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Will You Buy the New Kobo Libra H2O? (I Would)

Kobo’s newest ereader went up for pre-order today on the Kobo, Walmart, and Indigo websites, and will be shipping next week; will you buy one?

The Libra H2O is the smaller cousin to the Kobo Forma that launched around this time last year. It sports a 7″ Carta E-ink screen to the Forma’s 8″ Mobius E-ink screen. While the latter’s screen is plastic backed and thus more rugged, the two devices have essentially the same electronics, and a difference in price of about $90 ($169 vs $249).

BTW, Kobo dropped the US price of the Kobo Forma today, to $249. That’s the same price as the Kindle Oasis, which has a 7″ screen.

So tell me, would you buy the Libra H2O?

My review unit arrived Monday afternoon (there was a snafu), and based on what I’ve seen so far, I would. I didn’t care for the Forma when I saw it last fall, and I still don’t like it, but I do like the Libra H2O. You wouldn’t think an inch of screen size would matter, but the smaller ereader is just nicer in some I can’t explain.

The Libra H2O was described in a couple of the early reports as being cheaper and more flimsy in construction, but I would not say that was the case. I did note that the frontlight is uneven on the inside edge (the one against the page turn buttons) but that is a relatively minor issue, and in fact I don’t care (I just mention it in case it might concern you). In general I would say that the Libra H2O is a pleasure to hold and use.

I have finished a book since I got the Libra yesterday, and I have a couple more in the series that I plan to read on Kobo’s new ereader. That is what I think of the Libra.

What do you think of it based on the reports so far? Would you buy one?

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Paul September 10, 2019 um 10:55 pm

Sounds tempting!

Xavier Basora September 11, 2019 um 5:22 am


Nope. I’m satisfied reading on my tablet. It has the advantage of both kindle and epub reading apps.
ereaders restrict me to either epub or kindle formats. Also, I like colour especially for photos and maps.

It’s great that there’s a market for dedicated ereaders and wish Kobo and Amazon (and everyone else) great success.


Susan September 11, 2019 um 7:13 am

I haven’t been able to find it on Walmart’s website.

Nate Hoffelder September 11, 2019 um 8:51 am

Yes, I goofed on that point.

Disgusting Dude September 11, 2019 um 7:20 am

Why do people buy eReaders?
To read, right? To access ebookstores.

Since each breed of reader is tied to a specific type of ebookstore (Kindle vs epub) they are distinct and separate markets. Other than techie hobbyists familiar with DeDRM’ing, people stick with their platform of choice.

Kobo can add all the features they want, to entice newcomers to ebooks, or Kobo-ites to upgrade, but getting people to switch platforms is a lost cause. Pricing the Forma lower is more a function of its appeal to Kobo-ites than its appeal to Oasis buyers, the vast majority of which are tied to Kindle because It’s a premium/upgrade play for Kindle-ites. (And it has a few Aces Kobo can’t match, like Prime Reading, KU, and First Reads.)

East is east and all that.
eReaders are for those willing to commit to one camp or the other. Those that aren’t, use tablets and phones.

Mo September 11, 2019 um 7:20 am

hello Nate, I am worrying about the lihting problem you mentioned ("he frontlight is uneven on the inside edge"). could you post some pictures to show how bad it is?

tired September 11, 2019 um 7:57 am

Light uniformity and possible PWM prevents me from ordering it until I know more. It looks like the screen is quite uniform and doesn’t have the Forma bar but does it flicker? It looks like I have to wait for actual users to get their hands on it because no reviewer wants to touch it.

Steve H. September 11, 2019 um 8:21 am

Nate, I prefer the extra inch on the Forma. To each their own!! It’s great that Kobo has so many options available, old and new…6 models with different form-factors and sizes. Several reviews said the Forma didn’t seem as premium as the Oasis; I own both and disagree. The lighting is a little uneven near the button handle…no big deal.
If someone is looking for a 7″ reader, I expect the Libra is a good choice. At 169 with page turn buttons it is a good value.

Erin September 11, 2019 um 11:24 am

I have to admit I’m tempted. I use Paperwhites primarily and am heavy into the Amazon ecosystem, but I am curious about having another reader that is outside Amazon. The benefit of Kobo is it’s much easier if you borrow from the library often, and I like their comfortlight system.

Lance September 11, 2019 um 1:45 pm

This is the eReader I’ve been waiting for. Perfect size, buttons, and waterproof. I’ve been researching a new eReader to replace my Nook GL+ (2017) for a couple of months now and was about to pull the trigger on the new GL+, but the size was holding me back.

Clyde September 11, 2019 um 3:35 pm

Pretty happy with my Kobo Aura one limited edition. Though I will definitely go do some fondleslab once they have demo units at a local retailer.

I will say the one thing that would get me to seriously consider buying a new Kobo right now would be if it had a kindle app on it. KU is soooo addicting.

Kate September 11, 2019 um 3:51 pm

For me, the main consideration, all other specs being equal, is ergonomics. I love the Forma’s ergonomics. I see that the Libra H2O is only 5 grams lighter than the Forma although appreciably smaller.

I might buy if I didn’t already have a Forma, but I don’t see this as an upgrade.

Steve H. September 11, 2019 um 4:01 pm

Got to agree on ergonomics of the Forma-also prefer the 8″ screen. No reason for me to buy the Libra, but I do think it is a great price point for a 7″ reader, good ergonomics and page turn buttons(no adds).

Penelope September 11, 2019 um 4:57 pm

I’m not in the market currently, but if I were, I’d go for the Forma. I love the 7.8″ screen size of my Aupra ONE, and I also am a huge fan of flush screens. I’ve owned a Kobo AuraHD, prefer the larger screen. Will most likely be considering whatever replaces the Forma in a year or so.

Shawn Dawson September 11, 2019 um 8:10 pm

I have a Kobo Aura one. I really enjoy it. I was looking forward to upgrading to the Kobo Libra, but I don’t see much of an upgrade from what I already have. Would you agree?

John bartlett September 11, 2019 um 11:08 pm

I am disappointed with my new not ereader. Does the libra h2o support the kindle app via android app store?

Nate Hoffelder September 12, 2019 um 6:56 am

The Libra does not run Android. It runs Kobo’s software on Linux.

Will Entrekin September 12, 2019 um 9:21 am

Curious: you state twice, once in the headline and again in the copy, that you "would" [buy the reader] — so are you? Did you preorder? Is this going to become the new digital reading device of choice for the Digital Reader, who believes it is the Kindle Oasis Killer TM (lol nah).

I think it comes down to ecosystem; generally this seems like the device for tech enthusiasts who know what Calibre is and want to avoid using Amazon, for reasons they perceive as either practical, ethical, or moral.

Me, I like Amazon, but then again this might be an American perspective; I get the sense that Amazon is the dominant player in the US book market, but that the international market might be a different story. I don’t think Kobo has more market share than Amazon internationally, but maybe it has more of a lesser share? I.e., Kobo has like 6% U.S., but maybe as high as 20 when it comes to the international space.

But the international space seems a lot smaller for English-language fiction.

Again, this might be an American perspective, but it’s the sense I’ve gotten. I read primarily English-language fiction published in the U.S., which means Amazon makes the most sense for me as a reader. Who else am I going to go to? B&N? Apple Books?

Libraries are the only other factor that I can think of playing in, but I don’t really use libraries anymore, so I don’t have experience with either the market or the ecosystem. My only thoughts about libraries, really, are that corporate publishers should charge them less and I wish they either didn’t require ISBNs or there was someplace to buy them in the US that isn’t Bowker.

Snow September 13, 2019 um 8:09 am

I love my Forma so I won’t be buying a Libra. My only complaint about the Forma is that I can’t find a sleeve for it and I am not interested in buy Kobo’s cover for it.

Ros Jackson September 13, 2019 um 6:53 pm

I fairly recently got a Forma, so I’m unlikely to get a Libra. The main attraction of the Forma for me is that, flipped on its side, it makes it much easier to read pdfs without squinting or having to zoom. It’s also a lot more handbag-portable than I thought it would be. So anything even slightly smaller wouldn’t be good for that. Pdfs account for a lot of my reading for work, so it’s been a good investment.

SusanReads September 14, 2019 um 7:11 am

Disgusting Dude, I’m an obsessive reader (I read a book a day) and I have lots of friends worldwide who are the same. None of us choose an e-reader based on the platform. We all use Calibre to convert our books.

So I guess if you read occassionally you’re right. But if you’re a reader like me (or like the thousands of other readers I know) you go to the trouble to use Calibre (which is super easy), and in that case you can just choose an e-reader based on the device itself.

Kevin December 9, 2019 um 5:25 pm

I just bought the kobo libra h2o and I love it . The small grey area by the physical page buttons is blown out of proportion by people online as it is barely noticeable and does not affect the text on the screen. It took me about 10-15 minutes to get used to it and now I barely notice it.

Susan, I totally agree. The new scrubber feature of the kobo along with it’s other features also make it more suitable for non-fiction (although, it does not interfere with fiction reading) and it is also more suitable for students and scholars and heavy analytical and syntopical readers as a result.

Will you said you only read fiction so kindles are fine for you but when you want to put on your big boy pants and read at a level higher than 8th grade James Patterson level reading you would want the advanced scrubber from Kobo for analytical and syntopical reading.

Will, in set theory I would say the proportion of techies and high level readers is set A and and set B and that it is connected in a venn diagram of the union of intersection of set A and B.

Kobos are for techie and FOR advanced readers who read above the 8th grade level.

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