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Kobo Forma – sometimes you have to be flexible to win

By Michael Tamblyn • December 06, 2018

"We put Kobo Forma through some very unofficial tests. And we got creative."

As a technology company created by booklovers, for booklovers, we are always looking for ways to make the reading experience better.

What could be better than a paper book you say? Isn’t the technology of a book kind of perfect – open it, there are words, page turns are intuitive, it is portable, books smell great, so what needs improvement?

Plenty. From the start, we loved eReaders because they make our reading life better: carry ALL of our books, not just one, on a device that weighs less than one paperback. eInk displays with print as crisp and clear as paper, with anti-glare surfaces for easy reading in direct sunlight; waterproof for fearless reading in the bath or close to splashing kids in the pool. A front-facing LED light so you can read far into the night without disturbing a sleeping partner; blue light filters so your own sleep patterns won’t be disrupted. And all with an experience that doesn’t barrage with text messages and social alerts, so that reading can be the escape it is supposed to be.

So, what could we possibly do next? Is it time to drop the mic?

Not by a long shot, our developers and designers told us.

What could be better than a paper book you say?

Two themes kept showing up when we talked to customers.

One was “Keep doing what you’re doing – we love the waterproofing, the ComfortLight, public library access, eInk. More of that please.” Whew. Nice to hear and easy to do. But the other was a bit more of a head-scratcher. “We want a bigger screen and we want the whole thing to be even lighter.” Those two qualities usually don’t go together. eInk screens are traditionally sandwiched between two pieces of glass – one in front and one behind. The plastic case is there, more than anything else, to protect that glass and keep it from cracking. Bigger screens mean more glass, more glass is more fragile, and then it has to be protected by a more reinforced case with bulkier plastic or heavier, colder metal cases that don’t feel as good to hold.

We went through one entire design cycle creating a thin device with a glass screen and it just wasn’t working. Too breakable or too heavy. Months into the process, we threw that design away.

We went back to our manufacturing partner and tried a new idea – removing glass from the eInk screen entirely. They had a prototype screen, called Mobius, that no one had ever been willing to use before.

Mobius removes the glass from eInk and replaces it with two sheets of plastic polymer. A lot of work had to be done to make sure that it would look perfect for our demanding eReading fans, but when it was all done, we came out with something remarkable. And flexible. Flexible screens are something from the world of tech blog press leaks, and you may have heard of folding smartphones and screens you can roll up and put in your pocket. But there we were with an eReader screen you could actually bend. And once we had one that could bend, we could shed a lot of plastic and stiffeners and reinforcement that had been needed to protect all that glass. Not only would it ensure the eReader was as close to weightless as we could make it, it would offer incredible durability.

And that is the origin story of Kobo Forma, complete with a few twists and turns.

We went back to our manufacturing partner and tried a new idea – removing glass from the eInk screen entirely.

What CE product or screen do you know of that doesn’t break if you drop it? Check this out: It is really really hard to break a Kobo Forma. We say it is built for extreme reading – but really, it’s built to survive even the most overloaded backpack. The official drop tests say it is “durable after a drop of 10 feet”.

But back at Kobo HQ, we put Kobo Forma through some very unofficial tests. And we got creative. While we do not recommend you try this at home, we dropped it down our two-storey atrium onto a concrete floor.

We twisted it.

We tested it not only in water but saltwater, chlorinated water and water with bubble bath. (We recommend you rinse your eReader if you’ve dropped it in the sea, pool or bath).

Kobo Forma met these challenges with ease.

We went further on the physical comfort front. With an ergonomic curved design, and lightweight enough to hold for hours, Kobo Forma is our most comfortable eReader yet. We changed the design so that page turns can happen with a swipe or a click of a button close to where you are holding the device, meaning you can turn pages with as close to zero effort as possible. (And then we tested that for 300,000 or so page-turns, just in case.)

Kobo Forma screen allows for portrait or landscape modes, depending on how you like to read. Readers who like bigger fonts are finding the landscape mode especially useful.

We’re proud of our work on Kobo Forma, which is thin but not fragile. It can take a lot of knocks. You may not think of reading as an extreme sport, but life happens, and our devices need to be ready for it. Kobo Forma can take whatever you can throw its way.

Follow us at @kobobooks on Instagram

Long weekend = more time for reading 🙌 What was the last book you finished in one day? #thekobolife "I can adjust the light settings and read throughout the night without waking a soul."👌 What's your favourite Kobo feature? #thekobolife 2019 goals: dine alone at least once, keep plants alive, start an audiobook trial. We are 2 for 3 (sorry plants) 🌱 #thekobolife

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