspaper and magazine subscriptions.
What It Is
Fire up Kobo Desktop. Create a user account and you’ll see your new library, which by default will feature just a few free literary classics:
Simply click a book to start reading. The interface for doing so is really simple, which I think you’ll enjoy a great deal:
The arrow keys make for quick page turning; a simple menu on the left allows you to browse by chapter, change the font size or enter full screen mode.
Need more than five books? Head over to the store, where you can find millions of books to buy:
Here you’ll find the latest books for sale, if you’re inclined to pay for them. You can also find a variety of free books.
Scroll down in the store and you’ll eventually see a banner for free ebooks. Click this and you’ll be presented with a variety of free titles. These will range from new books that are free to promote others to literary classics.
But don’t go thinking that the approximately 200 books you can browse here are the sum total of the free books offered. Search for any book you know to be in the public domain and you’ll find a free copy of it:
Not bad at all. Remember: any book with a blue “Download” button where the price should be is free.
Want to get started? Windows and Mac users can download Kobo here. If you’re a Linux user you can request a download here, or simply download Kobo for Ubuntu like I did. Want Kobo on your smartphone? Check here.
Didn’t Borders Go Bankrupt?
You may be wondering: isn’t the Kobo Reader a dying platform since Borders announced its bankruptcy? As it turns out, no. As Kobo explained recently on its blog, Borders is only a minority shareholder of Kobo and represents a very small fraction of its global sales.
The Borders Desktop that comes with Kobo Readers in the United States? It’s just a re-packaged Kobo desktop, though inferior in some ways. The Borders Desktop, for example, doesn’t support newspaper subscriptions; Kobo Desktop does. You can use the Kobo Desktop to get access to these features on your Borders-supplied Kobo, and this will give you access to newspaper subscriptions and any other goodies Kobo may soon provide.
That’s what I did, and I’m enjoying the access to newspaper subscriptions (although my switching probably isn’t helping with Border’s bankruptcy situation). I’m hoping that future features added will include automated Instapaper subscriptions.
How do you like the Kobo Desktop? Fill us in using the comments. Also feel free to recommend other ebook services, because we love learning.