June 30, 2011

Kobo eReader Touch on Ubuntu Linux

Posted in Misc, Software at 22:22 by graham

Ten days ago, I received a Kobo eReader Touch for father’s day. It’s a lovely device. Here’s my impressions.

It’s a USB device.

  1. Plug it in to your Ubuntu machine (or probably any modern Linux distro). It shows up as a USB storage device.
  2. Drag and drop books in any supported format onto it.
  3. Unplug, switch on, read books.

It’s that simple. If you had a solid-state MP3 player (before your phone played them), this will feel familiar.

It charges from the USB port, and battery life so far is upwards of 8 days.

The setup software is Win / Mac only, but you don’t need it. When you start the device, it insists that you run the setup software. You don’t have to. As far as I can tell, the setup does two things:

  • Forces you to create a kobobooks.com account. Lame.
  • Updates the software on the device.

For this reason you might want to find a Windows or Mac machine at some point.

It’s a book

The Kobo Touch does a great job of respecting the book abstraction. It is light and compact like a book – I’ve read comfortably for hours. You can’t read in the dark, you can read in full sun and from any angle. You can’t browse the web, use it as a torch, or in fact do almost anything except turn the pages. As I said, it’s a book.

When you power it ‘off’ (sleep), it displays the cover of the book you’re reading, and the percentage read. The percentage is presumably to convey the information your bookmark sticking out of the book normally does.

Prefer ePub

The Kobo deals much better with ePub than with PDF. PDF’s feel like images – no resize or reflow and you can zoom but you have to manually scroll around the page. With ePub by contrast it resizes the text to be a nice large size, and reflows the text so that it fits naturally on the screen of the device.

To convert your PDFs to ePubs, use the excellent eBook manager Calibre. It can convert between most book formats, can find cover art and metadata for your books, and much more. Calibre is multi-platform, GPL and written in Python.

Happy reading, and remember to ask your local library if they rent ebooks. Mine does.


  1. Alex said,

    August 12, 2013 at 02:43

    I just bought the Kobo Mini and it is the version where you cannot skip the setup. I don’t want a kobo account etc…

    I followed the guide to activate it using sqlite3 (http://www.mobileread.mobi/forums/showthread.php?t=171664)

    -Plug in the Kobo and select computer activation. -In linux, from the command line: (install sqlite3) –$ sudo apt-get install sqlite3 (open the kobo database located in the /media/KOBOeReader/.kobo dircetory) –/media/KOBOeReader/.kobo $ sqlite3 KoboReader.sqlite — sqlite> INSERT INTO “user” VALUES(‘aaaaaaaa-aaaa-aaaa-aaaa-aaaaaaaaaaaa’,’aaaaaaaa-aaaa-aaaa-aaaa-aaaaaaaaaaaa’,’xxxx@xxxx.xx’,’xxxx@xxxx.xx’,’2aaaa aaaaaaaaaaaaa==’); — sqlite> .exit

    restart your kobo and it is good to go.

    You don’t get to make a kobo account and get the updates and free ebook offers tho. But i wasn’t interested in this anyway.

  2. Badri said,

    April 3, 2013 at 04:07

    I have Linux (Ubuntu) without WiFi. But I can’t figure out any way to skip the setup. How do you do it?

  3. Don Williams said,

    December 5, 2012 at 16:07

    Whilst I applaud your ingenuity (and ability), I succumbed to chatroom advice and tried thus: Visited kindly neighbour and his windoze machine to download Kobo’s managing software, then installed Calibre on my Mint 13 set-up and within the hour my Kobo was up and I was reading securely. Calibre also runs/works with Kindles, I see. The Kobo’s a cracker by the way!

  4. safost said,

    November 24, 2012 at 03:26

    This is just wrong! We all want to get away from micro(splat) and want apps running on unix/linux and AWAY from micro(splat). What happened to giving your customers what they wanted?

  5. Sam said,

    May 21, 2012 at 10:52

    Recently purchased a Kobo, but it would only read the inbuilt help files. Books dropped into internal memory did not show, and the same story with a uSD card. Tried all the available formats – none would show up on the Kobo. I was getting really cranky. As a last resort I “registered” (since I hate M$ it was through a VM using XP – 2K did not work). Once registered, and the Kobo did it’s ‘upgrade’, then all the books became visible (even ones in formats it said it does not recognise!). It is my assumption that the “registering” process applies an ‘upgrade’ that allows the thing to actually work, and until you do that, “sorry pal, can’t do nuthin’ for ya”.

  6. Graham King said,

    July 3, 2011 at 23:08

    @S.Chauveau: Darn you! Now I have to go get telnet running on my Kobo, instead of reading books! :-)

  7. S. Chauveau said,

    July 1, 2011 at 09:21

    In my previous post, I mentioned the factory reset (press the ‘Home’ button while powering on the device). Be aware that a factory reset will REMOVE ALL EBOOKS from the device and you will have to redo the setup procedure which will automatically reinstall all ebooks bought from Kobo.

    ps: If you haven’t found it yet, there is a hidden Sudoku game (try google)

    pps: You indicate in your post that the Kobo can’t read the web. There is a minimalist web browser in the Wireless configuration page.

  8. S. Chauveau said,

    July 1, 2011 at 09:09

    Kobo also provide a Linux version (as a .deb package) of their desktop application. for more information, see posts starting from #201 at


    Unfortunately, the application is only provided in 32bit but it works fine on 64 systems with the 386 compatibility packages and 1 or 2 simple tricks describes in later posts.

    Generally speaking, I recommend reading the Kobo Reader forum at http://www.mobileread.com/forums. The Kobo devs are very active and helpful there!

    Also, hacking into the Kobo Touch is quite easy. Yesterday, I enabled ‘telnet’ on it :-) The device runs a typical Linux system and the upgrade mechanism (a simple file .kobo/KoboRoot.tgz) can be used to patch the system files (In theory, a factory reset should restore the Kobo to its original state (firmware 1.9.0) but there is always a small risk of ‘bricking’ the device.).

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