Kobo Libra 2 Review – A Great E-reader with Audiobook Support
The Kobo Libra 2 is a brand new e-reader which was just released at the end of October 2021. This device has a few major selling points, it has double the storage of the original Libra 1 and it is now possible to buy audiobooks on the Kobo Bookstore and listen to them through wireless headphones or an external speaker, such as a Sonos soundbar. It is only slightly more expensive than the Libra 2, around $ 10 in Canada and the United States.
The Libra 2 has a 7-inch E INK Carta 1200 display with a resolution of 1264 × 1680 with 300 PPI. What exactly is this new e-paper technology? E Ink Carta 1200 offers a 20% increase in response time compared to E Ink Carta 1000 and a 15% improvement in contrast ratio. E Ink Carta 1200 modules consist of a TFT (thin film transistor), an ink layer and a protective foil. The touch screen is actually built into the stack of modules. Traditionally, capacitive touch technology is placed above the display module. This is integrated into it, which reduces costs.
The screen of the e-reader is not completely flush with the bezel, there is a very slight inclination, a small hollow. The screen is protected by glass substrate, which protects the electronic paper display. I have often found that there are normally problems with using the glass that covers electronic paper. I have noticed that with bright overhead light you will get reflections on the screen and also under direct sunlight.
Under the hood is a 1GHz single-core processor, 512MB of RAM, and 32GB of internal storage. It has a USB-C port for charging the device and a respectable 1500mAH battery. You will be able to connect to the Kobo bookstore, Overdrive and access Pocket via WIFI. It has Bluetooth 5.1 to connect a pair of headphones to listen to audiobooks.
This device is waterproof with an IPX8 rating, so it can be submerged in fresh water for up to 60 minutes and to a depth of 2 meters. Do people really read in the bathtub? Kobo has never really published any studies on this subject. I know that by talking to hundreds of people about waterproof e-readers over the years, they appreciate that they can read with sticky fingers when they eat or throw a glass of wine or coffee on the screen. . You can simply wash the eReader in tap water and clean it easily. Most e-readers, if they have a lot of water droplets on the screen or if they are totally submerged, normally the touch screen does not work because the water or the droplets register as touch interactions. This is a moot point with the Libra 2, as it has physical page change buttons, which will work just fine.
Kobo launched an audiobook subscription service in 2017 and membership costs $ 12.99 per month in Canada and $ 9.99 in the United States. It comes with a 30 day free trial period. Customers will receive one credit per month with their subscription and they can be redeemed for any audiobook title on the platform. You can also buy Kobo audiobooks individually and shop with confidence with their price match guarantee. Their apps for Android and iOS were quickly updated with an audiobook player. So why did Kobo bring audiobooks to the Libra 2 and the Sage?
A few weeks ago, before the Libra 2 announcement, I had a long chat with Ramesh Mantha, vice president of products and devices at Kobo. He said audiobook support was not an expressiveness made to compete with Audible, which has provided audiobook support on Kindle e-readers for the past four years. While the Kindle has the first-mover advantage, Audible is only available in a few select countries, where Kobo operates worldwide. “We want to be competitive wherever Kindle and Audible are not. “
The decision to provide audiobooks on e-readers was not taken straight away. Since 2019, they have been asking their Kobo Insiders, a private group, by invitation only, where the most hardcore talk about books and e-readers, various questions about future e-readers. The inclusion of audio received overwhelming support. Kobo hosted focus groups, spoke with users one-on-one, and looked into the market. “People think of Kobo as their place to read, less distraction, no pop-ups and frivolous notifications, which a phone can’t do.” Kobo introducing audiobooks to the Libra 2 was a lot of work, they had to build an audiobook player from scratch, such as the MP3 decoder, and only used a few open source APIs for the engine. The end result will be impressive, users will be able to enjoy the same benefits of apps, such as adjusting the reading speed and a night mode to automatically stop reading. The inclusion of audio on the Sage and Libra 2 was all about timing, stars aligned.
When users open their Libra 2 out of the box and create an account or sign in with an existing account, clicking the store is a digital content gateway. The first thing people will see is the eBook store, with a carefully designed selection. There’s a brand new audiobook tab, next to ebooks. The selection is also curated by real humans and there are all kinds of categories to narrow down your purchases. When you download a sample or purchase an audiobook, it will appear in your library. There are all kinds of sorting options by format, author name, series, or collection. It’s important to note that you can’t side-load in audiobooks, the audiobooks only support items you download directly from Kobo.
Overdrive is a major selling point on Kobo, as you can simply enter your card number in the settings menu and then browse your local branch’s e-book collection. You can then borrow and play them, all on your Libra 2. At this time, you cannot borrow audiobooks from Overdrive. A few weeks ago, I spoke to Ramesh Mantha, VP of Products and Devices, and the impression I got was that this feature is coming, but it will probably be in the New Year.
The reason most people turn to e-readers is that e-paper displays are as close to real paper as possible, but in digital form. Your eyes won’t get tired from long reading sessions, as they would when staring at your smartphone, tablet, or computer. The long battery life is also a very convincing point, you only need to recharge it every two weeks, depending on use. If you only read a few chapters a day, you can get by with more than a month.
Kobo is one of the best brands for downloaded content. You don’t need to buy or download exclusively directly from their bookstore. They Support The Kobo Libra 2 supports 12 different fonts and 50 different font sizes. You can download your own ebooks or purchase them from Kobo. It supports EPUB, EPUB3, PDF, FlePUB, MOBI, CBR and CBZ. When you open a sideways loaded book, you get all of the options you would have in a normal book, such as the ability to adjust the font type, font size, line spacing, and thickness. There are also a series of advanced options to further customize your reading experience, giving you a nice before and after view, before saving changes. Kobo is also one of the few brands that supports font sideloading, so you’re not stuck with the defaults.
The Kobo Bookstore offers millions of free and paid titles, the company operates its own self-publishing platform, Kobo Writing Life and these are included in the bookstore as well. Kobo is basically number two in the world, behind Amazon and the Kindle, so they’re doing everything right. Their selection and prices are basically dictated by the publisher, so there is little to no price difference between buying from Amazon or Kobo.
One of the really nice things about reading on the Libra 2 is the physical page-turn buttons. Many brands have put an end to this over the years. Kobo and Pocketbook are pretty much the only ones to include these buttons on virtually all models. The physical buttons provide a pleasant tactile feel, and touching them instantly turns the page. It’s pretty easy to hold it with one hand and just press the button to go up one page. These pages can be read quite easily on the bus, sky train or subway.
The Kobo Libra 2 takes all the best features of the Libra 2 and takes them one step further. You get double the storage space which makes a big difference when buying or downloading audiobooks. If you’re not a big audio lover, the extra space is great for a big ebook or PDF collection.
It has a great design and all kinds of sleep covers are available, in a wide range of colors, allowing the player to be personalized. Should we buy it? If audiobooks are a big draw, pull the trigger and get it. If you’ve got a Kobo eReader over 2-3 years old, you’ll notice faster page turns, higher resolution thanks to the new Carta display.
The Libra 2 is essentially a dedicated e-reader, used for reading e-books, if you need a more capable device, such as a quadcore processor and pen holder, the Sage is probably the better of the two.
Kobo Balance 2
- Audiobook support
- 32 GB of storage
- E INK Carta 1200 display panel
- No speakers
- Minimal upgrades to the old model
- Heavier than the last generation
Michael Kozlowski has been writing about audiobooks and e-readers for twelve years. His articles have been picked up by major and local news sources and websites such as CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post, and The New York Times. He lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.