The Kobo Touch gives you full access to its internal memory, so if you have an existing library of ePub files you want to read, it's happy to oblige. However, it also offers the Kobo Store, Kobo's answer to the Amazon Kindle Store.
To get started you need to create and account on your PC or Mac and link it to the ereader by plugging it into your computer while the free Kobo app is running. While the two million-strong library sounds good, navigation of it on a computer isn't so hot. This is especially apparent when browsing using a computer, where the passage through subcategories feels clumsy and the software a bit under-optimised at this point.
It looks reasonably good, but is nowhere near as convenient as being able to buy a book on the Amazon website and have it beamed to your reader automaticallyonly, as you can with a Kindle. Loading the store on the Touch itself, using the built-in Wi-Fi, was also a little slow.
Prices aren't hugely attractive either, and it's not a great discovery tool. There are plenty of categories and a cheap reads section, but you can't tap on an authors name to see their other books and it doesn't assess your collection to suggest titles you might like. However, there's plenty of scope for Kobo to tweak the Store experience over the coming months.
The Kobo Store does offer multi-page previews of titles and has plenty of free books, but it's only the Project Guttenburg fare you could snap up independently of the Store. At the time of writing, no newspapers or magazines were available to us UK folk - even though there is a section specifically for this content. To the Store's credit, the Kobo Touch allows Wi-Fi sync, removing the need to connect to your computer directly after the initial setup.
Competing with an infrastructure as developed as Amazon's is always going to be tough, and the Kobo option looks a lot rosier when squared up against other manufacturers' models instead. It does offer ePub support, though, still missing from the Kindle line-up. Kobo also supports the formats demanded by the UK's main ebook lending services.
According to Kobo's documentation on the Touch, it can read CBR and CBZ comic book files too, but it refused to recognise the CBR books we uploaded to the device. Further investigation revealed it's a problem with the current firmware, and should hopefully be fixed soon.
These are neat extras, but probably aren’t going to convince comic book nuts – thanks to the lack of colour. The Kobo Touch is keen on extras like this support and the reading achievements, so much so that – like the Kindle – it has its own “superfluous features” section. Within it, there’s Sudoku, a basic web browser and a sketchbook. Kobo says these features are “not officially supported”, but Sudoku in particular is a neat addition. Like other ereader web browsers, this one is slow and rudimentary – really just there to make further use of the built-in Wi-Fi.
Kobo has clearly been careful not to miss out on any important features of its key rivals – it’s an aggressive and carefully-specced product. Even if the Kindle Touch were available in the UK, we can’t imagine it would be any cheaper than the Kobo Touch.
For all its efforts, it doesn’t do quite enough to make us stop wanting the touch-enabled Amazon offering, or wipe out the memory of the Sony PRS-350. It’s a tiny bit slow considering the generation of ereaders it’s a part of, and the Kobo Store has some way to go before it can be considered in the same league as the Amazon Kindle Store. However, it's imbued with a sense of style and fun that makes it very likeable – in a way that most previous smaller-name ereaders aren’t. If you need a touchscreen reader now, the Kobo Touch, Sony PRS-350 and PRS-650 are the only models to consider. And this is the cheapest of the lot.
The Kobo Touch is the latest ereader to take on the high street buyer. And for the most part, it’s a great success. It’s thin, light, attractive and has an E-ink screen on-par with the best out there. On pure speed it can’t match the latest Kindle, and the Kobo Store could do with some optimisation, but if you need a touchscreen ereader, this is the best-connected option available in the UK.