An Earnestly Important Kobo

7 01 2012
During last year’s office Christmas party, I was very fortunate and won a new Kobo eReader.
Wikipedia: Kobo Touch eReader

Wikipedia: Kobo Touch eReader

Now there’s no debate whatsoever that I am a prodigious consumer of the written word, but I was a little leery of this “not quite a book” thing. It seemed to fit unnaturally between the solid, dependable printed format we have so readily accepted as “the book” and the more dynamic, fluid content we access via our computers and typified by the World Wide Waster-of-time. (You disagree? You think reading this posting is going to help you earn a PhD? Point made!) I don’t deny for a second that it’s cool technology, and has a well thought out, if somewhat averagely implemented, user interface. Sobering to think it has more processing power than was used on Apollo 11 to get a man (actually 2) to the moon. As well as buying and loading it with the latest published offerings, there are close to two million ex-copyright publications you can download and read for free. Guess which option I took?

There are a couple of projects out there where you can volunteer to type in a chapter or a whole book from an out of copyright classic, and add to the public archive. Shades of Fahrenheit 451. I particularly recommend Project Gutenburg, but there are others. Several public libraries also have facilities to download electronic versions of many titles. Kobo themselves (unimaginatively an anagram of “book”!) offer direct access to 1.8M free titles as well as the new purchasable titles.

The device itself is very aesthetically pleasing, with a comfortable quilted back which is very tactile. It has WiFi, and though it also comes with a buggy web browser in Beta, its prime usage is to silently synchronise your Kobo with your online account. This downloads to your Kobo any new titles you’ve added to your library, but also uploads any notes or highlights you’ve made to the eBooks you’ve read on it. You can download a free Kobo eReader to your PC or Mac, and read the same book on any or all these devices, updating your bookmarked position as you go.

There’s also this weird “video game” aspect to it. I used my Kobo to read at lunchtime yesterday. I normally go for a bit of a walk and a cup of tea, but circumstances yesterday lead me to just pop over the road to Blenz and just have a quiet sit down and catch up on some recently neglected reading. I was suddenly presented with a pop-up screen telling me I’d won some award as a lunchtime reader! These lame congratulatory “awards” seem to be there to encourage the readers still with stabilisers (“training wheels” as they’re called here in Canada) to keep going. Have we sunk so low that the inherent pleasure of exploring the writer’s mind is not reward enough?

I recently had a business trip to Brazil and thought the Kobo would really come into its own. It fits neatly into a coat pocket and is much slimmer and lighter than the 1000 books it can contain. Or even one, for that matter. Having carried it hither and thither for two weeks, I think I read maybe one page. IT’S JUST NOT THE SAME. Maybe I’ll gradually get used to it, but I just love proper books. They’re physical. They feel different to each other. You can appreciate the quality (or otherwise) of the particular edition you’re reading, as well as the actual written words it contains. The pages might even hold stains or scents from their journey through space, time and relationships.

But there is at least ONE advantage my Kobo has over proper books. At least for me. You see, I’ve always revered books. I’ve had to restrain myself from violence on a couple of occasions when I’ve witnessed the North American predilection for taking a pencil, pen or highlighter and defacing, vandalising, and otherwise abusing a book with “margin notes” or similar. Students particularly seem to be infected with this rather distasteful affliction. But the Kobo allows you to “highlight” passages, quotes, etc, and make notes too as you read through. Even better, when you go back to your regular computer, you can get a nice little list of all the notes and quotes you’ve made, and can jump right to them, in situ, on the PC. The only missing functionality I can see in this aspect of the Kobo offering, is that you can’t then cut/paste those notes or highlighted passages into other programs.

It is through my own retyping therefore that I offer to you, dear reader, the bits of Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest” that I found particularly witty on re-reading. The whole play is brilliant of course, but some bits are more brilliant than others (to butcher Orwell in the process). Wilde – himself a homosexual – makes brilliant observations on male/female relationships, marriage, love, hypocrisy and class. I think he’d have been a great drinking partner…


  • Algernon: “All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That’s his.”
  • Jack: “I’ll bet you anything you like that half an hour after they have met, they will be calling each other sister.”
    Algernon: “Women only do that when they have called each other a lot of other things first.”
  • Algernon: “It is awfully hard work doing nothing. However, I don’t mind hard work where there is no definite object of any kind.”

– Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest, Act 1


  • Cecily: “Miss Prism says that all good looks are a snare”
    Algernon: “They are a snare that every sensible man would like to be caught in.”
    Cecily: “Oh, I don’t think I would care to catch a sensible man. I shouldn’t know what to talk to him about.”
  • Chausuble: “But is a man not equally attractive when married”?
    Miss Prism: “No married man is ever attractive except to his wife.”
    Chausuble: “And often, I’ve been told, not even to her.”
  • Gwendolen: “I had no idea there were any flowers in the country.”
    Cecily: “Oh, flowers are as common here, Miss Fairfax, as people are in London.”
  • Jack: [Slowly and hesitatingly] “Gwendolen–Cecily–it is very painful for me to be forced to speak the truth. It is the first time in my life that I have ever been reduced to such a painful position, and I am really quite inexperienced in doing anything of the kind.”

– Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest, Act 2


  • Gwendolen: “In matters of grave importance, style, not sincerity is the vital thing.”
  • Lady Bracknell: “To speak frankly, I am not in favour of long engagements. They give people the opportunity of finding out each other’s character before marriage, which I think is never advisable.”
  • Jack: “Gwendolen, wait here for me.”
    Gwendolen: “If you are not too long, I will wait here for you all my life.”
  • Lady Bracknell: “I dislike arguments of any kind. They are always vulgar, and often convincing.”
  • Gwendolen: “This suspense is terrible. I hope it will last.”
  • Lady Bracknell: “He was eccentric, I admit. But only in later years. And that was the result of the Indian climate, and marriage, and indigestion, and other things of that kind.”
  • Jack: “Gwendolen, it is a terrible thing for a man to find out suddenly that all his life he has been speaking nothing but the truth. Can you forgive me?”
    Gwendolen: “I can. For I feel that you are sure to change.”

– Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest, Act 3




6 responses

7 01 2012

I absolutely adore Mr. Wilde! Thanks for sharing this 🙂

7 01 2012
Quieter Elephant

You’re very welcome! Moved on to “A Woman Of No Importance” now…
No doubt it will appear at some point in these pages. 😉

7 01 2012
Laura Davies

I bet it doesn’t smell as good as a book either. (And can you take them in a bath?).

7 01 2012
Quieter Elephant

My particular Kobo is currently sheathed in a rather fetching “Roots” leather protective pouch, so it smells quite nice to my nose. Others may disagree. Especially if they’re vegan. 🙂
I do in general agree though, and love the acquired essential scents that a given book may acquire upon its journey through the lives of its readers.
As for the bath… an interesting question. Being male, baths are of the fill/in/wash/out format for me. I am led to believe however that many pleasures can potentially be taken in a bath, though suitable protection may be required. Just sayin’…

7 01 2012

Ah, another person with a deep and unshakeable love for Oscar Wilde! I love it!
I’ve nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award, which I hope you’ll accept and enjoy! The rules can be found on my page. Congratulations! (:

Have a lovely day!

7 01 2012
Quieter Elephant

Well thank-you kindly, ma’am (Mlle, if you prefer, given your delicate years.) Being only a month or so into this grand blogging adventure though, I’m not feeling really qualified just yet ( I don’t even FOLLOW 15 other blogs yet), but I certainly greatly appreciate the honour, and will try to be truly worthy of the nomination in due course.

And thanks for listing YOUR favourites on your blog… I will check THEM out, and maybe get up to the requisite number of blogs to properly accept!

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