Kobo finally discovered audiobooks! Your public library’s favorite e-reader now comes in two models that have Bluetooth support for audiobook playback, something Amazon’s competing Kindles have done since 2009.
The Kobo Libra 2 and Kobo Sage have other things going for them, but Bluetooth audio support is the biggest change. It’s pretty basic; it only supports Kobo’s proprietary audiobook format and doesn’t have anything like Amazon’s read-along Immersion Reading feature. But it’s a start.
Otherwise, the main impetus for releasing the Libra 2 appears to be a next-gen screen from E Ink. The E Ink Carta 1200, released in July, improves response time by 20% and contrast by 15%. The Kobo Elipsa was the first e-reader to use it, and now it’s coming to the less expensive models. The Libra 2 is waterproof, weighs 7.5 ounces, and has a 7-inch, 300ppi screen.
The Sage is an 8-inch e-reader that pulls a track that Amazon’s Kindle Oasis can’t match: it’s stylus-compatible. At 8.46 ounces, this may be a more manageable alternative to Kobo’s larger Elipsa, or for that matter the Remarkable note-taking tablet. The Sage also supports a new “PowerCover” case, which has a secondary battery that charges the e-reader when it isn’t being used. (There’s a similar case for the Oasis.)
Both models have color-changing front-lights (from white to yellow(, 32GB of storage, and IPX8 waterproofing.
Like other Kobo models, these have two main advantages over the more popular Kindles. First, your local public library can usually be installed as a Kobo’s default bookstore via Overdrive, which is a little more convenient than going through the library website for Kindles. Kobo e-readers also natively support a range of formats: EPUB, PDF, CBR and others, and have built-in Dropbox integration. That means you can more easily drag and drop books from other sources into a Kobo, while Amazon generally requires awkward transcoding for non-Amazon books.
The Sage costs $259.99 and the Libra 2 costs $179.99. They’re both a little more expensive than the ad-supported versions of Amazon’s competitors, the Kindle Oasis ($249.99) and the new Paperwhite ($139.99).
The new Kobo readers go on pre-order today, and on sale Oct. 19. We will review them soon.