Ask Adrian: Our tech editor tackles your trickiest technology problems
Q My father is an avid book reader with a birthday coming up. I thought about getting him an e-reader device, but they all seem really small. Is there anything you'd recommend that's a bit bigger?
A Yes - Kobo's Aura One. While still very light and thin, its screen is eight inches across, resulting in a display that's around 50pc bigger than that of a standard Kindle.
Oddly, this is the only 'large' e-reader device that seems to be on the Irish market.
I know because I recently switched over to the Kobo device precisely for this reason. For years, I had been a Kindle user. But as time marches on, eyesight starts to gradually deteriorate. Even with glasses, a conventional six-inch e-reader like the Kindle just seems too small now. To put it into context, six inches is only a bit bigger than most smartphones. While this size makes the Kindle nice and portable, I find that I have to increase the size of the font on the screen a little because my eyes aren't what they once were. But doing this means you only get a few lines into a 'page'. This interferes subtly with the continuity of my reading flow, making it harder to 'get into' a page with as few as five or six lines on it.
I'm actually surprised this isn't a bigger issue among e-reader shoppers. My best guess as to why it's not is that Amazon still has something of a stranglehold on the e-reader market, having shoved Sony out. Outside the US, Kobo is now the only real mainstream competitor.
But this means that it has millions of device sales and has access to roughly the same number of titles in its e-store as the Kindle. So there's little danger you'll buy this and the book service will shut down in a year or two. I haven't come across anything yet that isn't available for it.
Other than its size, one of the advantages of the Kobo Aura One is that the screen is backlit, meaning you don't need great light to read it in. It also has a touchscreen, which is (for many people) a more intuitive way of flicking through pages than a button on the side of the machine, as some older e-readers have.
The version I have is Wi-Fi only, meaning you can only download books in a Wi-Fi area (such as your home, a hotel or the airport). This is one feature I miss from my smaller Kindle, which has a built-in sim card that lets you download a book (or access basic internet functionality) anywhere there's a mobile phone signal. (This connectivity is free, too, thanks to a deal that Amazon did with mobile networks across the world.)
However, I like that it's waterproof. This means it's fine by a swimming pool or left inadvertently out in the garden when it rains.
It holds over 5,000 books at full capacity, so there are no concerns there.
A quick word about big-screen alternatives. It's possible to read books on an iPad. Indeed, this is one of the original uses advertised by Apple for the gadget in 2010 when it was launched. There are two drawbacks to iPad reading, though. The first is battery life: even if used for nothing but reading, an iPad will run out of battery in between seven and 10 hours. The second challenge (for some, not all) is the screen. Although we're all used to looking at LCD screens these days, they're slightly harder on your eyes than e-readers, which are designed to imitate static pages more. The iPad (or any tablet) screen flickers, making it more reminiscent of watching a TV screen.
RECOMMENDATION: Kobo Aura One (pictured, €250 from Argos)
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