Kobo's ($149) focus is selling digital books. The upstart Canadian company doesn't really care how you read them - phones, eReaders, computers, or tablets - they just want to be your first stop for content.
However, smart cookies that these Canucks are, they realize that if the device you use to read automatically directs you to their store, they'll sell more books. Hence, the second generation Kobo eReader, a competitor to the likes of the Amazon Kindle and Sony Reader that offers Wi-Fi connectivity to let you can link up directly to Kobo's repository of more than 2.2 million titles anywhere you can find a hotspot.
Like its predecessor, Kobo's second eReader is a study in simplicity. It has just one large membrane button on its front bottom corner for flipping pages and surfing menus, and a quartet of self-explanatory buttons on its left edge labelled Home, Menu, Shop, and Back. Built-in storage provides for around a thousand titles, but you can augment that via a standard SD memory card slot.
How does it stack up to the competition? It falls somewhere in the middle. The Kobo's E Ink screen is nice, but doesn't quite measure up to the excellent contrast of Sony's latest readers. And while it's exceptionally light it can't quite match the thinness of Amazon's impossibly skinny Kindle 3.
Plus, folks used to more robust eReaders will lament its inability to navigate to specific pages rather than just chapters as well as its relatively lethargic performance, which becomes noticeable when flipping pages and opening menus.
Still, its accessibility is through the roof. It's almost impossible to imagine someone who wouldn't be able to figure it out within minutes. People who like to use Kobo's store could do a lot worse.