With use of eReaders declining, the market needs a fairly strong contender to bring it back into the race. Rakuten Kobo has launched the Kobo Clara HD as its answer to the problem of declining eBook sales.

In 2017, digital books accounted for only 14% of US publisher book sales, down from almost 23% three years earlier. Meanwhile, sales of physical and audio books is booming.

Set against that backdrop, the launch of the Kobo Clara HD is absolutely mystifying.

What’s in the box?

The first thing you notice about the Kobo Clara HD is how light it is. At 166g the Clara HD packs in a lot of tech into its slight, slender frame. It’s the smallest eReader out there are the moment too. It’s dimensions are 159.6 x 110 x 8.3mm making the Kindle Paperwhite which is 169 x 117 x 9.1mm look huge.

Despite its smaller size, though, the Clara HD hasn’t sacrificed the one thing that matters: screen size. The e-ink screen is 6 inches from corner to corner, exactly like a Kindle.

All this makes the Clara HD an ideal fit in the palm of one’s hand. For those with busy commutes it’s ideal to read while standing.

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With this device, users will find all the things they’ve come to expect from modern eReaders. The e-ink screen is bright, functional, and easy to read from. There’s also a handy back-light which adjusts its brightness to fit the time of day. While Kobo have slapped ‘HD’ on the box, on an e-ink screen, you almost certainly won’t notice it.

It’s also got all the classic intuitive bells and whistles. Touch a word and you’ll get a definition and swipe to turn the pages. All the settings from font to line-spacing, margins to justification can be personalised.

You can also see your reading stats such as how long it’s taking to read a book and how far through it you are.

Clara’s battery life is incredible. Verdict trialed the device for two weeks and didn’t need to charge it once, despite the fact it came to us at half battery and we used it for at least an hour every day.

Sadly it isn’t waterproof, but the device is pretty hard-wearing and doesn’t scratch easily.

The book store:

There’s a book store from which customers can download over five million titles. That’s about 500,000 less than on Kindle. It’s also a completely separate book store so you won’t get any of the ‘Kindle Exclusives’. Still, considering those are mostly all poor-quality erotica, you aren’t missing much.

Unfortunately downloads are only conducted over WiFi, as Clara HD doesn’t come with 3G like the Kindle Paperwhite it aims to beat. Still, considering we live in times where WiFi is never more than a coffee shop away, that shouldn’t be too much of a problem.

Those with an account on Pocket can also download articles to read on-the-go, but there’s no resource to look at articles natively.

However, Clara does have a few tricks up her sleeve. Her internal memory is twice the size of Amazon‘s offering. You’ll get 8GB of memory on the device. That’s enough to hold 6,000 books which, unless you’ve got nothing else going on, is probably enough to last a lifetime.

Is the Kobo Clara HD worth buying?

Overall, it’s hard to find too much fault with the Kobo Clara HD. It’s functional, it’s got a solid book store, and it does everything you’d expect an eReader to do. It is at least as good as Amazon’s nearest competitor.

In fact, that smaller, handheld size makes it even better than anything Kindle is offering in that regard.

Still, what’s so surprising about the Kobo Clara HD is that it makes exactly no appeal to newcomers. It is an eReader for fans of eReaders.

With e-book sales in decline, it’s surprising that Kobo hasn’t done more to address this with the Clara HD. Including a headphone jack and the facility to listen to audiobooks on-the-go would have been a welcome addition. Another possible future for e-books, motion books, is also absent here.

As a result, the Kobo Clara HD looks likely to be a nail in its own coffin.

Even so, the device is a solid purchase in and of itself. It won’t convert anyone new to eReaders, but for those already enamoured with the idea of carrying 6,000 books around with them in one tiny electronic package, it’s just about the best device on the market.