One of the upsides in owning a Kobo eReader is the ability to view PDF files on the display and take them with you wherever you are.

The company’s lineup of eReaders already have access to millions of eBooks through the Kobo Store. It’s a big marketplace to build a library, except eBooks are only part of the content package available. There is onboard support for PDF, EPUB, EPUB3, MOBI, TXT, HTML or RTF files, but in this article, I’ll be focusing specifically on PDFs.

Why PDFs? Because they’re among the most widely-used document file formats in the world, and whether you’re a student or working professional, your Kobo eReader could be a useful second screen when getting work done, or even taking a break.

How to add a PDF to a Kobo eReader

This process is pretty much the same for Kobo models of the last several years. It’s one of the reasons (in addition to charging) that the company includes a USB cable in the box. You will need a Windows PC or Mac to do it. While you can download the Kobo Desktop application, you won’t need to for this specific action.

The process will only work with files that aren’t encrypted or protected with Digital Rights Management (DRM). If yours is DRM-protected, you will need to use Adobe Digital Editions (ADE) and follow these steps instead.

  1. Plug in your Kobo eReader into your computer using the USB cable that came with it.
  2. You will see a drive called “KOBOeReader” appear on File Explorer (Windows) or Finder (Mac).
  3. Locate the PDF files you want and drag and drop it to that drive.
  4. Once complete, right-click and go to Safely Remove Hardware (Windows) or Eject (Mac). Wait for it to disappear on the screen and then unplug the eReader from the computer.

Another way to do it is to tie your Dropbox account with your eReader, but keep in mind this method only works with the Forma.

The files will appear under My Books, as there is no separate section for uploaded documents or files. This also goes for eBooks, in case you’ve got a copy of one in PDF format. Once you have the files in there, you will need to get accustomed to how to deal with them.

How to read and view PDFs

The file format is different from the EPUB one the Kobo Store widely uses, so you will interact with PDFs a little differently. Off the bat, some of the interactive features will be missing, like highlighting text, looking up word definitions and changing the font or style of the text.

Turning pages is mostly the same, where you tap either side of the screen to go forward or back. But because you can zoom in on a PDF, it’s a slightly different process to navigate. When you tap in the middle of the screen, the Reading Menu will show up with a directional pad icon to indicate which direction you would like to go in. The pad’s centre button will zoom in, and you can move around the page by dragging your finger wherever you want. I find it’s sometimes easier to just pinch-to-zoom in or out, like you would on a smartphone or tablet.

While zoomed in, you will need to swing over to the edge of the page to actually turn to the next one, or go back to the previous one. When the page is in its regular size, you can turn pages like you would with an EPUB format eBook by tapping either side.

Reading and viewing them in landscape

This is already a standard feature in certain Kobo models, like the Forma and Libra H2O, where you can view an EPUB eBook in landscape by rotating it sideways. PDFs aren’t as restrictive because you can view them in that orientation on more than just those two particular devices.

You might find it useful for getting larger text or zooming in to see more of an image included in the PDF.

  1. Tap the middle of the screen to get the Reading Menu and then look for the navigation pad.
  2. Tap that and you should see a ‘rotate’ icon to turn the content sideways.
  3. You won’t really need to do this for the Forma or Libra H2O because the accelerometer inside already handles switching orientations automatically.
  4. Lock in the orientation you prefer to keep it at by selecting Portrait or Landscape.

Keep them organized

Since Kobo won’t keep the PDFs you upload in their own section, you can try to do it yourself. When you go to the home screen, tap the Menu icon and select My Collections. Here, you can go to Create a Collection, and give it a name.

From there, select the ones you want to add with the + icon, and then once you’re done, tap Create to finish it. Do this with other collections, in case you want to split up your PDFs (or eBooks, for that matter) in the same way.

And that’s it. You are ready and able to upload and view PDFs on your Kobo eReader. Check out the latest models available.

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Editor Cellular/Mobile Technology
I’m a fortunate man in being able to do the fun job of following and reporting on one of the most exciting industries in the world today. In my time covering consumer tech, I’ve written for a number of publications, including the Globe and Mail, Yahoo! Canada, CBC.ca, Canoe, Digital Trends, MobileSyrup, G4 Tech, PC World, Faze and AppStorm. I’ve also appeared on TV as a tech expert for Global, CTV and the Shopping Channel.

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