Kobo Clara 2E Review

I got my first electronic reader ever and here are some of my thoughts on it with KOReader installed on it.

So, a few months ago, I posted on Fosstodon about the lack of good e-readers that were maintained by open source and such, kind of like how retro handhelds are mantained and modified by their fans1.

Turns out, Kobo devices are pretty well supported by an alternative document viewer as well: KOReader. So I finally decided to acquire one. I went for the Kobo Clara 2E, and I almost immediately installed KOReader on it.

The device itself has a 6 inch display, it might not sound that big, but because of the screen ratio, it works great. The bezels are thick, so you have somewhere to grab it from and avoid tapping the screen, turning pages by mistake, etc. Other than a power button on the back of the device—kind of where a fingerprint reader would be if it were a phone—there are no physical buttons to turn the pages, but that’s something I don’t care about.

Now, after turning it on, Kobo requires you to make an account to register the device and be able to use it at all. I think there is a way to circumvent this by popping the back off and changing the SD card for one with unlocked firmware, or something like that. I just registered mine, since I was lazy.

After registration, I decided to explore the regular Kobo interface for a bit. The screen looked great and it was easy to interact with. Part of me wanted to left it as is, and keep using it—that didnt’ last long. The stats weren’t good enough, and I also had to convert my ebooks to their kepub format since their normal epub support is not as good. It isn’t hard to do, Calibre can even convert transferred books on the fly with the KoboTouchExtended plugin, but I would rather not, I can’t help but tinker with my devices—it’s my entire reason for living!

Kobo Clara 2E
Kobo Clara 2E

Installing KOReader

In case you don’t know, KOReader is a wonderful program that can be embedded into e-readers and a myriad of other devices. You can install it on you phone on F-Droid as well! But the lack of animations and scrolling can make it a bit tedious to use when compared to other offerings like Librera.

Still, on my Kobo? It was wonderful. I installed it and it basically flies, I found a one-click installation tutorial with some scripts that run on Linux and other systems just fine, I pretty much did nothing but mount it, run the script, leave it plugged for a couple minutes and everything took care of itself.

KOReader has a bunch of bells and whistles, but it is still rather minimal. I was able to customize a lot of things, such as my progress bar info, the gestures and tap shortcuts, and gain access to better stats and other great tools, such as SSH access and wireless book transfer with Calibre.

Another neat feature it has would be panel cropping support, for Manga or Comics, you can tap and hold on any panel and it will make the panel fill the screen, which I find much better than zooming in and out with gestures on Kobo’s firmware.

Maybe the main missing feature in KOReader is the lack of a proper overview screen, or main page where you can have quick access to books, series, stats and the like.

The main view is just the file manager, and since Calibre will organize books in folders by author, you will have to get into each folder to find the books manually (or with a search bar), no way to just list all the books at once or similar.

Overtime, the History view can work well, but it is still not the ideal.

You can also install dictionaries in the stardict format on it, but I am going to write a proper overview of KOReader and my setup in a later post.

Final thoughts

I have read a lot more than in previous months thanks to this acquisition, which makes me quite happy. I think that separating reading from my phone is a really good way to be less prone to distractions. I’ve been also reading along with a friend and the chatter about whatever happens each chapter is always very fun and enjoyable, which is a nice reward for making the effort. Being part of a book club is quite good, since you have to commit as well.

I think one thing I should get though is a nice flipbook case for it, because this thing gets thrown around in my backpack and it has already clashed with coins and keys which a few small scratches on its plastic body and even the screen. It is all superficial though, and invisible when the backlight is on. Another annoying problem at least for me, is that fingerprint smudges can be kinda common. They are not noticeable with the backlight on, but if you have it turned off, you can notice them from some angles.

Regardless, nothing is a deal breaker here for me, and I can highly recommend this device which has come down in price quite a bit thanks to the arrival of new devices from Kobo, such as the Kobo Clara BW, Clara Colour, and Libra Colour. I would stick to the BW model since I don’t care about color, but it is something else to consider, a bit of a shame that they came out a month after I bought mine, but it is how it is…

This is day 36 of #100DaysToOffload and post 4 for #WeblogPoMo2024

  1. To be fair, I thought the systems were more supported that they are, turns out the communities on a lot of these retro handhelds from China are rather small. Some devices like the Miyoo Mini Plus are great, and others are still barebones when it comes and usually the stock OS is as good as it will get unless you code your own firmware. 

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