Kobo adds color to its e-reader lineup for the first time, starting at $149

Color e-readers have been a thing for a while, but until now, the biggest companies with the most extensive book ecosystems—Amazon, mainly, but also Barnes & Noble and Rakuten Kobo—have only sold traditional black-and-white models.

That changes on April 30, when Kobo releases its first color e-readers: the $149.99 Kobo Clara Colour and $219.99 Kobo Libra Colour. Both devices look a lot like their black-and-white predecessors, the Kobo Libra 2 and Kobo Clara 2E, but with colorful screens instead of black-and-white ones.

Kobo is also refreshing the black-and-white version of the Clara, called the Clara BW to distinguish it from the color model. It’s mostly identical to the old Clara 2E model, but with the faster dual-core processor from the color models. It sells for $129.99, $10 cheaper than the Clara 2E.

The most significant thing about either of them is the price—the Clara is the same price as Amazon’s black-and-white Kindle Paperwhite. The Clara and Libra models both significantly undercut color e-readers you can buy on Amazon and elsewhere, which tend to start closer to $300 and go up from there. You can find models that run Android, potentially giving you access to most of the big e-book stores instead of tying you to one of them, but the added cost and complexity of these devices make them a bit less appealing.

The Clara has a 6-inch screen, and the Libra has a 7-inch screen; the Libra also has physical page-turn buttons and supports the Kobo Stylus for sketching and handwriting. Both e-readers are waterproof and include Wi-Fi 5 and Bluetooth compatibility, a USB-C port, and the same dual-core processor. They also both have a frontlight with an adjustable color temperature to make the screen easier on the eyes.

Both readers use E Ink’s Kaleido 3 screen technology, which promises 4,096 colors and more saturated colors than the previous-generation Kaleido Plus. The resolution of color images has also improved, from 100 PPI to 150 PPI (black-and-white content, both in Kaleido 3 generally and the new Kobos specifically, is a sharper 300 PPI).

These improvements both try to address the main problems with color e-readers while retaining the outstanding battery life and easy-on-the-eyes screens that have kept e-readers viable even as phones and tablets have become ubiquitous.

Amazon has yet to introduce a color Kindle e-reader; people who want a color screen from Amazon have always been pushed to the perennially mediocre Fire tablets instead. But the Paperwhite in particular is due for a refresh—it last saw an update in late 2021. Amazon’s hardware business has been scaled back in recent years, but we can presumably still expect its bread-and-butter e-readers to continue to get updates periodically.

Listing image by Kobo

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