Kobo Elipsa is a 10-inch e-reader that doubles as a notebook with stylus but non-Kobo epubs are locked out of annotation

Kobo is launching the Elipsa e-reader which includes a stylus that turns the device into a notebook where you can mark up or annotate an ebook, with a major caveat (see later in this article), or write documents of your own.

The Kobo Elipsa features a 10.3-in E-Ink Carta 1200 glare-free screen, ComfortLight adjustable brightness, 32GB of storage, a stylus and SleepCover. It is available in Midnight Blue, with the Kobo Stylus in Black and SleepCover in Slate Blue.

Rakuten Kobo CEO Michael Tamblyn says, ‘When looking at what should come next for Kobo e-readers, we always go back to our customers, to the people who read every day, to learn how we can make their reading lives better. With Kobo Elipsa, we meet the needs of people who don’t just want to read a book; they want to engage with it — mark it up, highlight, write in the margins, or in a notebook of their own, because that is how they get the most out of the books, articles and documents they read. With this new e-reader, we merged the bookstore, book and notebook together so people can capture all the ideas that spring from books and writing.

‘When looking at the e-readers currently on the market on one hand, and the e-Ink writing tablets on the other, we saw an opportunity to not just replace a pad of paper or words on a page, but to create a better way to find, capture and create ideas.’

The device looks great and comes at a relatively reasonable price considering the specification. The Kobo Elipsa Pack, complete with Elipsa e-reader, stylus and SleepCover, will retail for $399 in the US, £349 in the UK and CAD499.99  through kobo.com and select retailers.

Pre-orders are now available and the device will be available in stores and online from June 24 in Canada, the US, the UK, Netherlands, Belgium, France, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan and Turkey.

Some of the facilities available in the Elipsa include using the stylus to mark up, highlight and jot notes in ebooks and PDFs. The Kobo Stylus is customizable and uses pressure sensitivity to mimic a ballpoint pen — choose the pen type, shade, line size and eraser size that suits your needs — so you can write directly on the page, just like a pen on paper. Underline or circle, and erase or highlight, with two buttons on the side of the stylus.

Sideloaded epubs locked out of annotation

This would be a perfect device for writers to upload their work in progress either as an epub or as a PDF and proofread it on a brilliant screen using the stylus. But the big problem is that Kobo has decided to lock down epub support for the device so only epubs bought direct through the Kobo store can be annotated using the stylus. This means you cannot, for example, upload your work in progress as an epub and then proofread and mark it up. It’s very disappointing that the Elipsa has this limitation and will undoubtedly cost Kobo in terms of sales.

You can still use the device to annotate PDFs, although they’ve got to be free of any DRM, but that’s beside the point really if you’re hoping to use the Elipsa to check over how your book is going to look in epub format. The lack of third-party epub annotation support looks like a major deal-breaker to me.

You can, of course, also use it as an e-reader and buy ebooks from Kobo although you wouldn’t be able to buy ebooks to download directly from the Kindle store. You can, however, use it to read ebooks from public libraries as the device has built-in one-touch OverDrive access.

Writers can also use the device either for their notes or to write stories. It has handwriting to typing conversion but it remains to be seen whether this works well.

There are other devices available, of course, such as iPads and various tablets which do have the ability to varying extents to mark up texts and use as a notebook. What most of these don’t have is the Elipsa E-Ink screen which is probably the closest thing to paper available in an electronic device, although there are some excellent e-note devices available from Sony and Onyx and other companies.

The Elipsa weighs 83g, features a 1.8 GHz Quad Core processor and claims to offer ‘weeks of battery life’. It supports 15 file formats, including EPUB, EPUB3, FlePub, PDF, MOBI, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP, TIFF, TXT, HTML, RTF, CBZ, CBR. It’s interesting that it supports MOBI as Amazon is the only firm that uses this format but it recently ditched MOBI in favour of EPUB.

The Elipsa’s built-in notebook feature has room for your notes, ideas and to-do lists. Kobo claims the handwriting experience powered by MyScript means handwriting can be transferred to typed text with a tap and clean up lists and shapes. Navigate to the My Notebooks section to create and manage notebooks. Use titles to keep organized, and rename and delete notebooks as you see fit. You can choose from a range of notebook backgrounds, with lined, square and blank page options. With Dropbox support, you can import documents and export your notebooks as your preferred file type to share with anyone.

ComfortLight technology is built into the Elipsa so you can adjust the brightness of your screen to suit any reading situation. Kobo says the touchscreen is the first to feature Carta 1200 E-Ink technology for a faster display, quicker page turns and deeper contrast. It also comes with a Dark Mode option for white text on black.

Kobo Plus subscription scheme opens in Portugal

Shortlist selected for $30,000 Kobo Emerging Writer Prize

Kobo builds Australian ebook and audiobook alliance with Booktopia