Kobo boasts a catalog of over 2 million eBooks, though 1.8 million of them are free, public domain titles from the Project Gutenberg free library and other sources. Still, the bookseller recently inked a deal with the top five major publishing houses and is well stocked with current titles and New York Times bestsellers.
Browsing the Kobo bookstore from the app is similar on all platforms, though the icons on the iPhone and BlackBerry apps make more visual sense, better indicating what is behind them than the ones on the Pre. Titles are arranged by category or genre in the Browse area with subcategory divisions below the main menu. The Discover area groups books by collections, such as Free Reads, In The News, New York Times bestsellers, Staff Picks, and over a dozen more.
An account isn't necessary to download free books, but it's required to sync all downloaded books across apps. Books will sync automatically; you are not prompted to start the syncing process. The iPhone and BlackBerry apps synced shortly after returning to the Library screen, but the Pre app took much longer.
Navigating the Library
The basic I'm Reading/Library screen layout was the same in each app. Books are listed one per line with author and rating information alongside the cover. The iPhone app gives users the option to view books as a list or as covers on a shelf. None of the apps give users any other sorting or grouping options beyond listing books in order by author surnames. Scrolling through them all, even in bookshelf mode, would get tedious in a large library.
Although Kobo is available for four of the major smart phone platforms, it worked differently on all of them, and in each case we found something distinct to mar our reading experience. On the iPhone, we couldn't figure out how to dismiss the options and settings overlay at first, so the top and bottom of the screen were partially obscured. The webOS app, meanwhile, made it difficult to get that overlay to appear again after the first few seconds of opening a book, and it was hard to execute advanced functions without it. In the BlackBerry app we could only scroll down using the trackball instead of the keyboard, which you can use with the Kindle app, and once we reached the end of a page we had to click an arrow at the bottom of the screen to move on to the next, which completely took us out of our book.
The first time we opened a book on the iPhone, the app asked if we preferred to scroll vertically or swipe left and right to turn pages, which we appreciated. The number of font faces and range of text size varied from platform to platform, as did the number of options for text alignment, line spacing, and colors/themes. Kobo doesn't offer as many choices as the Barnes & Noble app or Stanza, particularly for theme colors, but we found the various font and size choices to be satisfactory.
Unless Kobo is your bookstore of choice, there isn't much reason to download this app over others unless--as with webOS--there are few options to pick from overall.