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I came across another incredible shopping deal that I took advantage of – because there was actually something I wanted to buy! I saw a Kobo Aura at the airport one time and was attracted to it because it was smaller than my existing Kobo and the screen was flush (not indented like other Kobo and Kindle models). Also it had a backlight which is useful, but not necessary. I was waiting for a deal on it, perhaps on Boxing Day because it was a little expensive at $149.99 ($169.49 after tax).

I had also seen that was having a lot of (stackable) promos recently, and looked on their site for the Aura. They didn’t have it, but suddenly one day, they did. I ended up buying it there and stacked A LOT of promos into a single purchase. Here is how I made out.

$149.99 Original price
-$10.00 Applied a coupon (ebates)
+$18.20 Tax
+$0.00 Shipping (free)
-$25.00 new member rewards
-$25.00 Paypal/ special offer
$108.19 Total

So I only ended up paying $108.19 for an item that would have cost me $169.49. Pretty good eh? That’s a 36% discount.

BUT WAIT, I also get some money back for various reasons as part of this purchase

$108.19 Current total
-$26.64 20% Ebates cash back on $133.19
-$10.00 Ebates cash back for first purchase
-$6.66 5% cash back Paypal promo
$64.89 New total
$57.42 Pre-tax total

After all the cash back (assuming I get everything back in my Paypal account), the Kobo Aura would have cost me $64.89, which is a discount of 71%! What an incredible deal!

When the Kobo Mini, I’ll admit that I was intrigued. An even smaller, more portable, and cheaper eReader than the Touch, with the same UI. It surely would fit in my pants pocket now (the front ones I mean). I waited until it was out and poked around the net for some of the reviews, well mostly the pictures. It sure was small, but I was a bit put off by the enormous bezel. I’m sure it takes up half the surface area.

So I held off purchasing one. Then the Christmas season came around it was dirt cheap. $50 on Black Friday (in Canada), and $50 with a interchangable back cover. Or if you bought a Kobo Arc (for $200), you could get a Mini for free! Nevertheless, I was able to exert my willpower and prevent myself from impulse buying one as a toy.

After this “fire sale” I finally caught a glimpse of one in the wild. It sure IS small. In fact, it’s so small that it’s about the size of my phone now (just fatter). The screen fit about a single paragraph of text, although perhaps if the leading was changed you might fit two! I don’t think a long battery life is worth carrying around another device like that on a day-to-day basis, and I’m happy with a thin 6″ eReader for travelling.

I enjoyed reading Freakonomics wayyy back in 2006 but reading current event-type books had lost its appeal to me the last few years. So I kind of ignored Superfreakonomics when it came out. Not that I didn’t know about it, because at that time I was also following the Freakonomics’ authors blog (then on the NYTimes family of blogs). Eventually I stopped following the blog too, although I forget why now (probably because I lost interest).

I picked up Superfreakonomics a few weeks back to pass the time on a couple of doctor visits and finished it earlier this week. It was surprisingly short, and I didn’t enjoy reading it very much. My main problem with the book was that it jumped between various aspects of a topic too frequently, seemingly every few paragraphs. I’d much rather read an in-depth chapter about a certain field of study and learn its insights, rather than read through tangentially related, and superficial discussions on a field. In fact, I felt like I was reading a series of blog posts that were loosely tied together!

The topics themselves were relatively interesting (prostitutes) and current (climate change) and I found that the book tried to educate the reader on basic economic terminology. That’s actually a great goal, but a negative externality (which is defined in Superfreakonomics in case you forgot from econ 101) of this is that the book ends up reading well to the general reader (i.e., someone picking it up for a flight) but was not very engrossing for me.

Like I did with the Kindle, I have some complaints about the Kobo Touch. Here they are:

  1. Too much promotion
    When you first buy the device, there are featured books all over the place. I’m not really interested, and I understand that the device is partially subsidized by it, but I don’t like it. Fortunately, you can push the ads & etc aside so it doesn’t intrude on the UI.
  2. Too much phoning home
    Reading on the web, it sounds like the device tracks itself using Google Analytics. Plus, there is already implicit tracking through Reading Life and the Awards. I disabled the Google Analytics tracking by using a hosts file on the device, but I’m not sure what else they may be doing.
  3. Weird touch screen behaviour
    In the beginning I had lots of problems with the device not recognizing my touches when I wanted to turn a page. I had to resort to double clicking (which went ahead 2 pages) and then click back one page. It turns out that you have to tap and release quickly for it to recognize a click – something that is unintuitive.
  4. Can’t highlight text across a page
    Or at least I can’t figure out how to do it. I think the workaround is to change the font so the text you want to highlight fits on one page, but I’m to lazy to do that!
  5. Not enough awards
    “Awards” is the equivalent of badges which you can earn from reading books. It comes with about 20 awards, and I’m not close to attaining all of them, but I’m sure I will. I wish there were more awards (possibly this can be updated online).

Aside from the clicking, I don’t think any of these are terrible, so I am still fairly happy with the device.

I ended up getting a Kobo Touch last week as per my itch. It was $100 – $15 coupon from Staples so a total of $85 + tax, or $50 less than my Kindle. Not only is it cheaper, I think it is superior:

  1. The design is better
    I can attribute this mainly to one reason – it uses book covers to represent books! I’m not sure why the Kindle doesn’t do this because they are perfectly capable of displaying pictures. This is a much natural and attractive way to browse through your books – it feels like you’re in a book store. The Kobo Touch is also (obviously) touch screen, but I don’t count that as an advantage because that technology wasn’t available when the Kindle was released.
  2. Form factor
    The Kobo is slighty less wide, much shorter but a little bit thicker. But aside from that, the details are better – the bezel is thinner and it fits better in my pocket because it’s shorter. I don’t notice that it’s thicker though. The lack of a keyboard makes a huge difference in terms of size.
  3. It tracks stats
    I like the Reading Life concept which tracks your reading progress because I’m a data freak. The Awards are ok (i.e., badges) but I hope that new ones are added automatically in the future.

It’s not a perfect device (maybe more on that later), and it loses several features that a Kindle has:

  • Keyboard (this device is for consumption, not creation)
  • mp3 support
  • Text-to-speech support
  • Amazon store (or any store really) integration
  • .mobi support
  • Twitter integration

But I don’t mind as none of these are must-have features; the advantage in size and price trumps them all!