Rebecca Isaacs is a writer and an educator. She covers all sorts of products, from video games to e-readers and light therapy alarm clocks to standing desks.
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Rebecca Isaacs / Lifewire
Smooth plastic design
Adjustable brightness settings built-in
Page display customization
Long battery life
OverDrive for library options
Poor e-book store design
Lower display pixel density
Limited ebook deals and OverDrive options
The Kobo Nia is a Walmart-exclusive e-reader that really highlights options and display customization. While there are some downsides, such as the limited ebook sales and deals, the OverDrive option can sometimes make up for those shortfalls.
We purchased the Kobo Nia e-Reader so our expert reviewer could thoroughly test and assess it. Keep reading for our full product review.
I love books, but when I’m packing my suitcases to go on vacation, I’m always looking to maximize space in my carry-on luggage. While it doesn’t come with a lot of fancy extras, the Kobo Nia functions as a basic, compact e-reader I can tuck into my bags on the fly. With a ComfortLight display and 8GB of memory, it’s easy to take a library on the go. I used the e-reader for weeks of testing, and enjoyed the easy OverDrive borrowing and general portability.
The Kobo Nia is incredibly light at only 6.06 ounces, making it easy to carry anywhere. Its plastic black case is a little on the chunky side and opts for a more angular approach to its design. It doesn’t detract from its function, but it does look a little awkward. At 6.3.x4.4x0.4 inches (HWD), it’s also an incredibly small e-reader, which is perfect for slipping into a backpack or a duffel bag.
At 212ppi, the Kobo Nia doesn’t have the worst pixel density on the market though it’s not as high as some rivals. The Carta E Ink anti-glare display also offers a 1024x758 resolution that offers easy reading for the eyes. The gold standard these days is around 300ppi, but realistically, I couldn’t differentiate between the 212ppi and the 300ppi on the Kindle Oasis.
You’ll be able to read for hours and hold onto almost any book, but unlike the Kindle, you won’t be able to use the storage for audiobooks.
As I kept playing around with the Kobo Nia, one of the features that struck me was the use of the device’s ComfortLight. While it’s a single light and isn’t as fancy as the ComfortLight PRO the Kobo Clara and the other Kobo family e-readers offer, the ComfortLight is bright enough that I could read in the dark without disturbing my slumbering elderly cat, whom I dare not awaken. What’s also great is that the display allowed me to brighten or dim the ComfortLight with a gentle swipe on the left-hand side of the screen.
Instead of pressing the top of the e-reader, the instructions told me to press in the middle to bring up the menu. At first, I thought this was really silly. Most of my e-reader experience revolved around pressing the top of the screen to open the menu whenever I needed to look through the bookstore, choose a new book, or check my place.
The Kobo instructed me to tap the center of the screen to open the menu—and, more importantly, customization options. I thought I would loathe how I had to press the screen’s center. As time went on, I really liked this feature. It was easy to remember and kept accidental screen customization adjustments from occurring. I had to go in separately to find a font from 12 styles and 50 font designs to find one that worked for me. And, unlike the Kindle, I couldn't increase or decrease the font size by swiping my fingers. All of the customizations required a separate page.
Instead of looking at the book covers and scrolling through them, the Kobo Nia lists books with the author and the percentage read. That makes it easier to pick up where you left off and it allows you to categorize books by authors, genres, and titles.
One of the coolest features I fell in love with was the OverDrive app on the Kobo Nia, which allows you to connect with an online library feature to check out books through the built-in Wi-Fi feature. You can either choose from your local library or an online database. I checked the various titles and was excited to see a plethora of options, from Michelle Obama’s memoir to Colson Whitehead’s latest novel. Checking out a book allowed me fifteen days to read it. After fifteen days, it automatically disappears from the Kobo interface.
The Carta E Ink anti-glare display also offers a 1024x758 resolution that offers easy reading for the eyes.
Once I got past the major titles, however, more obscure titles weren’t available. As much as I wanted to read Tony Horwitz’s latest novel, it was not on OverDrive, which meant I needed to purchase it.
More annoying was the fact that unlike its competitor, the Kindle, the Kobo Nia only offered me one book deal per day. I could glance at the various popular titles and purchase them, but I would be looking at a $5-10 price tag for most of these books. And even then, their algorithms favor repeats of the same books across their limited store categories. There also is no option for unlimited reading like the Kindle Unlimited feature. If you’re an avid reader, it may be in your best interest to opt for a Kindle. However, based on the book features alone, if you enjoy supporting your local library, the Kobo Nia offers support and lending at your fingertips through fifteen different file compatibilities.
Thanks to the 8GB of storage space, the Kobo Nia offers room for up to 8,000 books. You will be able to take an entire library with you. While that’s a lot of storage, keep in mind that it’s a mixed blessing since the Kobo Nia doesn’t seem to offer any kind of Audible option. You’ll be able to read for hours and hold onto almost any book, but unlike the Kindle, you won’t be able to use the storage for audiobooks.
One of the coolest features I fell in love with was the OverDrive app on the Kobo Nia, which allows you to connect with an online library feature to check out books through the built-in Wi-Fi feature.
The Kobo Nia came with a 50 percent charge when I first pulled it out of its box. Originally, I thought this would be good enough for hours because I wanted to read straight away. However, with each perusal of the Kobo store, the battery life plunged and I found myself plugging in after only four days of use.
Once I charged to full and grabbed all the books I wanted from the Kobo store, the battery held up quite well. I’ve read for 20 hours and going, and it’s only gotten to 60 percent battery life. While that may not seem like much, I was surfing the Kobo store for a little bit. Without that the drain caused by accessing the store, the battery life would be a lot higher.
The $99 price tag for a basic e-reader isn’t bad, but you have to consider price of books themselves. Unlike the Kobo Nia, the Amazon Kindle offers Audible and daily deals and unlimited reading for a monthly fee. And if you buy a Kindle with ads, it defrays the cost significantly. However, the OverDrive library adds value to the Nia through free ebook borrowing. If you’re adamant about avoiding Amazon’s products and want to support your public library, then the Nia becomes a solid option.
Most of the time when I’ve been reading on the Kobo Nia, I constantly compared it to my Amazon Kindle (2019). It makes sense, as both are considered the basic e-reader for their respective lines. What’s interesting is that their display pixel densities are quite different, with the Kinde’s clocking in at 167ppi and the Kobo’s running at 212ppi. When comparing the two side-by-side, the Nia is noticeably sharper. However, a lot of their specs are the same. They have the same 6-inch anti-glare display, and both offer background lights for optimized reading at night and during long-haul flights.
Ultimately, it comes down to the software that the Nia and the Kindle offer. While the Kindle offers daily deals and a more expansive experience for the avid reader with the Kindle Unlimited, hooking up to your local library is a total pain. The Nia circumvents that and offers the library ebook experience immediately on the device through OverDrive. That makes the Nia a great option if you’re looking for a casual read every once in a while, or want a direct way to support your local library. However, if you’re looking for daily deals and an unlimited reading experience, the Kindle is best for you.
A basic e-reader that can pull from your public library.
Despite some small downsides, the Kobo Nia is a great basic e-reader. The OverDrive library, sharper screen pixel density, and the adjustable ComfortLight really make it stand out as one of the best alternatives to the Amazon Kindle.
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