eReaders and eBooks: my Kobo Clara HD

Photo of Kobo Clara HD lying on a light wood desk, showing the title image of Stephanie Hare's "Technology Is Not Neutral"

There have been a couple of threads on Twitter recently about eReaders and eBooks, so I thought I'd write up my setup.

Kobo Clara HD

In a way, my eReader - a Kobo Clara HD - is one of the most underrated pieces of tech I own.

It Just Works.

I have used it for hours and hours and hours, and I love it. The battery life is amazing.

The default UI is fine, so I haven't bothered to change it.

I can side-load books with nothing more than drag-and-drop.

Ideally it would have forward and back buttons on the side, rather than relying on the touchscreen, but oh well.

I don't know if I was just being contrarian when I bought it, or if it was because I didn't like the idea of Amazon tracking every word I read.

The fact it was also going (relatively) cheap in John Lewis - about £70 - did not hurt.

Bypassing the registration and login screen

I didn't fancy giving Kobo any personal data, so I bypassed the registration and login screen with a quick tweak to the .sqlite database on the device.

There are some instructions here, but the gist is:

  • mount the device on your computer
  • browse to the device's internal storage
  • switch to the .kobo directory
  • open the database for editing: sqlite3 KoboReader.sqlite
  • fake the login details: INSERT INTO user(UserID,UserKey) VALUES('1','');

And that's it.

Now, obviously - well, obviously to me - I should not have needed to do this just to use the eReader I purchased without handing over my personal data needlessly, but, hey, it worked.


I use wallabag as a self-hosted "Read It Later" system.

Thanks to the wallabako code, I can read wallabag'd articles on my Kobo.

I see an article on the web that I want to read, but not now (or else I want to read it specifically on my eReader; ideal for longer form content), I press the wallabag button in my browser, and then, when I turn on Wi-Fi on my Kobo, it syncs my list of unread articles.

You need to do some configuration to make it work, but there is a decent logging to help you troubleshoot errors. It's not quite "drag-and-drop" though.

Managing my eBooks: calibre

Screenshot of calibre

I manage my eBook library using calibre. I'm currently using it on Linux, and I used it on macOS before.

It isn't the friendliest, or more aesthetically pleasing, piece of software, but it is functional, and I like it.

Aside from storing my eBooks in one easy-to-find place, there are a couple of aspects of calibre that I particularly like.

Conversion tools / regex

Screenshot of calibre's conversion interface

calibre has really powerful tools for converting files between formats.

I tend to buy eBooks from Amazon, and the Amazon format doesn't work on the Kobo. Never mind, calibre converts it automatically (once DRM is removed; see below).

I also use the conversion tools to turn PDFs into eBooks, to make them easier / more pleasant to read. I rely quite heavily on calibre's regex handling for this, to strip out irritants like titles at the top of pages, and page numbers. I tend to go for quick-and-dirty rather than perfect.

I have not found a good way of dealing with footnotes, and having them appear randomly in the middle of pages is not great. I think I'd probably settle for deleting them entirely in most cases.

Removing DRM

I'm not going to beat around the bush: one of the reasons I like calibre is because of the ease of integration of plug-ins to remove DRM from protected eBooks.

I am not a fan of DRM on things. "Defective by design" seems about right to me. If I've paid money for a book, I don't consider a limit on the devices on which I can read it to be either reasonable or justified.

So I remove it. And, once configured, calibre does this automatically, when I import a book.

Buying eBooks

I tend to buy most eBooks from Amazon, mainly because:

  • it's convenient
  • prices are normally pretty reasonable
  • the DRM falls off them easily (but I'd prefer it was not there at all)
  • calibre converts the format fine

I buy my Necromunda books directly from The Black Library - it's easy, and there's no DRM, and I want to support that.

In other cases, I'll settle for converting a PDF, but it's not ideal.

eBook pricing

Does it bother me that eBooks are often a similar price to physical books? Not really.

I buy a book because I want to read it. In other words, I am paying for what I get from the content. The value of the content does not change based on how it is published.

Does the cost of producing the book vary? I mean, I guess so, but I don't know by how much. In any case, in the context of a book, I am less worried about the cost to produce versus the value I get from it.

I don't buy books as an investment, or as something to pass down through generations. If I did, then an eBook would be a bad way to go, since all I'm buying is a licence for my own personal use (in most cases).

Author: neil

I'm Neil. By day, I run a law firm,, giving advice on Internet, telecoms, and tech law. This is my personal blog, so will be mostly about tech stuff, cycling, and other hobbies.

You can find me (and follow me) on Mastodon and Twitter.