Is Kobo trying to shed customers?

Seven years ago, my kids bought Kobo readers as gifts for my wife and me. I have bought well over 100 books from them. The other night I tried to buy two books and the last item before checkout is to identify a captcha. Not the simple kind of repeating some letters or numbers in funny fonts, but the kind where they show you a 3 x 3 grid of tiny photos and you have to identify those with a car (or a train, or a boat). My aged eyes flunked this task several times. My wife was able to complete the purchase.

Why would a company deliberately make it hard to make a purchase? They used to have a telephone number for customer support, but if you call it you get a recorded message that they have discontinued this service. There is a help button on their web site that used to get you a chat line, but now just gets you a FAQ list.

WTF. How can a company act like that. The one thing I do know is that they were recently bought by a Japanese company (Rakuten). I guess my next e-reader will have to be a kindle, but I hate to kiss my 100 e-books goodbye.

My WAG is they’re not making it deliberately hard to make a purchase, but they’re making it deliberately hard for someone to hijack your credit card.

They’re worried about a $15 purchase on which their own cost is negligible? And there is no real help any more?

Personally, I have a much better success rate on the object recognition captchas compared to the distorted letters. Maybe I can swap one of my eyes for one of yours.

There is a rumor that we humans are being used to train Google’s self-driving cars to identify road hazards by classifying these images.

I’ve heard that, so every time I’m asked to identify pics of trucks or cars cars or strollers I figure it’s one less case of a self-driving car plowing into a vehicle… or a stroller! (“You’re welcome, baby!”)

And I’ve had to do that dozens of times (and all those companies are not trying to shed customers).

I’ve managed to succeed even with my 20/800 vision.
OP, you might want to mention this experience to your eye doctor. Can you get “computer glasses”?

I use progressives and at the right angle can read the screen well. Trouble was that the captcha pictures were so tiny. And why are they doing it? And why have they destroyed their customer service?

I was thinking of starting a thread about this. Not the Kobo (I own a Kindle) but this increasingly common practice of requiring humans to prove they’re human by clicking tiny, grainy pictures of cars or boats or chimneys. Alan Turing would not have approved of this.

The one I really hate involves crosswalks. Let’s see, this square contains a tiny sliver of a crosswalk—do I have to click that one too? That square has a white smear in the distance that might be a crosswalk—should I click it? Wrong! Start over, dumbass!

If you decide to go that route … it’s possible, using a program called Calibre, to remove the DRM from your Kobo books and convert them to a format the Kindle can read. It’s a bit of a hassle, but only has to be done once.

While those picture captchas aren’t uncommon, it seems weird to require them to buy ebooks on your own device that you’ve presumably used and verified you’re a real human with your credit card.

I can’t see how a captcha could help with credit card fraud, as the scarmmer would be able to do it as well as anyone else. And it would be odd for there to be a concentrated bot buying up ebooks. You can’t resell them legally, so what would be the point?

I’d be very interested in their reasoning to add captchas of any kind to their ebook system. Best guess I could have is that it applies to other stuff (like maybe the e-readers themselves) , and just got tacked on to the ebooks too.

Two points I wanted to make to the OP, and that was one of them.

To be clear, Calibre is a completely legal, well-regarded, highly functional program that converts ebooks between all the common formats. It is NOT intrinsically capable of removing DRM protections, but there are third-party plugins available that enable that functionality. I have no idea specifically about de-DRMing the Kobo format, and obviously could not provide details here even if I did, but I’m pretty sure such plugins must exist – I believe Kobo uses the widely popular EPUB format. I would consider it perfectly legitimate to do on books you have actually purchased if your sole intent is just to use them on a different platform. It’s also possible that many of those books may not be DRM protected at all.

The other point I wanted to make is the excellence, in my experience, of Amazon customer service, both with respect to returns and with respect to helping with problems. My Kindle once got into a weird state after an attempted software upgrade, and Amazon support was excellent in helping to resolve it. After the problem was fixed the rep asked me if I was happy with the Kindle and if the battery life was still satisfactory – this was at a time when some Kindles were reported to have batteries wearing out prematurely. I told her that mine was still OK, but I suspect that they would have offered a free or almost-free replacement otherwise.

I know quite a number of people who have Kobo readers and it’s a wise choice from the standpoint of the ubiquity of the EPUB format, but in my limited experience (which now dates back several years) Amazon customer service is one of their strengths and one of the pluses of owning a Kindle. Also, I think they’re pretty good at keeping up with the latest technology. In most cases I actually prefer reading on my Kindle Paperwhite to reading a dead-tree book.

I know this is possible because I’ve done it. A few years ago, I had a coupon good for a free Kobo book. I purchased the book from the Kobo store, downloaded it, loaded into Calibre and converted it to MOBI format. The book is in my Kindle now.

Yes, this requires a plugin—but I figured it wasn’t necessary to bring that up now, given that Hari is only thinking of buying a Kindle. If he decided to go through with that, then we could get into the details.

It IS possible, by several methods, to import EPUB into a Kindle reader (I favor the app on my Android tablet, not wanting to buy and cart around yet another device). These two links offer a decent look, and there may be other options I didn’t look into:

I personally find Calibre quite easy to use, and the developer is VERY responsive to users.