Introduction: Use Kobo for Accountable Independent Reading

In this Instructable I will walk you through the process of setting up a Kobo account and sideloading ebooks on iOS and Android. Then I'll show you how to make use of the Kobo data to get a clearer view of your reading habits.

You'll need:

  • an iOS or Android phone or tablet
  • a cloud storage app like Google Drive

Kobo is a multiplatform ebook reader. It's free, allows for easy epub sideloading (even on iOS!), and tracks useful reading metadata across one or multiple books:

  • total hours reading
  • hours per book
  • pages per hour
  • pages per session
  • a reading times histogram
  • "achievements" like reading multiple days in a row or at different times of day

Who might want to use it?

English teachers and students. Quantified self enthusiasts. Amazon haters. Book pirates.


Because tracking your reading helps to develop and improve reading habits and speed and shows your nosy English teacher that you actually did the summer reading. It's also an easy way to sideload a pirated batch of epubs onto your iProduct without jailbreaking.

Why an Instructable?

Because it's tough to find and download free ebooks via the mobile Kobo apps (presumably by design.) Sideloading isn't immediately intuitive, and I'm directing my students here before they embark on their summer reading assignment.

Step 1: Get the Kobo App & Create an Account

Click the link that corresponds to your device's operating system to download the app.



www (Chromebook-compatible, if you buy the books from the Kobo store–no sideloading)

On iOS you'll need at least 50mb of free space. The apk for Android weighs in around 43mb depending on your device.

Once you've downloaded the application successfully, create a free Kobo reading account by entering your email address and a new password.

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Rocking a Windows phone, Blackberry, or really want to read on a standalone desktop app? Head over to the Kobo homepage, select the Apps & eReaders dropdown menu, then choose the appropriate version of Kobo for your device.

Step 2: Find and Download Some Ebooks

Students in my class need to read 1984 and Little Brother over the summer.

Using Google Drive on iOS:

  • download the epub version to Google Drive
  • using Drive on your iOS device, select your ebook, then open in Kobo*
  • the book will be added to your Kobo library

Using Android with or without Drive:

  • from the Kobo homepage, click the settings menu (three vertical dots by the search bar), and find the "import" function
  • select the recently-downloaded epubs
  • the books will be added to your Kobo library

You can find lots more free ebooks at Project Gutenberg.

*if you have several apps capable of opening epub files, Kobo might not show up as an option. Below the row of app icons should be the option to "open in" which shows more applications that can open the book. Kobo should be among them if you installed the application.

Step 3: Read

If you did everything correctly, your Kobo library will now have some local files in the library. Hooray!

Now start reading.

Step 4: Making Sense of Reading Data: Speed

So, what to make of all of this reading data?

First, let's look at reading speed. Adults and children alike generally view their reading skill in terms of speed, but it's a rather poor measure of reading ability overall. Speed is a raw measurement that doesn't give us any data about what you can remember from the text or whether you're thinking about it rather than scanning the words with your eyeballs and humming Katy Perry under your breath. But it's interesting.

It's a good jumping off point for a reading regimen as detailed here in Forbes. And a full-length novel or two should provide more robust data than this quick and dirty reading speed test.

Kobo tracks time spent reading and pages turned. That'll get us to reading speed in words per minute eventually, but first we need to convert "pages turned" into a more useful value like "words per page."

To do this, simply highlight and copy a full page of text from the book and feed it through a word counter. I am partial to this site, but you could use the Google Docs word count tool to do the same thing.

Let's say that with my font settings I'm at ~100 words/page. An hour into Little Brother, I've turned 454 pages. At 100 words/page, I've read about 45,400 words. Since I've read for an hour, my hourly rate is 45,400 words per hour. Divide that figure by sixty to get the per-minute value.

Which brings my reading speed to about 756 WPM.

Now, that's a little on the high side. I need to try this activity once or twice more to ensure that my values aren't inexplicably far off from the average adult reading speed of 300WPM.

  • Eighth-grade student = 250
  • Average college student = 450
  • Average “high level exec” = 575
  • Average college professor = 675
  • Speed readers = 1,500
  • World speed reading champion = 4,700
  • Average adult: 300 wpm

Step 5: Identifying and Building Reading Habits

As you can see in my reading graph, I'm a morning commute and bedtime reader. I also sometimes read at lunch or on the evening commute.

To build on my existing reading habits, I might figure out ways to more explicitly incorporate reading into my routine. Perhaps I should automate my coffee in the morning to squeeze in an extra five minutes of reading? How do I account for weekends? Can I add five or six minutes here and there to squeeze in a few thousand extra words per reading event? If I cut one television program before bed and read instead, I can take advantage of the downtime to read.

Teachers: collect a screenshot of your student's summer reading data for a quick check to see if it got done, how long it took, and get insight into how to help students build a strong reading habit.