Kobo: Desktop View Vs. ePub Formatting

Today has turned a bit into Kobo Day, as I try to make sense of their system.

What I believe is going on is this:

1) Kobo is its own system, apart from everything else. It stores eBooks in an SQLite database as records and does not use separate files for each book. This would normally be very bad, because we don’t need Yet Another Thing to fragment eBooks even more. However …

2) Since Kobo knows it can’t stand alone and survive, not long after its launch, it also added the ability for customers to download ePub files too.

So, despite Kobo doing things rather strangely with its desktop software, client software, and Kobo Reader, there’s nothing anyone should fear about buying eBooks from Kobo. I downloaded a free sample ePub myself and it opened fine in Adobe Digital Editions — and could also be read in the desktop Sony Reader Library software.

Still, let me illustrate with two screensnaps how the weirdness manifests.

I downloaded the first free eBook I came across via Kobo Desktop. It’s The Last Days of a Rake, from Carina Press.

It looks like this in Kobo Desktop:


Click = big

And this is how the same book as an ePub in Adobe Digital Editions appears:


Click = big

So, the version for the desktop client has totally different formatting.

There is nothing wrong with this. It just illustrates how Kobo does things differently. I suppose they thought it would be easier for people to read that way on an upright desktop/notebook screen. Besides, anyone can download the ePub version if that’s what they want to see on their desktop/notebook.

A note about the ePub. The ePub must be downloaded from the Kobo website. It can’t be done via the Kobo Desktop. These are entirely two different things. The ePub will probably download when syncing the Kobo Desktop with a Sony Reader, but the ePub will reside only in the Sony Reader, not in one of the My Documents eBook folders. This makes things a bit complex for those of us who like to know where our eBook files reside.

Anyway, like I said, there’s nothing wrong with any of this and nothing to be worried about. It’s just different from what I’ve been used to and have seen before.

Thanks to Nic Boshart for answering some questions about his Kobo Reader.

Previously here:

Kobo’s New Desktop App

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11 Comments

Filed under Kobo Reader

11 responses to “Kobo: Desktop View Vs. ePub Formatting

  1. Pingback: Amazon Can Exterminate Everyone Else In eBooks

  2. Pingback: Amazon – ePub, would this be a good idea for the world of ereaders? | eBookAnoid

  3. Sean

    When using the Kobo Reader itself, significant formatting is lost: i.e. bolded headers, tables, formatted pull out quotes. As a result, I’ve completely switched to using ePub files as it maintains all off the above in the way the author intended it to be. I fear that conversion to the SQLite database omits significant portions of texts and/or reformats them so that special sections do not stand out as they should in the ePub and print versions.

  4. Some ebooks do not have the option to download the epub, as I learnt the hard way recently. I only have the options to read on the computer with Kobo Desktop or on the iPhone with Kobo itself.

    I actually prefer using Stanza which I find a lot faster but since there is no epub function, which is kinda disturbing, I have no other option. It feels like borrowing the book, rather than “owning” it since I don’t have a copy of it, so to speak.

    That’s my last buy from Kobo, or more rather ebooks that don’t allow you to download a copy for backup.

    It is ridiculous for them to charge paperback prices (especially for non-fic) and not allow the reader to have a copy to backup.

    Thank you for the article. I guess all I can hope is for Kobo to add an ePub version in the future.

    • mikecane

      Which book was it? Are you certain there’s no ePub? I know there aren’t identical ePub versions of their free Classics, but that’s understandable. But anything for sale should have an ePub version. Did you email them? It could simply be a database error. I know at Borders’ site (which is powered by Kobo), it took a while for ePub buttons to appear in My Library due to some processing error.

    • Hi Christina,

      Can you let me know what the title was and I’ll look into that for you. It’s not expected behavior.

      Ashleigh Gardner
      Content Manager @ Kobo

      • Jake

        I just had this happen to me a few minutes ago, with Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man.

        Late reply, but I thought I’d mention it all the same.

  5. Mitchell Keil

    I don’t know where to tur nfor an answer to my KOBO problem. Can’t seem to find a source anywhere on the web to tell me how to fix a problem with epubs that I downloaded to my KOBO reader through Calibre which were not purchased through the KOBO site. They reside on my reader and on Calibre and can be seen and read in ADE but I can’t sync then across platforms. KOBO says that only epubs purchased throught them will sync with my iphone app and desktop. So,How do I get epubs not purchased on KOBO to show up on my desktop KOBO application and then sync with my KOBO app on my IPHONE? Any guidance or assistance would be greatly appreciated.

    • mikecane

      1) Only eBooks bought via the Kobo service have synchronization of things like last page read, bookmarks, highlights, and notes. Also, only those books can be seen in Kobo Desktop.

      2) To get eBooks (ePubs) onto your Kobo, you can see this video for a tutorial:

      If you have any questions, let me know. I hope this has helped.

      Oh, you also asked about iOS devices. For those, drag the ePubs into iTunes. I think the Books folder (it’s been a long while since I’ve used iTunes), and you will be asked if you want to copy them to the iOS device.

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