The eReader is, for me, the least flashy, least intrusive, least demanding yet most pleasurable of all travel gadgets. The Amazon Kindle, which transformed the genre, won me over in principle the moment it appeared 10 years ago, but I didn’t warm to the devices themselves until the Paperwhite appeared in 2012, followed by the brilliant little Oasis last spring.
I’m now a devout Kindle traveller, although I read my Kindle books on an iPad Mini and iPhone (not ideal, but it saves having to carry additional gadgetry). However, the Kindle and iOS ecosystems don’t quite match up – you can’t get books directly from the Kindle app, for instance – and I find it hard with a phone or tablet to get the brightness level right in bed or on an aircraft.
But as one who remembers painfully rationing the number of books packed for space and weight reasons, I find eBooks a fantastic advance for holidays and business trips. I struggle to think of drawbacks to eBooks over the paper variety, except that the 6in Kindle screen is a bit close to a Mr Men book, making a 500-page tome seem intimidatingly long at 1,000, and I’d be fuming if I dropped my iPad, or a proper Kindle, in a pool or bath.
Enter Japanese-owned, Toronto-based eBook company Kobo (an anagram of “book”), which I have rather ignored (since it launched in 2009), possibly because I thought its tie-up with WHSmith suggested mass market more than premium quality or ground-breaking design. But now Kobo has invented the best eReader ever. Don’t order its Aura One expecting something gorgeous or obviously upscale; it is as modest and unassuming (yet superb and manageable) as Toronto – one of my favourite cities.
Every possible detail about the Aura One has been honed to quiet, unshowy Canadian perfection. It has a 7.8in E Ink display, the largest I know of, and a perfect, ergonomic, hand- and eye-friendly size. Its screen colour and intensity vary automatically throughout the day, so you’re not flooded with sleep-killing blue light at night or in darkness. The back is textured and rubberlike, so you’re unlikely to drop it; if you do, it is waterproof for up to 60 minutes in 2m of water. And the battery lasts up to a month.
One drawback for Kindle people like me: it won’t read your Kindle library without some tricky-looking work with third-party software called Epubor Ultimate, which I haven’t yet tried. But the Kobo library, like Amazon’s, has over five million titles, so if you change eReader horses in midstream, or even use both systems, you won’t lack for reading material.