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The best ebook reader you can buy

Why Kobo's little-known Aura One is a better ebook reader than the Kindle

Over the past decade or so, how we read and consume books has changed drastically. Books don’t always come on paper anymore, but instead, they’re often consumed on ebook readers and tablets that allow you to churn through as many titles as you want, whenever you want. Ebook readers are better than tablets for reading in a number of ways, however. Most of them now utilize epaper technology, which is better for your eyes, your device’s battery, and for reading in direct sunlight. Most of the tablet-like devices only sport a black-and-white interface, but you don’t need color when you’re reading anyway.

Related: Here are 100 of the best free books for Kindle (and other ebook stores)

Of course, there are plenty of ebook readers out there. So which one should you get? If you’re willing to spend the money, the Kobo Aura One is the best for those who use EPUB ebooks and the Kindle Oasis is best for those who’ve always used a Kindle. Here are the best ebook readers money can buy.

Our pick

Kobo Aura One

Kobo Aura One

Why you should buy this: You want a waterproof ebook reader with a big screen that supports more ebook formats.

Who’s it for: Readers who buy books, use EPUB ebooks, borrow ebooks from the library, or like to read near water.

How much will it cost: $230

Why we picked the Kobo Aura One

Kobo may not be a well-known brand in the United States, but its ebook readers are beloved around the world. Kobo’s latest ebook reader, the Aura One, is top-of-the-line. It is one of the largest ebook readers available with its 7.8-inch E Ink HD touchscreen. It also boasts 300ppi resolution, so letters appear as crisp and clean as they do in print. Since even ebook readers cast blue light, which can keep you up at night, Kobo offers a night setting you can use to eliminate blue light from the screen. When it’s all the way up, the display takes on a warm, yellowy hue that lacks blue light.

The Aura One is also fully waterproof with an IPX8 rating, so you can read in the bath or at the beach. The battery should last a month and it’s powered by a 1GHz chip. The Aura can even handle a large number of ebook formats, so you can download your books from Google Play, your public library, or elsewhere. Overdrive library borrowing is built right into the Kobo store, so getting library books on your ebook reader has never been easier. You can add thousands of books to the Aura One, too, thanks to a commendable 8GB of storage. The ebook reader’s behemoth display, waterproof encasing, and its ability to accept multiple ebook formats put it above the rest — unless you only own Kindle ebooks, that is.

You’ll still prefer the Oasis (see the next page) if you’re deeply embedded in Amazon’s Kindle ebook system, but if you don’t, the Aura One is objectively a better ebook reader. It has several killer features that the Kindle Oasis doesn’t have: It’s waterproof, it stifles blue light, it supports more ebook formats, it has a larger screen, and it has built-in borrowing from your public library. And it costs less.

Our full review

The best Amazon Kindle

Amazon Kindle Oasis

Amazon Kindle Oasis

Why you should buy this: You already have a library of Kindle ebooks and you want the best Kindle that exists, damn the money!

Who’s it for: A Kindle user who doesn’t mind spending big on an ebook reader for a fresh design.

How much will it cost: $290+

Why we picked the Amazon Kindle Oasis

The Kindle Oasis has taken the ebook world by storm (for good reason). It’s currently the best Kindle available, though it’s also the most expensive. So what makes it such a great device? The Oasis revels in an excellent design, which measures a mere 3.4 millimeters at its thinnest point and still manages to offer well-placed page turn buttons.

Not only that, but it also comes with a battery cover, one that’s designed to extend the battery life of a device with an already stellar battery life. In total, the device can last up to two months on a single charge, so you won’t need to worry about charging it as much as you might a tablet. The Oasis also comes outfitted with a beautiful 6-inch display and a pixel density of 300 pixels per inch. That’s more than many tablets.

Ebooks are pretty lightweight, so internal storage isn’t generally as important for an ebook reader as a tablet or smartphone. The Oasis still offers 4GB of storage, though, which is enough for thousands of books. If you read more than one book a month, you can sign up for Kindle Unlimited and read as many books as you want for $10 a month. It’s possible to get library books on your Kindle, too. Overdrive has a simple interface that lets you send ebooks to your Kindle over the internet — no plugging in required. You can also highlight passages from your favorite books and share them on social media.

Sadly, the Kindle Oasis isn’t waterproof, only accepts select ebook formats, and, as previously mentioned, is pricey. Regardless, it’s our favorite Kindle and the one you should buy if you don’t mind shelling out extra money for this innovative ebook reader. Cheaper options are on the following pages.

Our full review

The best Kindle for less than $150

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite

Kindle-Paperwhite_0037

Why you should buy this: You have a lot of Kindle ebooks, but you want a cheaper Kindle.

Who’s it for: If you can’t splurge on the Oasis, the Voyage is the next best thing for a Kindle user.

How much will it cost: $120+

Why we picked the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite

The Kindle Paperwhite was introduced last year and is still an excellent choice for the bookworm. Ebook readers generally have a longer lifespan than smartphones or tablets, largely because they’re built for one thing and one thing only — reading. The Kindle Paperwhite delivers on that front.

First off, the Kindle Paperwhite offers a beautiful high-resolution display with a 300 pixel-per-inch pixel density — the same one that’s on the Oasis, in fact. It is inset, however, so there are rubbery bezels around it. Those can be good for gripping while reading, but they make the Paperwhite a tad bulkier. Even so, this 6-inch ebook reader is light and easy to hold one-handed while reading. There aren’t any page turn buttons, sadly, but if you prefer using the touchscreen instead, you won’t be bothered.

Like the Oasis, the Paperwhite also has 4GB of storage, which should hold thousands of ebooks. You have access to Kindle Unlimited, the ability to download library books, and the option to share your favorite passages on social media.

As far as battery life goes, the Paperwhite will last for up to six weeks on a single charge. The Paperwhite isn’t waterproof, though, and remains limited to select ebook formats, so no EPUB files unless you want to get into the file conversion process. Regardless, it’s the best mid-range option for anyone who wants a Kindle.

Our full review

The best ebook reader for less than $150

Barnes & Noble Nook Glowlight Plus

Nook GlowLight Plus

Why you should buy this: You don’t want a Kindle and you want a waterproof alternative that’s less pricey than the Kobo Aura One.

Who’s it for: If you use Barnes & Noble ebooks or EPUB files and you like to read near water.

How much will it cost: $130

Why we chose the Barnes & Noble Nook GlowLight Plus

Sure, Amazon is the go-to for ebook readers, but it’s not the only company that makes them. In fact, Barnes & Noble has made quite a name for itself with its Nook series of ebook readers. The GlowLight Plus, the company’s flagship, offers many of the same specs as some of Amazon’s ebook readers with a price to match the Kindle Paperwhite. So why go for a non-Kindle ebook reader? There are a few reasons, but perhaps the most important one is that you aren’t tied to Amazon’s ebook library. Instead, you can download ebooks from a host of other places, including Barnes & Noble’s store.

Barnes & Noble makes it easy for you to find good books, and with B&N Readout, you can preview them before you buy. The GlowLight Plus will show you a selection of different excerpts from books you may like each day in the hopes that you splurge on new titles. It’s an unobtrusive feature, though, so you don’t feel like you’re getting hit over the head with ads.

The GlowLight Plus also has a 300ppi display, 4GB of storage, and the ability to read most standard ebook formats. The aptly-titled GlowLight Plus also has an adjustable ambient light, which will automatically cater to the amount of available light.

This ebook reader is the only one on this list that has an aluminum metal casing instead of a plastic one. The bezels on the front are made of plastic and have a nice grippy texture, but the back is made of smooth metal like an iPad. It’s a sleek looking ebook reader, and it’s waterproof to boot with an IP67 rating, so if you like to read near water or in the bath, this is the one for you.

The best cheap Kindle

All-new Amazon Kindle

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite 2016

Why you should buy this: You want a cheap ebook reader with no frills, or maybe you just like the white color option.

Who’s it for: Kindle users on a budget who want the best deal.

How much will it cost: $80 to $100

Why we chose the All-new Kindle

Amazon offers a wide range of Kindles to accommodate different budgets, so you don’t have to pay $200+ for the honor of owning one. The basic Kindle has the same 6-inch screen as every other Kindle, but it doesn’t have a built-in light. As such, it’s good for daytime reading, but at night, you’ll still need your reading light to see the words on the page. It comes packed with 4GB of storage, which should hold a fair amount of books, though not as many as other Kindles.

Amazon recently updated the basic Kindle with an improved design that comes in both black and white color options. It weighs just 5.7 ounces — which means it’s 16 percent lighter, but also 11 percent thinner than the previous model. It doesn’t have page turning buttons, but the screen is touch sensitive. There is not much else that has changed in design, but internally you’ll find double the RAM at 512MB. You can also share highlighted sections and quotes to your social media networks, and it features Bluetooth audio which can boost accessibility with VoiceView — a tool that reads out everything on your screen.

The basic Kindle shares the same software as Amazon’s other ebook readers, so you can share highlighted sections and quotes to your social media networks. It also features Bluetooth audio, which can boost accessibility with VoiceView — a tool that reads out everything on your screen. You’ll pay $80 for this Kindle if you don’t mind ads, but there’s always the $100 ad-free model for those of you who can’t stand them.

How we test

Testing ebook readers is one of the best parts of the job. It’s every bookworm’s dream to get paid to read! Testing is about more than just reading, though. To put an ebook reader through its paces, we test the screen’s brightness in different lighting conditions, we test its toughness in a variety of environments, and if it is waterproof, we dunk it in the tub to see how it handles a spill into a bubble bath.

We go through the process of buying ebooks from the provided stores, borrowing ebooks from public libraries, and transferring existing ebook files onto the ebook reader itself. We’ve also gone through the pain of converting ebook files to different formats to fully understand just how annoying exclusionary ebook file types are for readers.

But most of all, we read, just like you would at home, so we can tell you what it’s like for a book lover to go digital.

Which ebook readers support which ebook formats?

One of the most annoying things about ebooks is that there are many file types, and certain ebook readers don’t support certain formats. Here’s a breakdown of which ebook readers support which formats.

Kindle

  • Kindle Format 8 (AZW3)
  • Kindle (AZW)
  • TXT
  • PDF
  • unprotected MOBI
  • PRC

HTML, DOC, DOCX, JPEG, GIF, PNG, and BMP files are only supported through conversion. EPUB files are not supported, and conversion requires breaking Digital Rights Management, which is a real hassle. Apple iBooks are not supported either.

Kobo

  • EPUB
  • EPUB3
  • PDF
  • MOBI
  • JPEG
  • GIF
  • PNG
  • BMP
  • TIFF
  • TXT
  • HTML
  • RTF
  • CBZ
  • CBR

Kindle files and Apple iBooks are not supported, however, Kobo supports the most file formats natively of any ebook reader.

Nook

  • EPUB
  • PDF
  • Adobe DRM ePub and PDF
  • JPG
  • GIF
  • PNG
  • BMP

Kindle files and Apple iBooks are not supported.