We recently lamented the sad fact that most existing eBook purchases won’t work on Apple’s shiny new iPad thanks to the device not supporting the Adobe DRM system used to protect the majority of eBooks sold in the UK.
However there is some good news – while your current eBook collection looks destined to be banished from your iPad for the immediate future, new purchases don’t need to be thanks to ‘platform neutral’ retailer kobo.
Although any books bought from kobo for your dedicated eBook reader are still protected by the iPad non-friendly Adobe system, the company offers an app which gives access to remote, cloud-based copies of your books on your iPad. This means you can continue to enjoy your books without having to pay out for a second, iPad compatible version of your books.
And, if that wasn’t enough god news, there are also apples available for most popular brands including Blackberry and Android-powered handsets so you can read your books pretty much whenever the fancy takes you.
While the app won’t allow you to read books purchased from other retailers on the iPad, it does mean you can switch between your reader and iPad when reading any new purchases.
We took kobo’s iPad app for a test drive to see how the service actually performs.
As new users of the service we had to start from the beginning by and downloading the iPad app from the iTunes store. Once installed the app allowed us to set up a new account with the service (if we’d had an existing account we could have logged in with this) and then pre-populated our library or titles with a selection of free books including Dracula and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
The app is nicely laid out with three big navigation links – I’m Reading, Library and Store. Clicking I’m Reading brings up the covers of books you’ve already started to read while the library section unsurprisingly lists all those books you’ve already purchased and the cleanly laid out Store section entices you to spend money on even more books you’ll someday get around to completing.
We were disappointed that trying to buy a book resulted in being warned that the purchase would be completed in the iPad’s web browser, it’s not a deal breaker but we’d have preferred an in-app shopping cart which allowed us to pay with our stored card details.
In the end, and as we wanted to check the ability to download a copy of our purchase to our Sony Reader as well as read it on the iPad, we completed the purchase on a regular laptop.
After keying in our card details we’d apparently paid for the book but instead of a confirmation page were greeted with a screen asking us to confirm our age and set a display name. After complying a quick check of the online store’s library showed our book safely stored with a link to download an ePub version.
This was presumably somehow connected to us having opened our account on the iPad but it was a little confusing as it wasn’t initially clear we’d successfully paid for our book.
Disappointingly the free books which were available through the iPad app weren’t listed in our online library which slightly diminished the seamless reading experience the service aims to offer. It’s not the biggest of issues but if you’d already started reading Dracula on your iPad you might appreciate being able to quickly download it for your reader without looking for it in the store.
Adding the book to Sony’s reader library application on our MacBook was as painless as experienced reader owners will expect and a quick check of the book on the reader confirmed it’d successfully copied to the device and was ready for reading whenever needed.
Back on the iPad we re-opened the kobo app which promptly downloaded the newly bought book for us and added it to our library.
As always we checked the price of our chosen book (Lynda Le Plante’s Above Suspicion) against other retailers and though it was slightly more expensive through kobo the added flexibility of being able to read it across devices meant we didn’t begrudge the extra couple of ten pences.
While reading a book through the app you have a number of customisation options including a night mode which inverts the screen to place light text on a black background, various animated page turn effects and the ability to set the font size and change fonts (though there’s only four fonts to choose from). You can also set bookmarks which are apparently available across mobile devices (though obviously not on off-line dedicated readers).
Conclusions: Overall we were impressed with both the service and app although the inability to buy books from within the app is a major negative point for us.
The reading experience is very enjoyable though we’d have liked more customisation options for the way books are presented including the option to change the background colour.
Quibbles aside, the iPad’s going to become a major player in eBook reading and by giving access to books across devices kobo’s well placed to make an early land grab among existing eBook lovers looking to do some of their reading on their new iPad.