Kobo Clara HD

Rakuten makes a few different models of Kobo eReaders, and is really the only company that seems to be giving Amazon any sort of run for its money in this market. The Kobo line-up of offerings tend to be fairly comparable to the Kindle line across the board, and where Kobo might lack a Kindle feature here, it makes up for it with a different feature elsewhere.

The Clara HD is Kobo's answer to Amazon's Kindle Paperwhite. The Clara is not water-resistant like the newer Paperwhites are, but it weighs a few hairs less (compared to my wife's slightly older Paperwhite, anyway). Both devices have 300ppi e-ink displays, but the Kobo has a lighting system that bests the Kindle by offering an adjustable (manual or automatic) shift toward a warmer hue for less distracting nighttime reading.

Amazon's digital bookstore is massive, but Kobo's is nothing to sneeze at and, with very little effort, one can de-DRM his or her Kindle book collection and load them on to the Kobo with ease (I have done so already with the handful of Kindle books I'd originally purchased to read on my iPad). All Kobo devices support a wider-range of file formats than Kindles, too, so supporting various DRM-free files is a snap.

(A brief aside: I really do make an effort not to buy things from Amazon if I can help it. But when I do, I do so through smile.amazon.com. This allows a half a percent of what I spend on my order to be donated to a charity of my choosing without spending a penny more. Amazon gets that write-off, but at least I'm 0.5% helping a good cause. Kobo does something similar, but for local, independent bookstores. If you buy an ebook through their website instead of through the device itself, a portion of that sale goes to the store you selected.)

(Shit! Another aside! But it's also important: The focus of any e-reader should rightly be all about the books, and I'll continue talking about the books in a moment, but I do want to take a second to say that one feature built into the Kobo software that I love is Pocket support. A read-it-later service now owned by Mozilla, Pocket lets you save links and articles to the app/service to read when you have more time. Since this is now part of a device that's way more distraction-free than a phone/tablet/computer, I'm actually getting through my backlog of articles when I'm between books. It's pretty incredible. Okay, books...)

Amazon gives Kindle owners who subscribe to its Kindle Unlimited service access to books in a similar manner to how Prime Video works for movies, whereas the Kobo software ties directly into a local library card-carrying member's account for digital checkouts via built-in OverDrive support. I've been using the Libby app on my iPad to check-out books digitally already, but I really hated the reading experience on the iPad itself, so having this capability baked into the Kobo experience was another small draw for me to go Kobo.

When you search for a book in the Kobo Store, you can choose if you want to buy it or see if it's available digitally through your llibrary with OverDrive. If the title is available, you can check it out right then-and-there, or place a digital hold on it which we can all agree is a ridiculous concept, but here we are.

If you click on your library system's offerings, OverDrive will recommend books that are available to check-out right now, and/or popular reads, as well as selections from a few random categories (one category currently listed is "Motherhood: All Love Begins with Them" and features Bird Box, but also Trevor Noah's Born a Crime).

Since the OverDrive integration was one of my most anticipated features, as soon as I got the Clara HD setup, I browsed the "Available Now" section and within seconds was reading something that I never had designs on -- John Grisham's The Whistler.

Reading on the Kobo is simply delightful! The display is clear and plenty bright enough -- even at 2% brightness -- for nighttime reading (or bumped up a bit in direct sunlight), it's just the right size and weight for one-handed reading, and the battery lasts and lasts (I probably charge it once a month? Thanks e-ink!).