In Australia we only have two choices of ebook reader manufacturers: Rakuten’s Kobo and Amazon’s Kindle.

Amazon has a few more famous authors you can buy but you can only buy books from Amazon and they don’t work with Australian Public Libraries. Kobo supports a lot more ebook formats eg: Project Gutenberg free out of copyright ePub, borrowing Overdrive books (if your local library has Overdrive) and buying ebooks from Aussie booksellers Booktopia and Angus & Robertson.

Sales of dedicated e-ink ebook readers peaked early last decade and then tailed off as smartphone screens got bigger and better. While it’s certainly a lot less tiring on your eyes to read a book on an e-ink ebook reader, most people decide to use the Kindle or Kobo apps on their iPhone or Android phone/tablet instead.

That makes e-ink e-book readers a niche kind of gadget, generally purchased by people who have already owned a quite old e-ink previous model and want a big upgrade to access features they couldn’t get before.

That’s why the launch of Kobo’s new base model Nia e-reader is initially puzzling because if you look at the specifications it’s not really new — basically the hardware guts of the recently discontinued Kobo Aura 2 with storage space increased to 8GB, inside the current model Kobo Clara HD plastic body.

Kobo Nia vs Kindle, Kobo Nia vs Kobo Clara HD

The Nia launch makes more sense when you compare it with the base model Kindle because while now even the base models for both companies have built-in lights you can use, the Nia has a nicer screen resolution at 212ppi compared to Kindle’s 167ppi. The Nia is $149.95 and the Kindle $139.00 so for $11 more the Nia gives you a sharper screen to read from.

But wait! At a price of $149.95 the Nia is only $40 less than the Kobo Clara HD at $189.95 which has a substantially better 300ppi screen resolution versus the Nia’s 212ppi. The screen quality and sharpness difference is quite noticeable.

Another difference is that the Nia has a built-in white/blue Comfortlight but the Clara HD has Comfortlight Pro which lets you switch between blue/white and a more yellow night light for more comfortable bed time or low light reading.

Kobo Nia Specifications

Screen: 6″ 212 PPI Carta E Ink display, 1024 ร— 758 resolution
Weight: 172 g
Size: 112.4 x 159.3 x 9.2 mm
Storage: 8 GB
Front-light: ComfortLight, a one-colour light with adjustable brightness
Customizability: TypeGenius: 12 different fonts and over 50 font styles
Exclusive font weight and sharpness settings
Supported formats: 15 file formats supported natively (EPUB, EPUB3, FlePub, PDF, MOBI, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP, TIFF, TXT, HTML, RTF, CBZ, CBR)
Connectivity: WiFi 802.11b/g/n and Micro USB
Battery Life: 1000 mAh, weeks of battery life*
Languages: English, French, French (Canada), German, Spanish, Spanish (Mexico), Italian, Catalan, Portuguese, Portuguese (Brazil), Dutch, Danish, Swedish, Finnish, Norwegian, Turkish, Japanese, Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese
Other: No advertising, no interruptions

Kobo Nia vs Kobo Touch 2011 model

When you consider how much mobile phones, computers and tablets have improved during the 2nd decade of this century it’s fair to say that Kobo and Amazon have been very slow to improve in comparison.

Both have made improvements over time especially to software but ereader hardware just hasn’t innovated much in the last decade beyond adding a light, waterproofing and being a bit faster. To be fair Amazon’s Kindle has been even slower than Kobo, generally copying new Kobo features later after analysing how popular theyโ€™ve been.

So let’s see how the Nia that Kobo has lent me for a few days compares to the Kobo Touch I reviewed in 2011.

For starters Wi-Fi support is still only 2.4Ghz wifi. The Touch has a button on the bottom front and also at the top left, while the Nia just has one button at centre bottom. The Touch has a padded back feel while the Nia has a dotted pattern. Both use micro usb for recharging or connecting to a computer to load up with ePubs, PDF’s etc.

The software is quite similar because to their credit Kobo still send updates to my ancient Kobo device. The last patch was only 3 months ago. In terms of book storage the Nia has 8GB (roughly 6000 books) while the Touch has 2GB of which I’ve used 1.3GB.

Battery life for both is still several weeks if Wi-Fi is off and lighting is off. Obviously the Nia battery will fall a lot faster if you keep it connected to Wi-Fi and use the light a lot.

Surprisingly boot time was almost the same, start time from powered off the Nia took 28 seconds and Touch 30 seconds. The bigger difference was in generally navigating the user interface and reading where the Nia was much snappier to react.

The Nia’s screen is a bit nicer but not a huge amount compared to the 2011 Kobo Touch. Screen size at 6″ is same which is fine and the bezels are smaller but still you would have thought bezels could’ve been reduced more by now. The reading difference is the Nia’s built-in light which makes it much easier to read when there’s no sunlight or not enough over head lighting inside.

Are there Accessories and should you buy the Kobo Nia?

As expected there is an optional Nia SleepCover accessory available in black, aqua and yellow for $34.95.

While the blue and yellow colours are very bold and fun, personally I’ve found e-ink e-book readers to be very tough even if kept unprotected in a backpack.

If you’re willing to pay for the Nia and a sleep case, then for a similar total price you’d get a substantially enhanced low light and night time reading experience by buying the Kobo Clara HD without a case instead.

If you only read during the day then Kobo Nia is a fine choice and will save you a few dollars, it’s available from July 21 for RRP $149.95 at the Kobo Australia website and select retailers.

The Kobo Clara HD is already available for RRP $189.95. If you’re interested in a hands on Clara HD review my colleague Phil wrote one some time ago that you should read.

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I hope the EU prohibits this new Kobo from being sold there, due to the microUSB data and charging.

Edward Jackson

I’m still using my 2011 Kobo Touch, and the only real incentive for me to upgrade is front lighting. That being said, I think I’ll wait till the next time the Clara HD goes on sale.

Neerav Bhatt

Excellent plan