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The best e-book readers for 2021

Books are wonderful things, and if you have yourself a mini library at home, we’re willing to bet you wouldn’t trade all of them for an e-book reader loaded down with your favorites. While they may lack the tactile nature of a book, an e-book reader is something every keen reader should consider. Many of the models available come with backlights so you can read in lower light, you can make the font bigger to suit your needs, and they’re small enough to slip into a pocket — and e-book readers are always going to beat physical books when it comes to going on holiday, especially if you’re a fast reader.

But which e-book reader should you buy? There’s no shortage of great readers out there, and while Amazon’s Kindle Oasis may be the biggest name that nearly everyone knows, there are other options available if you’re looking to get an e-reader that’s not tied to the world’s largest shopping site. Here are the best e-book readers for 2021.

We’ve also found some of the best Kindle deals going on right now if you’re looking for a new e-book reader on a budget.

Best e-book readers at a glance:

Best e-book reader: Amazon Kindle Oasis (2019)

Kindle Oasis (2019) Review
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Why you should buy this: You already have a library of Kindle e-books, use your e-book reader for audiobooks, or just love the WhisperSync feature.

Who it’s for: The hardcore reader who’s heavily invested in the Amazon ecosystem.

Why we picked Amazon’s Kindle Oasis (2019):

Amazon’s latest Kindle Oasis (2019) is a minor revision over the 2017 model. It’s currently the best Kindle available, though it’s also the most expensive. So what makes it such a great device? Featuring a beautiful 7-inch display, a pixel density of 300 pixels per inch, and well-placed navigation buttons, the Kindle Oasis revels in an excellent design.

Amazon claims the Kindle Oasis can last up to six weeks on a single charge, though you’ll likely need to plug it in after a week or two of use (depending on your settings). It’s still more than good enough for most people, and it’s impressive it can go so long given how thin the device is. There are also built-in ambient light sensors, which adapt to your surroundings so that you don’t have to constantly adjust the screen.

e-books are pretty lightweight, so internal storage isn’t generally as important for an e-book reader as it is for a tablet or smartphone. The Kindle Oasis offers 8GB of storage, which is enough for thousands of books, but there’s a 32GB option that may be preferable for those that enjoy listening to audiobooks from Audible via Bluetooth earbuds. It’s possible to get library books on your Kindle, too. Overdrive has a simple interface that lets you send e-books 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, look up the meaning of words, and get context for fictional and nonfictional characters, places, settings, and more through a feature called X-Ray.

As far as new features go, the 2019 Kindle Oasis has a color-adjustable front light. The screen’s color tone can shift to warmer hues at night, making it easier on the eyes and protecting you from blue light. There’s also IPX8 water resistance, which means it’s protected against immersion in up to 6.5 feet of freshwater.

Sadly, it still only accepts select e-book formats — you can read EPUB files, but it requires some manual work. Regardless, the Oasis is our favorite Kindle and the one you should buy if you don’t mind shelling out extra money for this e-book reader.

Read our full Kindle Oasis (2019) review

Best Kindle alternative: Kobo Libra H2O

Simon Hill/Digital Trends

Why you should buy this: You want a waterproof e-book reader that supports more e-book formats.

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

Why we picked the Kobo Libra H2O:

If you’re looking for an e-book reader that can access a larger library, then ditch the Kindle and settle down with the Kobo Libra H2O. Kobo’s e-book reader has a sizable 7-inch E Ink display with a 300 pixels per inch (ppi) resolution, so your books will always look crisp and natural. Since e-book reader displays cast blue light, which can keep you awake at night, Kobo’s ComfortLight Pro helps to reduce blue-light exposure. When it’s all the way up, the display takes on a warm, yellow hue that minimizes the impact of blue light when you’re reading at night.

The Libra H2O is also fully waterproof, thanks to an IPX8 rating. That means you can read in the bath or at the beach without worrying about your investment. Depending on your reading preferences, you should only need to recharge its battery every few weeks; it may even last as long as a month between charges. The Kobo Libra H2O can handle a large number of e-book formats, so you can download 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 e-book reader has never been easier. You can add thousands of books to the Libra H2O, too, thanks to an impressive 8GB of storage.

You will still prefer the Kindle Oasis (see the above entry) if you’re deeply embedded in Amazon’s Kindle e-book system or enjoy listening to audiobooks. But if you’re not, the Kobo Libra H2O could be a better e-book reader for you. It’s cheaper, stifles blue light, supports more e-book formats, and has built-in borrowing from your public library.

Read our full Kobo Libra H2O review

Best cheap Kindle: Amazon Kindle Paperwhite (2018)

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

Who it’s for: The person who’s looking for an inexpensive e-book reader with all the bells and whistles.

Why we picked the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite (2018):

The Kindle Paperwhite finally got a face-lift in 2018. While it has long been one of our favorite e-book readers, some minor updates to the Kindle Paperwhite make it an even better option for the average reader.

First off, the Kindle Paperwhite offers a beautiful high-resolution display with a 300-pixel-per-inch pixel density — the same as its predecessor. The raised bezel has been replaced with one that is flush with the display. The change makes the new Paperwhite a little more sleek and ever-so-slightly thinner. This 6-inch e-book reader is light and easy to hold with one hand while reading. There aren’t any page turn buttons, sadly, but if you prefer using the touchscreen instead, you won’t be bothered.

There are also a few new features that make the Paperwhite even more attractive. It has an IPX8 rating, meaning you can use it in the pool or tub without worry. There’s also Bluetooth connectivity, meaning you can pair headphones with the Kindle and listen to your favorite Audible titles. The 2018 Kindle Paperwhite is available in 8GB and 32GB storage configurations. As far as battery life goes, the Paperwhite will last for several weeks on a single charge.

While the Paperwhite’s design may be so familiar that it’s uninspired, it’s still the best Kindle for most people. Keep in mind, there’s a cheaper model you can get — the basic Kindle, which was refreshed in 2019. You can pick up the basic model for $90 right now, but with the small price difference between it and the Paperwhite — and the fact it’s not water-resistant, so not recommended for reading in the bath — we reckon it’s worth shelling out for the Paperwhite.

But hold your horses for just a moment. While we currently still recommend the Kindle Paperwhite (2018), it’s worth keeping in mind that a new Paperwhite (with new features) is just around the corner. If USB-C and a better warm light sound good to you, maybe hold out for that one. However, stock of the 2018 Paperwhite is currently on sale for a large discount, meaning it’s still a tasty option. But if the new Paperwhite interests you, keep an eye out for our thoughts when it launches in late October.

Read our full Kindle Paperwhite review

Best cheap e-book reader: Kobo Clara HD

Kobo Clara HD review
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Why you should buy this: You’re looking for an inexpensive e-book reader with a front-lit HD display and plenty of storage.

Who it’s for: The reader on a budget who enjoys purchasing media in multiple formats.

Why we chose the Kobo Clara HD:

The Kobo Clara HD features a gorgeous 300-ppi screen and 8GB of storage — just like the Kindle Paperwhite. The battery is large enough that you should get around a month of reading from a single charge. It also offers the same innovatively illuminated ComfortLight Pro as the more expensive models in Kobo’s range. This feature uses red and orange LEDs to illuminate the screen without the need for blue light, which can cause trouble sleeping. You’ll only find this feature on the most expensive models in the Kindle range, and it’s a major plus for Kobo’s devices, as it does make reading at night feel a little more natural.

Just like the Libra H20, the Kobo Clara HD is compatible with many more formats than Kindle e-book readers, giving you the freedom to purchase your e-books directly from the publisher, as well as dozens of other third-party retailers.

Read our full Kobo Clara HD review

Research and buying tips

What is a Kindle?

Kindle is Amazon’s line of e-book readers, and it debuted in 2007. Over the years, Amazon introduced new types of Kindle devices, from the basic Kindle to the Kindle Oasis, which comes with more features, like water resistance and a blue light filter.

Amazon also launched a line of tablets under the Kindle Fire branding — which confused many, as Kindle Fires are not e-book readers, but Android-based tablets. Thankfully, Amazon dropped the “Kindle” part of the name, rebranding the range as the “Fire tablet,” as in the Fire HD 10 and Fire HD 10 Plus.

What is a Nook?

A Nook is an e-book reader from Barnes & Noble, a large U.S. book retailer. Like Amazon, the company also has a line of Nook Tablets that run Android, but the Nook originally launched as an e-book reader with an electronic paper screen.

What is a Kobo?

A Kobo is an e-book reader from Rakuten, a Japanese electronic giant. Unlike Amazon, Rakuten has less skin in the bookstore game, so it’s easier to put e-books from outside of the Kobo store on your device. As such, Kobo devices are seen as more open than Amazon’s Kindle range.

What format do e-book readers use?

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



HTML, DOC, DOCX, JPEG, GIF, PNG, EPUB, and BMP files are only supported through conversion. Amazon has a free downloadable software called Kindle Previewer, which you can use to upload and convert these files into a readable format on your Kindle. You’ll need to manually plug your Kindle into a computer to transfer them.



Kindle files and Apple iBooks are not supported, but Kobo supports the most file formats natively of any e-book reader.

What’s the difference between a tablet and an e-book reader?

A tablet is akin to a smartphone but larger. You’ll get a full-color touchscreen with a high refresh rate. You can play games, watch movies and TV shows, and be productive with them. E-book readers are limited to reading, because the electronic paper display has a low refresh rate. The screens look like paper, making them ideal for reading books, news, or magazines.

How do I get books on an e-book reader?

Whether you have a Kindle from Amazon or a Kobo from Rakuten, most e-book readers have a respective store accessible through the device where you can purchase books and more. You can also buy content on a computer and transfer the file to the e-book reader by physically connecting it with a cable.

Why is the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite (2018) the best cheap Kindle?

It’s true that the basic Amazon Kindle is more affordable than the Paperwhite, but you get more for your money with the Paperwhite. The basic Amazon Kindle has a 6-inch screen that now includes a backlight for reading in the dark. However, the Kindle Paperwhite adds IPX8 water resistance, great for reading in the bath or taking your Kindle to the beach or pool. It boasts longer battery life, too, and that 6-inch screen has a higher resolution than the original Kindle. There really isn’t that much difference in price, but you get more for your money with the Paperwhite.

How we test

Here at Digital Trends, we believe we’re the most fortunate employees on the planet because we get to test e-book readers. So, essentially, we get to read for fun at work. It’s incredible, and we’re not complaining. The testing process involves more than just reading, though. When we experiment with e-book readers, we conduct a bunch of different tests. Some of these include testing the screen’s brightness in different lighting and examining its durability by putting it in a variety of environments. If it claims to be waterproof, we take the reader for a swim in the bathtub and see if it measures up after a bubble bath. 

We also transfer current e-book files onto the e-book reader, rent some e-books from the library, and buy books from various stores. We understand the e-book files are incredibly hard to convert, so our hearts go out to you and the many other avid readers who’d rather read in a different file format. Believe us, we’ve done our research, and we feel your pain. 

The most critical piece of our testing process is our home simulation experiment, where we read these e-books in the comfort of our own humble abodes.

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