Kobo Update Chaos

If you follow me on Twitter or know me in real life you’ve likely heard that I upgraded to the new version of the Kobo Desktop and eReader software. It was an awful experience that resulted in me resetting my unit to the factory defaults. This was particularly aggravating because the same thing happened the last time I upgraded the unit just a few short weeks ago – I had to call tech support then too and they also made me reset the unit.

It’s unacceptable that Kobo would ship two releases with the same bug – I mean, aren’t these sorts of problem reports what help add test cases to our test suites?

In any case, I wanted to share the letter I sent to Dan Leibu, Kobo’s CTO, and CCed to Mike Serbins, the CEO. I did get a DM back from the Kobo twitter account asking me to email my problem to a certain address. I did that yesterday morning, forwarding the letter below and a short email, and have yet to hear back. I put hard copies of the following note in snail mail yesterday afternoon. I wonder what/if I’ll hear back.

December 16, 2010

Mr. Dan Leibu
364 Richmond St West
Suite 300
Toronto, ON M5V 1X6

Dear Mr. Leibu:

I have been a proud Kobo owner since May 31 when I purchased my first eReader from Chapters. Despite numerous Kindle loving friends, including folks that work for the Kindle team, to me the advantage of the open format and the superior Canadian content made the decision to buy a Kobo an easy one. I received many questions from friends about my Kobo, and blogged a review that has been retweeted by several people, including Michael Tamblyn.

I am compelled to write you this letter because of my recent frustrations with your product. They are causing me to regret my decision and seriously contemplate switching readers to a Kindle. You are losing a big fan and vocal advocate.

Twice in the past 4 weeks I’ve been prompted to upgrade my desktop, and shortly thereafter, the eReader software. The first time I embarked on this without hesitation; the upgrade process in June was straightforward and trouble free, I had no reason to believe this would be any different. During the November upgrade, I followed the directions and after the upgrade completed, ejected the reader and turned it on – none of the books would open including the Kobo purchases and ePubs (both with and without DRM). I was quite upset. After a quick search that determined other folks had the same issue, I phoned customer support. A woman took me through several steps which did not correct the problem, and then had me reset my unit to the factory defaults. I was sorely disappointed to have to reset my entire library, but she told me this was the only way to have my device work.

This week I was excited to hear that the new software was out for the first generation Kobo users. I embarked on the upgrade process with some hesitation given my experience in November, but assumed that this upgrade path would have been tested. After all, this upgrade was targeted for first generation Kobo users, and since numerous people had the same issue as me with the upgrade in November I felt confident that the Kobo team would have ensured that this time around this upgrade path was tested – and worked.

Again, I installed the Desktop software and followed the directions to upgrade the eReader. This time, when I unplugged the Kobo I was able to open my books from the Kobo store, but none of the ePub books would open. I called technical support, and spent an hour on the phone with Borden. He was very patient, and took me through the same steps I had gone through in November – trying things like de-authorizing and reauthorizing the computer and reader in Adobe Digital Editions. None of them worked. He told me the way to fix it was, again, resetting the unit to factory settings. This is an unacceptable resolution to the problem.

I work in software, and understand that bugs happen; however, that the same issue should reoccur in back to back releases is unacceptable. Furthermore, one of the biggest selling points for the Kobo is the ability to read ePubs on the device; this upgrade path is one that is clearly supported and should have been tested. If there was knowledge that it would not work, then that should have been documented and users like myself could choose not to upgrade if the cost of the upgrade outweighed the perceived benefits. This also causes me to question whether the first generation Kobo users are being forgotten as your technical team focuses on the newer devices. That would be a serious mistake: it is us first generation users that are the early adopters and your first advocates.

I trust you will consider this feedback when delivering your next piece of software for the first generation units.

Sincerely yours,


Mike Serbins
cc: Mike Serbins

Moral of the story: I’d strongly caution folks who use Adobe Digital Editions against upgrading their units unless you are prepared to reset to factory settings. I even saw someone on the facebook support page suggest that the factory reset be part of the upgrade install instructions. That’s so not cool.

And I still look forward to traveling with my Kobo and will use it happily (except during takeoff and landing of course). I get to carry 10+ unread books with me! And don’t have to worry about packing space or weight! Wahoo! I just hope I can make up my mind which one to read first so that I actually spend time reading and not just choosing!

6 Responses to “Kobo Update Chaos”

  1. Sara Says:

    Good for you for blogging it! I blogged about an awful experience on Delta and it worked! They contacted me and helped me fix it were I had been previously laughed off the line of their call centers. I hope they find a way to fix their bug soon. You are definitely not the only frustrated person because I was reading reviews online. It looks like even the Kobo app for iPad (which I was considering) has issues!

  2. jenn Says:

    Thanks! I also hope other folks that get frustrated by the same thing will find the post and know they’re not alone. It’s so freaking frustrating.
    PS Jealous of your iPad.

  3. farmwifetwo Says:

    I bought my kobo about the same time you did. I did the first upgrade with minimal hassles.

    Fav part was the fact it stopped downloading every book when I sync’d loading the latest one I purchased.

    Then it asked me to update…. like yourself “sure why not”. It made a MESS out of my reader. My biggest hassle was the fact I could no longer get rid of the 100 freebies and every time I sync it loads ALL my books again… takes FOREVER with slow high speed…. PITA when now the book you were reading is now back in “I’m reading” as NEW… I have another online friend who’s kobo went blank… I don’t know if she ever fixed it or not or got the wireless one.

    It currently works, I can get rid of the 100 freebies… I too had to reset to factory default settings after emailing them and asking how to fix it…. but I’m still not impressed and considering the price of the readers out there… we’ll see how long I keep it before purchasing from another retailer. I have friends who’ve never had a bit of trouble with their kindles…


  4. jenn Says:

    I learned from looking online that email help takes a long time to resolve – which is why I call 🙂
    Yeah, with the November upgrade at one point the 100 free books wouldn’t go away. I was ready to cry.
    Anyway, don’t plan to upgrade again any time soon, that’s for sure!!

  5. farmwifetwo Says:

    It wasn’t bad, about 24hrs. The first email I wanted to toss the machine at them “go under display”… WT?? Don’t you think that I would have already done that??? So, I had to email them and say… NO… I did the upgrade (thinking, I told you this the first time….) and it’s screwed up, now what??

    I need to master Calibre. Atleast I can load the books directly from that program to the reader and by-pass the app. Also, can order from other retailers and bypass Kobo entirely.

    I did see on their last emails they are accepting indigo gift cards now but reading on a book site someone tried to use their discounts and got nailed full price…. Didn’t book mark it, nor follow the complaint entirely, will have to try and find it again. It’s a link in one of the blogs I follow.

  6. Zach Says:

    A little to late.

    When most people see an update they just go right along and update it just like I did but now we all know what happened and how it happened so no permenant damage.

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