Some have declared the e-reader market all but dead as more consumers opt for multipurpose tablets instead of dedicated devices for reading e-books. Sony (SNE) threw in the towel this year, and Barnes & Noble (BKS) may not be far behind.
In 2013, Kobo shocked the industry by doing the opposite of what everyone else had for the past few years. Instead of continuing to slash prices and aiming to make its devices an impulse buy, Kobo released the Aura HD, a premium e-reader priced at $170.
The Aura HD sold well (Kobo says rather than being a niche product, it made up roughly 25% of its sales), and now AMZN has responded with the $219 Kindle Voyage ($199 with Special Offers).
If you’re a hard-core consumer of digital books, which premium e-reader comes out on top? Does the Kindle Voyage beat the Kobo e-reader, my previous pick as the best out there?
AMZN Kindle Voyage vs. Kobo Aura HD: Display
The Kobo e-reader set a new standard for display quality on e-readers with a 265 ppi resolution that blew away anything AMZN offered. It was also larger, at 6.8-inches, making e-books seem less cramped. The display made the device, as you can read in my Aura HD review.
However, in firing back with the Kindle Voyage, Amazon is upping the ante.
The new Kindle’s display size remains at 6-inches, giving up some real estate to the Kobo e-reader for the sake of portability.
There’s no disputing the fact that the Kindle now has the upper hand in screen quality, though. The Kindle Voyage boasts a razor-sharp 300 ppi high-contrast display and new adaptive front lighting system that’s brighter and automatically adjusts based on ambient light and duration of the reading session.
AMZN Kindle Voyage vs. Kobo Aura HD: Look and Feel
The Kobo Aura HD projected a premium experience by way of a sculpted case that added visual interest while providing a more comfortable grip. It was also available in an “Espresso” color that helped it to stand out.
AMZN has gone much further to give the Kindle Voyage a high-end look and feel.
The display cover is made of micro-etched glass and the back is magnesium. And it’s very light, at 7.6 mm; Amazon says it’s the thinnest device it’s ever made.
AMZN also added pressure-sensitive sensors on each of the side bezels so the user can lightly press to turn pages without ever having to touch the screen (complete with gentle vibration feedback to indicate a successful page turn).
AMZN Kindle Voyage vs. Kobo Aura HD: Software
Both devices offer software that has been developed over years, making for a highly polished user experience.
AMZN touts its X-Ray feature for in-depth detail on an e-book’s contents, instant translation of foreign text, Goodreads community interaction and a coming Family Share option for linking libraries.
The Kobo e-reader features more detailed font control (10 styles, adjustable weight and 24 sizes versus 8 sizes for the Kindle Voyage), Kobo Reading Life (software that tracks reading habits, goals and stats) and online sharing via Facebook (FB) integration.
AMZN Kindle Voyage vs. Kobo Aura HD: E-Book Store
While it used to be easy to give AMZN the clear win on e-book availability, its Kindle Store no longer has such a clear-cut advantage over competitors like Kobo.
In fact Kobo now claims to have more than 4 million e-book titles available.
Price can be hit or miss. Amazon says it has more than 2 million titles priced at $9.99 or less, but I buy e-books on both platforms and often find Kobo to be cheaper.
The AMZN Kindle does have an advantage for Amazon Prime members, though, who get free e-books throughout the year. The Kobo e-reader also lacks an equivalent to AMZN’s Kindle Unlimited program that gives all-you-can-read access to 700,000 e-books for $10/month.
AMZN Kindle Voyage vs. Kobo Aura HD: Conclusion
Ultimately, the winner is going to depend largely on your personal preferences. Both devices offer excellent specs and deliver a premium experience, although the Amazon e-reader has an edge thanks to newer technology.
If you’re invested in AMZN Kindle e-books, then the Kindle Voyage is a no-brainer to protect your digital library investment.
If you prefer ePUB books, you want to save a little cash (the Aura HD is $30 less than the cheapest Kindle Voyage), or a bigger display is important, then the Kobo e-reader is the better choice.
And here’s something to complicate your decision. Kobo is now taking pre-orders on the $179.99 Aura H2O, a new premium e-reader based on the Aura HD that’s both waterproof and dustproof.
So the Kindle Voyage launches with a slight edge in sharpness and more advanced lighting, but this upcoming Kobo e-reader will survive a drop in the bath tub or blowing sand at the beach, while the Aura HD will remain available as a cheaper option.
The e-reader market may indeed be fading, but the premium e-reader battle is just beginning.
As of this writing, Brad Moon did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.