I used to be a huge book nerd—used to be. I grew up surrounded by everything from like popular thrillers and literary fiction to non-fiction titles, but once I got a smartphone and a laptop (and a good internet connection), I found myself no longer tied to physical books as much anymore.
That’s not to say I’ve completely given up reading of course. I still do read a lot as part of the job, but also as a hobby on the side. However, rather than reading a physical book, I find myself reading off the screen more instead; articles, features and I sometimes get eBooks online and read them on my phone or laptop from time to time too. That brings its own challenges though, such as being easily distracted whenever a notification pops up or when you get that pesky ‘battery low’ sign, leading to lower pages read in general.
As such, when we were offered a chance to take the Rakuten Kobo Clara 2E eReader for a spin, I saw it both as a chance to review it and as a way to rediscover a love for a reading.
A water resistant and eco-friendly eReader
Before going on to what it was like to use the Kobo Clara 2E, let’s first look at what it claims to offer.
You’re greeted with a 6-inch, 1448 x 1072p E Ink Carta 1200 touchscreen display pushing a 300ppi pixel density, while under the hood is an unspecified 1GHz processor with a total of 16GB of storage, good for over 12,000 eBooks. It also has support for WiFi 5 and Bluetooth connectivity, while you’ll find a USB-C port for charging too. The Kobo Clara 2E weighs just 171g and measures 8.66mm thick.
The most notable part about the Kobo Clara 2E though is its claim that it’s a ‘more eco-conscious’ way to read. The Kobo Clara 2E certainly doesn’t look sleek or flashy, with its thick bezels and textured back panel, but looks doesn’t seem to be the main goal anyway. The device’s outer shell is built with over 85% recycled plastic, including 10% out of ocean bound plastic. This is part of Kobo’s goal to divert over 200,000 plastic bottles from the sea, and over a million used CDs and DVDs from landfills.
Another cool feature of the Kobo Clara 2E is that it has an IPX8 water resistant rating. This means that it is waterproof for up to an hour in up to two meters of water, allowing you to use it in the bath tub, jacuzzi or anything of that sort.
The Kobo Clara 2E is a blast to use
Overall, having used it for a bit, I actually had quite a lot of fun with the Kobo Clara 2E. Even just booting it up, you’re met with a very clean user interface, making it very easy to get the hang of using the device. There’s also plenty of customisable settings, ranging from screen brightness, font size and type, a night mode-like setting that lets you tweak the temperature of the screen to reduce blue light and a settings page that’s easy to access and fairly self-explanatory.
Reading with it was a breeze too thanks to the reasonably sized screen with a solid 300ppi pixel density that makes it easy to read, and as the Kobo Clara 2E isn’t too big in size, it can be held and used very easily with just one hand. It’s snappy to the touch too, with no noticeable stutters or lag. Plus, there’s an activity tracker that lets you see how many pages and for how long you’ve read for the books you have. The textured surface on the back also helps to grip the eReader better, while the small frame allows it to fit in my bag easily and then pop it out for a quick read with no trouble as well.
Perhaps the biggest positive the Kobo Clara 2E has going for it though is that you can read more than just the titles you buy off its store. Yes, you can use the Kobo store to buy and read books, but what I found really helpful was that you can also sideload and import your own eBooks. It’s a little fiddly, but it’s totally possible to import titles you already paid for on Google Play Books onto the Kobo using Adobe Digital Editions, with a total of 15 different file formats supported natively such as EPUB, PDF, CBR and more. Unfortunately, OverDrive, a free service that lets you borrow eBooks from local libraries, isn’t supported by Kobo in Malaysia just yet.
Battery life is pretty decent too. Kobo claims ‘weeks of battery life’, and while I didn’t necessarily get weeks, I did manage to pull almost a full fortnight before its battery was low. This was with roughly one to two hours of use a day, with the display set to roughly half brightness and WiFi on, but not Bluetooth. We were also provided a Kobo Clara 2E SleepCover casing which does the job, and also lets me prop it up if my hands are full.
Perhaps the only one real thing I would nitpick about is the positioning of the power button. It’s placed fairly awkwardly at the back of the device where a camera would be, and is dimpled too. I get the logic behind its positioning and design—it makes it hard to accidentally push on it when reading, avoiding abrupt disruptions when you’re in the zone. However, I mostly found it awkward to power on and off, and personally would’ve preferred it in a more usual position on the side of the frame instead.
What about the Kindle?
Okay so, I should probably address the elephant in the room: the Amazon Kindle. The Kindle is arguably what everyone thinks of first when talking about eReaders. It’s iconic and is perhaps the device that made eReaders a thing in the first place.
However, the Kindle isn’t officially available in Malaysia as Amazon doesn’t ship their eReaders to our shores. There are still places to buy a Kindle though, with the most notable one being the eReader Malaysia Club, who are an independent group who sell Kindles in Malaysia with just a single price tag, no shipping fees or tax charges etc. Kindles though are not cheap, even via the eReader Malaysia Club, making the Kobo Clara 2E a much more appealing option.
According to the eReader Malaysia Club’s KindleMalaysia website, the Kindle 10 starts at RM500 for the model with 8GB of storage. This is Amazon’s entry-level eReader from a few years back, and has a 6-inch display with meagre 167ppi pixel density. The more midrange Kindle Paperwhite 5 with a 6.8-inch, 300ppi display meanwhile costs a lot more at RM870 for the 8GB version, with 16GB of storage also available at RM1,020. It’s also worth mentioning that these are ad-supported devices too, meaning you’ll see ads on the lockscreen and the bottom of the home screen.
In comparison, the Kobo Clara 2E retails at RM699, and at the moment is available with a RM100 discount too on its official store on Lazada and Shopee. While slightly pricier than the Kindle 10, I’d argue that it’s well worth it mostly due to the solid build quality, versatility, the larger storage, the fact that it’s ad-free and the IPX8 water resistance rating. Being officially available in Malaysia also means extra benefits like local warranty and support. Sure, it won’t win any design awards, but the Kobo Clara 2E was built with eco-friendliness in mind.
Overall, I really liked the Kobo Clara 2E, and it really did perk up my love for books once again, even if it was digitally. If you’re looking for a compact eReader alternative or simply want to get your first eReader without breaking the bank, I really do think you’ll like the Kobo Clara 2E too.