How Kobo's Clara 2E Could Make You Regret Your Kindle Paperwhite Purchase

But don't buy it just to be green

  • Specs-wise, Kindles and Kobos are evenly-matched.
  • Kobo has better typography, and a much better UI. 
  • Lock-in from previous purchases can be a big roadblock on switching.
Someone sitting at a table reading the Kobo Clara E2 while drinking coffee.


Kobo's new mid-level Clara 2E is better than the Kindle Paperwhite in almost every way, but unless you're in the market for a new e-reader, then you shouldn't rush into it. 

While there are cheaper (and also fancier) e-readers around, the best models for most people are Kobo's Clara and Amazon's Kindle Paperwhite. These both come with everything you need and very little you don't. But the Clara 2E has two big advantages over the Kindle. One is that it is made mostly from recycled plastic. The other is that its software is way better. 

"For anyone who ever prospected for e-readers, it's pretty well known that Kobo gives slightly superior pieces of hardware compared to Kindles overall. The Kobo is a better device, but the Kindle has the advantage of using Amazon's library," mechanical engineer, consumer product designer, and Kobo fan Ludovic Chung-Sao told Lifewire via email when asked about the Kobo vs. the Kindle. 

Round One, Hardware

Specs-wise, these two are almost equal. They both have Bluetooth for connecting headphones and listening to e-books, they have warm front lights for comfortable late-night reading, they're waterproof, and both have battery life measured in weeks. 

The main difference in hardware is that the Kindle has a 6.8-inch screen, a little bigger than the Kobo's 6-inch unit. That's an advantage or a disadvantage, depending on whether you value a bigger screen over portability or vice versa. 

The Kobo Clara E2 sitting on a book, surrounded by books.


Then things start to diverge. The Clara 2E, says Kobo, is made with "over 85% recycled plastic, including 10% ocean-bound plastic." For plastic devices, this should honestly be the default. The Paperwhite, on the other hand, has a "Climate Pledge Friendly" logo and link on its Amazon product page. Follow that link, and you'll end up in a labyrinth of empty claims and greenwashing. 

So far, there's not so much to choose between the two. If you're only looking at the hardware and specs, then Kobo wins, but seeing as an e-reader can last you for years and years, it doesn't make that much difference. 

Round Two: Software

When you're reading an e-book, you'll spend most of your time looking at the pages of that book, of course. I have used both Kindle and Kobo on and off over the years, and the Kobo not only has better, more customizable typography and a far-superior built-in dictionary, but it also just looks nicer. 

The Kindle feels like you're reading computer text on a screen. The Kobo feels like you're reading the page of a paper book. 

"The reason I keep on picking up a Kobo device is because of the reading experience," says Kobo fan and reader ChristianBK in a Reddit thread

This might seem like a picky, esoteric difference. But if you're in the market for an e-reader instead of reading on your phone or iPad, then you're already in pretty esoteric territory. You've opted for an e-reader because it offers a superior reading experience, and typography and design are a huge part of that. 

Someone reading an ebook in bed at night with their partner asleep next to them.


Then there's the rest of it. Kobo's library and store views are quite different from the Kindle. Again, the Kobo feels less web-pagey than the Kindle. This isn't always better. Kobo's recommendations, for example, are displayed as cards in a kind of fanned stack. It's fine, but it doesn't make it any easier to navigate. 

There are two other major software differences. One is the way previews work. On the Kindle, you save a preview to your library, then you go and open it. It's a truncated version of the book. On Kobo, you can preview the book right there in the store browser view. The experience is much more like picking up and browsing books in a store. 

The downside is that in my local territory, at least, the Kobo is missing a large chunk of previews. Whereas almost every book in the Kindle store offers a preview, it seems that many Kobo books do not, which means that you will probably never buy them unless you already follow the author or know the book. 

The other big difference is that Kobo readers have the Pocket read-later service built in. This means you can save long web articles, and they get formatted for Kobo.

If you have a bunch of Kindle books already, then you may be locked into the Kindle ecosystem, but if you prefer a superior reading experience or if this is your first time buying an e-reader, consider the Kobo. They're way nicer.

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