I just spent a few weeks reading books on three Kobo ereaders to learn which one is better in different situations. By situations, I mean reading in bed, or in the tub, or outside, or while sitting at the dining room table. During my time with these, I read in a variety of places including at home (inside and outside in the garden on a sunny day), on the ferry, in my truck …. My wife also used them, and her opinions surprised me a little. I learned some things about these devices that I did not know just from reading reviews. And though I liked reading on all three devices that Kobo lent to me, I did have a clear favourite.

What’s the difference between a Kobo Nia, a Kobo Libra H2O, and a Kobo Elipsa

Three Kobo ereaders

Firstly, I enjoyed reading on all three Kobo ereaders. I used to have a Kobo several years ago (one similar to the Nia). I loved it and was very upset to have it stolen. So I was looking forward to trying Kobo again. I enjoy pretty much everything about the Kobo experience: setting each of these up was simple, intuitive even. Creating an account with Kobo takes only a few minutes; however, I didn’t need to create an account. Instead, I recovered a long lost password from my old account. Happily, all of the books that had been on my old Kobo were there, and these immediately downloaded onto the three ereaders I was setting up. Also, finding new books I wanted to read, purchasing them, and downloading them could not have been easier.

While I had these ereaders, I regularly switched where and on what device I was reading. For example, before sleeping one night I might read on the least expensive Kobo Nia. The next morning, I might spend a half-hour with the Elipsa while I ate my breakfast at the dining room table. Over lunch, I might use the Libra on the patio in the sun. Regularly mixing it up allowed me to get a sense of which device I preferred in different situations. Let me break down some simple observations about each device:

Kobo Elipsa has the most complete ereader experience

kobo elipsa ereaderMany people think of the Kobo experience as limited to reading. However, there is much more to the Kobo than reading. The Kobo that I used to own was given to me complete with a protective case. I didn’t use the case all the time (it was bulky) but definitely had it when I was travelling, or reading in the car (where it was when stolen!). So if a protective cover is important to you, you can purchase a cover for any Kobo; however, one obviously great feature about the Elipsa is that is comes complete with a cover. Also included is a stylus for writing on the screen, that clicks right into the cover so it’s out of the way when you aren’t using it.

So, that is the first big differentiator for the Kobo Elipsa: it comes with great accessories! More importantly, though, is the size difference. The Elipsa is big: 10.3 inches, or basically the size of a piece of loose-leaf paper. That comparison is important because the Elipsa is excellent for making notes, either right on the book you are reading or in a notebook that you can create right on the Elipsa.

I have never been someone who writes on physical books. NEVER! My wife, however, marks up her books all the time … in pen (drives me nuts!). If you know someone like that, then the Elipsa might be perfect for them. Of course you can upload PDFs and other documents and mark those up too. For example, my wife is an English teacher who marks many essays each semester; she could easily upload those papers to the Elipsa, and mark them using the pen, then send them back to her computer to return the feedback to the students. The Kobo Stylus is easy to use, but not to lose since it securely fits right at the top of the device within the case waiting for you to use it.

Like all Kobo ereaders, the Elipsa is easy to set up and use. Turn it on or off using the small button located on the side. Charge it by plugging in the included USB-C cable to the port on next to the power button. It will hold a charge for a couple weeks. Over the three weeks that I tested these ereaders, using all three every day, I only changed each of them once.

Kobo Elipsa is perfect for travelling

Travellers love Kobo ereaders for many reasons: take dozens of books with you in a device that takes almost no space in your luggage and not even have to be concerned about charging it. The Elipsa, though, offers a more complete ereader experience. I often get ideas while reading, especially while travelling. The Elipsa gives travellers the opportunity to jot down notes right on the device they are using for reading. Switching back and forth from a notepad to a book you’re reading is so easy … tap the screen to bring up the notepads, make your notes using the stylus, then click the stylus back into place and go right back to reading. Kobo always remembers where you left off, so you never lose your place.

And I’m sure for many people the larger sized screen will be just what they were hoping to see arrive in an ereader for home and for travelling. Until now, ereaders were all sized similarly to most novels. The Nia and Libra H2O are the basic size we’ve come to expect. Now people have another size option in the Elipsa. And it has all of the features that people love in a Kobo but with a bigger screen, a Kobo Stylus, and a cover all included.

Kobo Nia is small, lightweight, and a great device for people on the go

kobo nia ereaderAs I stated before, the Kobo Nia is similar to the Kobo I had previously owned. You turn it on using a small button on the bottom of the device. Next to that button is the small USB charging port: it comes with a charging cable. There are no other buttons: navigation and controls are conveniently done right on the touch screen (as with all Kobo ereaders). I had no issues with responsiveness of the screen. In fact, this was one of the characteristics my wife liked best. She had used a kindle in the past and had told me that she did not like the ereader experience. However, she read a couple novels using these Kobo while they were in our home and now she said she wants a Nia (her preference because of the size and the lack of buttons).

The Nia is the smallest of the three devices at six inches diagonal. It’s really a perfect take-anywhere companion for reading. It fits in a jacket pocket; it is really lite, it’s easy to read in the dark thanks to its backlighting, and is as good as any paperbook in bright sunlight, thanks to the e-ink display. Also, this size is great for flipping pages with a touch of a finger while holding it in one hand. You can hold a cup of coffee in one hand and the Nia in the other and navigate the book, your library etc with ease. All told, if it was up to my wife, I’d be purchasing a Nia soon. However, the Nia was not my favourite ….

Kobo Libra H2O adds a couple features that I don’t want to live without

Kobo libra h2O ereader

It’s true, the Nia is a wonderful ereader and I liked its features a lot. However the Kobo Libra H2O has two additional features that stand out for me. First it’s waterproof and I like to read in the tub. If I had a Nia, I would take the risk and still read it in the tub, but spending a bit more (the Libra costs a little more than the Nia) is worth it for a waterproof device. More important for me is the extra large bezel on the one side with buttons. I had no idea how much I would love that feature. Clicking on the buttons to advance or reverse pages with my thumb felt natural. My wife, however, preferred the Nia and didn’t feel the buttons added convenience. I loved it and would get the Libra just for that feature.

The Libra is turned on using a button on the back, and charged via the small USB port on its side. As such the experience using it is very similar to the Nia and you can do pretty much everything you’d want in an ereader (apart from writing on the screen with a stylus—only the Elipsa allows that) from downloading new books, to touching a word on the screen to access the onboard dictionary: believe me this is a critical component if you read older texts (I’m thinking Dickens here) or writers with a brilliant vocabulary (e.g., Anthony Burgess, especially his amazing epic Earthly Powers). You can also make annotations using the onscreen keyboard. But if annotations are your thing, then you should really consider the Elipsa.

Kobo ereaders are perfect for anyone who enjoys reading

I have not read as many books since my Kobo was stolen several years ago and blamed it on life getting too busy. The fact is, I read more books with a Kobo. I read faster and with better comprehension … and I enjoy reading more. Just after these three Kobos arrived for my to try, I posted a query on Twitter asking people what I should read for this project. I received many suggestions. You can see two of those suggestions in the images above of books that I read. One thing I love about Kobo though is their email newsletter with suggestions for new books to read. Often it includes special offers, like the offer to purchase “Klara and the Sun” for only $4.99. These offers are usually time-sensitive and I jumped on that one! The book is Ishiguro’s newest that just came out this year and wow did I ever love it. My wife did too: she read it on the Kobo Nia.

After testing these out I told my wife that for a Christmas present she can get me a Kobo ereader and my preference is the Libra H20. She replied that we can’t wait for Christmas; as soon as I send these devices back to Kobo, she wants me to buy one for us. She wants the Nia, I want the Libra H20. Perhaps we will end up with two!

Martin Renaud
Editor in Chief
Martin loves working with the talented editors and writers on the Best Buy Blog as Editor-in-Chief. During his spare time he is either working on his next novel, cooking up a masterpiece in the kitchen, or adding some smart tech to his new home on Mayne Island in British Columbia.


  1. As a new mom, I would pick the Elipsa because the notepad and built-in dictionary will help me with my baby brain while the ability to use overdrive will help me to save money! Thanks!

  2. I would LOVE the Kobo Libra H20! I love that it’s waterproof! Would be perfect for reading at the lake or in the tub! Also love the side buttons 🙂

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