Kobo goes back to basics with its latest Nia eReader to cater to anyone who wants to read without needing all the extras. This device isn’t about offering something entirely new, but rather something tried and tested. As some eReaders push the boundaries of what they can do, the Nia is more about the content itself, which becomes obvious as you use it.

There is a new subscription service called Kobo Plus that coincided with the Nia’s launch, and some familiar features remain. You won’t have anything else to get excited about except for the stuff you want to read.

What the Kobo Nia feels like

Kobo went bigger with the Forma and Libra H2O, where 8-inch and 7-inch displays made for larger models. It’s not fair to compare the Nia to those larger models, but doing so with the Clara HD is appropriate. The Nia has a 6-inch display with reasonably-sized bezels to make it the most diminutive eReader available.

That small size comes with some sacrifices. There’s no water-resistance, so you will need to keep it clear of a pool or tub. It doesn’t have the ComfortLight blue light filter, so you won’t get that yellowish tint that makes reading in the dark easier on the eyes. Its 212ppi pixel density also doesn’t make it as ideal for viewing content with images, like comic books.

All that puts more of an onus on actual text. Not to mention the portability relative to the other choices. Kobo designed this in an understated, yet effective way. The plastic body doesn’t feel cheap, and the back has a decent grip to it. If you want to protect the screen, you can always get a SleepCover case in one of three colours.

It is a little unfortunate Kobo stuck to a microUSB port for charging, given that USB-C is now the industry standard. With 8GB of storage, there’s plenty of room for eBooks and other content you can load onto the device. That integration looms large here because it’s the one thing that narrows the gap with Kobo’s other models.

Finding content to read

Kobo’s eBookstore now has 4 million eBooks available, and you can access them while connected to Wi-Fi. About a quarter of those are free to download, which is a good place to look for a gem or two. Otherwise, Kobo’s service partners are also available.

OverDrive remains one of the best features for Kobo because it taps into the plethora of titles held by public libraries. Borrow a digital version of a book from your participating local library, so long as you have an active library card and OverDrive account.

Then there’s Pocket, which is great for taking articles from the web to read later on the Nia. Save the links to your Pocket account while browsing on a computer, tablet or phone, and you can then see them on the eReader.

If you have your own documents or files, Kobo’s format support is broad and extensive. You can load and up and read PDF, EPUB, EPUB3, PDF, MOBI, TXT, HTML or RTF, and getting them onto the Nia isn’t hard. You can see JPEG, TIFF, GIF, PNG and BMP images, as well as CBZ and CBR comic books, but the smaller display isn’t as conducive to that.

Introducing Kobo Plus

In addition to launching the Nia, Kobo also opened its Plus subscription service in Canada. This is an all-you-can-read platform you pay $9.99/month for access to hundreds of thousands of eBooks. There is a 30-day trial to give it a shot first before committing to anything, though you can glean a little insight about what’s available by browsing on the eReader.

Mind you, the Nia isn’t the only Kobo device getting the service. It’s available on every Kobo eReader (except the older Kobo Mini and Kobo Wi-Fi), plus the mobile app and desktop web browsers. The eBooks available won’t necessarily include some of the best-sellers and top authors. It’s a mixed offering, and you can see it for yourself when you browse through.

If you do try Plus out, note that Kobo limits you to 15 eBooks for offline reading over a 30-day period. It will reset when you reconnect to Wi-Fi after you’ve either opened 15 eBooks or reached the end of the 30-day period of offline reading.

Reading on the Kobo Nia

By now, any eReader with a 6-inch display is going to feel small. The Nia feels smaller because of the thinner bezels and lighter weight. While commuting isn’t quite what it used to be for most people under current conditions, this is the kind of device you can slip into most pockets.

From a feature perspective, nothing has really changed as to what you can do while reading. The scrubber to navigate across a book (introduced in the Libra H2O) is the same, as are the ways you annotate or look things up.

Unlike the Libra H2O and Forma, however, you can’t read in landscape when tilting it sideways. For a screen this small, it’s probably not worth including anyway, but still something you should know. However, I have to admit I did miss the ComfortLight Pro. When you’ve used the amber light regularly, it’s hard to get used to the blue light in the dark.

I will say, also, that documents don’t always translate as well to the smaller display. PDFs definitely look better on the larger models, where there’s less of a need to scale down. To me, the Nia is at its best when reading eBooks, no matter where you get them from. It’s less work to manage the text onscreen, and it’s the easiest thing to do on it anyway. I wasn’t crazy about how images looked on it, largely because of the screen’s size, but also because they look sharper on the other models.

None of that may matter much if you’re just looking for a basic eReader to go through some books. In that regard, there’s not much holding the Nia back. It retains most of the important features Kobo is known for, and doesn’t skimp out in spite of the price.

Final thoughts

As I mentioned earlier, this isn’t a successor device. Kobo hasn’t gone this basic with an eReader in years, but it couldn’t come at a better time. The company says it saw a 93% increase in readership between March-July 2020 over the year before due to lockdowns. If you’re among that statistic, then the Nia is a good choice on a budget, or if you just want something basic and portable. If this is too small or basic, then you have other options in Kobo’s lineup.

You won’t have to worry about battery life here, either. Even with regular reading, it will last for weeks, so you won’t have to charge it often. But if you want to keep it safe and protected to last longer, I recommend getting one of the SleepCover cases.

The Kobo Nia is available now at Best Buy.

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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.

392 COMMENTS

  1. I would love the Kobo Nia. The fact that it is small and light like a novel is great. I would download the new Christopher Paolini book – To Sleep in a Sea of Stars

  2. Never have had a Kobo device but from the links would probably choose Kobo Libra H2O 7″ Digital eReader with Touchscreen (N873-KU-BK-K-EP) – Black for myself and the Kobo Nia for my Mom. First book that I would download…is a little harder as would probably be … Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Novels and Stories, Vol. 1 (Illustrated)
    by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Then anything with Sherlock Holmes in it. Mom Would probably want anything by Terry Pratchett, Tom Holt

  3. The Kobo Noa is my favorite as I would just need a basic model and the smaller screen size works for me. I would start by reading Crazy Rich Asians.

  4. I love the size of the Kobo Nia. I would read one of the many romance novels that I had downloads on my old Kobo and never got to.

  5. Well I don’t have one nor have I ever had one but after reading about them I think the Forma would be the best for me as I like reading by / in the pool and this one is suppose to be the best waterproof one. The first book I would read is the Notebook.

  6. Kobo Libra H2O 7″ Digital eReader w/Touchscreen (N873-KU-BK-K-EP) & SleepCover Case -Black
    I would download The Home Edit’s new book to reorganise

  7. I loved my Kobo paperwhite until it died. 🙁 Good time for a replacement! Looking forward to reading Indians on Vacation by Thomas King.

  8. I would order the book Rage by Bob Woodward and read it on the Kobo Libra H2O 7″ Digital eReader with Touchscreen (N873-KU-BK-K-EP) – Black.

  9. The Kobo Libra H2O 7″ Digital eReader w/Touchscreen looks like a great product! If I win one, I’ll start by reading Ready Player One, it’s a movie I enjoyed and I’d like to compare to the book

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