Kobo Sage Is More Than Just an E-Reader

Like an iPad for reading and notes, only better

Key Takeaways

  • The 8-inch Sage e-reader works with the Kobo Stylus for note-taking and doodling.
  • It has an audiobook store and a Bluetooth connection for headphones and speakers.
  • If you don’t need to write notes, get the new Kobo Libra 2 instead.
Someone reading an ebook on a Kobo Sage while eating at an outdoor cafe.

Rakuten Kobo

The new Sage e-reader from Rakuten Kobo also plays audiobooks, connects to Bluetooth speakers and headphones, and lets you write notes on its screen with a stylus. Isn't that all a bit too much?

The beauty of an e-reader is that it only does one thing and does it pretty well. The e-ink screens of Kobos and Kindles reflect light like paper, making them restful to read, and giving them insane, weeks-long battery life.

This combines with a single-purpose design that never interrupts you with notifications or tempts you with Twitter. Kobo's new Sage does all this, but it adds in a few features that are either genius or totally miss the point of an e-reader.

"E-ink note-taking devices are a single-purpose device designed only for reading ebooks or listening to audiobooks. They are solely designed for providing a comfy experience while reading," Katherine Brown of parenting tech app company Spyic told Lifewire via email. 

Sage Advice

The Sage is pretty much a smaller version of Kobo’s recent Elipsa, a 10.3-inch monster with the same e-ink screen and stylus. You can use Sage just to read books, and for this, it has a faster-updating, contrastier 8-inch E INK Carta 1200 display, along with hardware page-turn buttons (like the Kindle Oasis) and amber LEDs that can balance the front light with the ambient light in the room.

The Sage also plays back audiobooks via headphones or a Bluetooth speaker, like many other e-readers, although with the extra twist of having a built-in audiobook store.

But the big gimmick here is that the Sage also works with Kobo's stylus. Just like with the Apple Pencil, you can write and draw on the screen. You can use it to mark up books or just open up a notebook and freestyle on the page.

All e-book readers let you highlight words on the page, but being able to draw and scribble on top brings things to a new level. That's the idea anyway. 

"The original idea was to develop a product that could make annotations in non-fiction books, everything from jotting down notes, to making highlights to writing in the margins," writes e-reader expert Michael Kozlowski on his Good E-Reader blog. 

Genius?

Many folks are all-in on ebooks. If you’re like me, you haven’t purchased a novel on paper for years. An e-reader is portable, supremely convenient, and (apart from the Kindle’s embarrassingly bad typesetting) often a better reading experience than paper. 

Someone listening to an audio book on a Kobo Sage while making pour over coffee in the kitchen.

Rakuten Kobo

But do you need this device? After all, it costs $260, whereas the similar non-pen-compatible Kobo Libra 2 is just $180, and you have to buy the $40 stylus on top. That’s getting awfully close to iPad territory. 

If you make a lot of notes, especially if you like to mark up PDFs, you may prefer the e-ink Sage for the same reasons you prefer an e-reader for books. And if you ever want to read and make notes outside, in daylight, then the iPad—or any other LCD tablet—is useless.

If you’re a reader and an enthusiastic note-taker, having a great all-in-one unit that works everywhere, is waterproof, can be read in sunlight, and rarely needs charging seems amazing. 

But if you review a lot of PDFs, then the small-screen might not be the best tool for the job. PDFs do not reflow to fit different screen sizes. Shrink an A4 or letter-sized PDF to fit an 8-inch screen, and you may render the text too small to read. 

The Sage, then, is a niche within a niche. And that’s fantastic. Kobo is a big player in the e-reader world, and it’s recently been a lot more innovative and interesting than Amazon.

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