Kobo Aura HD eReader is Linux-friendly
Article posted 28/12/2013
Having recently received a Kobo Aura HD eReader for Christmas, I was very pleasantly surprised to see how friendly the device was towards my Linux operating system.
While Kobo do not specifically actually mention Linux anywhere on their site or in the included instruction booklet, the device behaves in an operating system agnostic way - which in my opinion, is the right way.
This is not intended to be an actual review on the device itself, however here are the information/specs of the eReader:
Kobo Aura HD
A limited-edition device with a 6.8-inch e-ink display, with a high resolution of 1440×1080 with 265 ppi. It is 8.47 oz and a microSD expansion slot. Other improvements compared to the Kobo Touch include a built-in "ComfortLight" light, a faster processor (1 GHz), twice the onboard storage (4 GB) and a claimed twice the battery life (estimated at 2 months). It supports ePub, Adobe PDF, plain text, HTML, and unprotected Mobipocket (mobi, prc). It was released on April 25, 2013.
Upon first switching on the Aura HD, the device will inform you it needs to be set up. Now the instruction booklet, which I imagine is a fairly generic/standard one sent with all Kobo eReaders, even ones without Wi-Fi, simply tells you to connect the device to a computer and download the Kobo eReader Desktop software to complete the setup.
However, the latest versions, as far as I can tell, of that software are in fact only available for Windows and Mac. There is a Kobo Desktop Linux version available, but it is outdated and may or may not work with a new device (I haven't verified it either way, for reasons you'll see in a moment). Supposedly there is a new Linux client in development though, but there isn't much information to be found on this.
However, the Kobo Aura HD has built-in Wi-Fi and upon booting up the device it actually gives you the choice of connecting to a computer and downloading the aforementioned software or you can in fact just set up the device over Wi-Fi, which is what I did and definitely what I'd recommend.
This was quick and painless and the device automatically downloaded needed updates, though you do need to create a kobo.com account.
Next I connected it to my desktop running Arch Linux, with the plan of transferring my ebooks in my favourite FOSS ebook manager software Calibre to my new eReader.
This is the best part: I never installed the Kobo Desktop software and never planned to. But the device instantly recognised that it was plugged in to a computer and exposed itself to my OS as two removable disks - one for the actual device storage and the other was for the microSD card.
This is brilliant and if you've used MP3 players that simply act as removable disks to transfer music files to (instead of relying on particular software etc -cough- iTunes -cough-), this will be quite familiar to you.
However I didn't even bother manually transferring my ePub format ebooks on my hard drive, though you can do that. I simply fired up Calibre as I was intending to all along. The software instantly detected the Kobo Aura HD and all I had to do next was select all my ebooks in the library and hit "Send to Device".
Bam. Easy. Eject the Kobo from the OS and unplugged it and I started reading right away.
So you can quite easily add your own existing ebooks to the Aura HD; however you can also, if you wish, take advantage of Kobo's online ebook store. If you purchase ebooks from the store or even just wish to sample a preview, it will be added to your Kobo account and automatically synced to your device, which is nice. But if you wish to only buy and use DRM-free ebooks, you can do so and avoid the Kobo store altogether.
Finally, this article was specifically about my experience with the Kobo Aura HD on Linux, however it's quite likely the rest of Kobo's eReader range is fairly similar. The only potential snag could be with the devices that do not come with Wi-Fi built-in, which may mean fiddling with the older Linux version of Kobo Desktop or trying to run the latest Windows version of the software in WINE. However that would only be for the device setup at least, because as I mentioned, you are not forced to do everything through Kobo's service.
In summary, I am very happy both with the quality and reading experience on this eReader and also the ease at which this Linux user can connect it to his Linux-based PC without any hassle whatsoever. It's a great device and if you're looking for a great quality eReader that gives you a lot of flexibility and freedom compared to some of the other options out there, I would happily recommend the Kobo Aura HD.
Have any opinions or pointers to add? Let me know in the comments!