Featuring an 8” E-ink touch screen and innovative form factor, the Forma is Kobo’s top of the range ereader which, with a near £240 entry price, is most likely to appeal to seasoned ebook fans.
If you’re not familiar with the name already, Kobo is the last remaining competitor to Amazon’s range of Kindle ebook readers here in the UK.
Now in its ninth year and part of the Rakuten group, the past few years has seen the firm take over the ebook operations of several major brands such as Tesco, Waterstones, WHSmith, Sainsbury’s, and even Sony, one of the format’s earliest pioneers.
At the time of writing, Kobo sells four ereaders – the Aura (£99), the Clara HD (£109.99), the Aura H2O (£149.99) and the Forma (prices start from £239.99) which we’re reviewing here.
The firm also operates its own ebook store which can be accessed via the web or direct from its ereaders. Ebooks bought from it can also be read on Android and Apple iOS devices via an app.
The first thing you’ll notice about the Kobo Forma is that it eschews the rectangle shape common to most ereaders and dares to be a bit different with a squarer design that includes an angled grip section – roughly an inch wide – down one side.
Which side? It doesn’t matter. The Forma can be turned so that the grip is on the left or right hand side, or even running across the bottom, with your book automatically rotating onscreen to suit your chosen orientation.
Pick up the Forma and the benefits of the grip are immediately obvious – not only does it provide an extremely comfortable way to hold the device, it also makes it much less likely that your reading will be interrupted by unwanted page turns caused by fingers accidentally brushing the touch screen.
Even better, the front of the grip houses two navigation buttons for turning pages, between which is a nicely thought out resting place for your thumb so that it only needs to move a fraction of an inch to advance through your story.
The rear features a repeating pattern of small indentations which reduce the potential for smudges or fingerprints and helps keep the device looking smart.
The Forma is impressively thin, measuring just 4.2mm for most of its width, rising up to 8.5mm at the grip, and weighs just 197 grams, less than the smaller Kobo Aura.
At 8” the Forma’s E-ink greyscale touchscreen is larger than anything else currently on sale, even Amazon’s Kindle Oasis (7”), and offers the 300 pixels per inch (PPI) resolution which is now standard on all non-entry level ereaders.
It also happens to be almost the same size as a typical paperback, meaning the Forma provides the closest experience to a physical book of any ereader on the market.
A built in front-light ensures you can keep reading in all lighting conditions and I found the light to be consistent across the whole of the screen, with no banding or dark patches.
While the brightness can be adjusted via a pop-up menu accessible by tapping the top of the screen, it’s also possible to adjust it simply by swiping a finger up or down the left-hand side of the screen, a feature I absolutely loved.
In addition, Kobo has included its ComfortLight PRO feature which can automatically adjust the colour temperature and reduces the levels of blue light being beamed at your eyes to create “a more natural” experience.
And, as is standard on all ereaders, you can personalise your reading experience by selecting from 11 different fonts, a variety of font sizes, text justification, line spacing and page margin options.
As mentioned above, the Forma can be used to read ebooks bought from Kobo’s own store which the Forma can connect to over Wi-Fi.
Titles bought from Kobo.com will auto download to the device when you next connect the Forma to the web, while those you buy directly from the device will be available to you instantly.
But because it supports the industry standard Epub format, the Forma can also be used to read books bought from other retailers and sites, although you’ll need to install the Adobe Digital Editions software if you want to read books that are protected by Digital Rights Management (DRM). Kobo has a step by step guide on how to do this here.
Non-DRM books can be easily added by connecting the Forma to your PC or Mac with a USB cable and dragging and dropping books to it just as you would a file to a USB stick.
In addition, the Forma can be used to borrow books from your local library using the Overdrive service, support for which is built directly into the device.
Both of these abilities give the Forma (and other Kobo ereaders) a real advantage over the Kindle which is incompatible with library lending here in the UK, cannot read Epub books and makes it hard to sideload content bought elsewhere.
Another, admittedly much smaller, thing I like about the Kobo is that it uses the cover of the book you’re reading as its screensaver and lock screen. It may seem trivial but I found it gave a more personalised experience than the Kindle which uses a rotating selection of images chosen by Amazon.
I also like that it’s possible to bring up a selection of related titles while reading a book bought from the Kobo bookstore, making it quick and easy to grab the next title in a series or just to read more from a favourite author.
Kobo claims ‘weeks’ of battery use though, as always, how you use the Forma and for how long will ultimately determine whether you achieve this.
If you read for hours a day with both the light and Wi-Fi on, you’ll get less battery life than someone who reads for a shorter period, or in conditions where the light around them is better.
But the most important point on battery life, and what I always suspect manufacturers are really seeking to convey with their ‘weeks’ claims, is that an ereader will offer you vastly more hours of reading than a phone or tablet – which are inherently more power-hungry – on a single charge.
Pricing and Availability
Kobo offers two models of the Forma, one with 8GB of storage costing £239.99 and a 32GB version costing £289.99. As 8GB is enough to store around 6,000 ebooks you’re not likely to need the more expensive version unless you’re planning to store a lot of images or PDFs on it.
Another thing in Kobo’s favour is that it doesn’t, unlike Amazon, foist adverts on its ereader users unless they pay an additional premium to have them removed.
The Forma is available from Kobo.com and from selected high street retailers, including Argos and John Lewis.
Kobo offers an optional SleepCover (£39.99) which can automatically wake your Forma when it’s opened and put it back to sleep when you close the cover, in addition to protecting the screen while the device isn’t in use.
The cover also doubles as a stand which can prop up the Forma in both portrait and landscape modes, and is a great way of using it to read reference or cookery books.
I loved the thin, light design of the Forma and the way the grip provides a natural feeling way of holding the device.
The 8” screen feels luxurious and means there’s enough space to tailor your font size and page spacings without overly limiting the number of words which can fit on the page at once.
With a starting price of £239.99 the Forma represents a significant investment and new or occasional ebook readers might be better opting for a lower priced model.
But for regular readers, the Forma offers more than enough premium features and benefits to make it the perfect upgrade from their current device.