Amazon’s dominance over ebook readers may have slowed as Rakuten’s Kobo started putting up a strong fight, but the best ebook reader you can buy remains the Kindle Oasis. Digital Trends has reviewed dozens of ebook readers, and has spent weeks with them to pass judgment and find the best. The Kindle Oasis not only delivers the best reading experience, but Amazon’s ecosystem and perks add tremendous benefits.
But what if you don’t want in on Amazon’s ecosystem? What if you want a blue-light filter on the E Ink screen? There are other formidable options, and a pick to fit every budget. These are the best ebook readers money can buy.
Best ebook readers at a glance:
- Best overall: Amazon Kindle Oasis
- Best Kindle alternative: Kobo Forma
- Best cheap Kindle: Kindle Paperwhite
- Best cheap ebook reader: Kobo Clara HD 645 Music
Why you should buy this: You already have a library of Kindle ebooks, use your ebook 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.
Ebooks are pretty lightweight, so internal storage isn’t generally as important for an ebook 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 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, look up the meaning of words, and get context for fictional and non-fictional characters, places, settings, and more through a feature called X-Ray.
As far as new features go, the 2019 Kindle Oasis 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 fresh water.
Sadly, it still only accepts select ebook formats — you can read EPUB files, but it requires some manual work. Regardless, it’s our favorite Kindle and the one you should buy if you don’t mind shelling out extra money for this ebook reader.
Read our full Kindle Oasis review
Why you should buy this: You want a waterproof ebook reader with a big screen that supports more ebook formats.
Who it’s for: Readers who buy books, use EPUB ebooks, borrow ebooks from the library, or like to read near water.
Why we picked the Kobo Forma:
The Kobo Forma boasts a massive 8-inch E Ink display with a 300-pixels-per-inch (PPI) resolution. Since even ebook readers cast blue light, which can keep you up at night, Kobo created ComfortLight Pro to minimize 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 at night.
The Forma is fully waterproof, with an IPX8 rating, so you can read in the bath or at the beach. Depending on your reading preferences, you should only need to recharge its battery every few weeks to a month. The Kobo Forma 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 Forma, 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 ebook system, but if you’re not, the Kobo Forma is objectively a better ebook reader. It stifles blue light, supports more ebook formats, has a larger screen, and has built-in borrowing from your public library. It used to be our top pick, but we’re seeing reports of issues with quality control online, and have knocked it down (we double-checked our unit, which still works without issue).
Read our full Kobo Forma review
Why you should buy this: You have a lot of Kindle ebooks, but you want a cheaper Kindle.
Who it’s for: The person who’s looking for an inexpensive ebook 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 ebook 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 ebook 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.
Save even more with the Kindle (2019)
If the Paperwhite is still a little too pricey for you, check out the 2019 Kindle. It’s just $90, and shares many of the same features of the Paperwhite. The main difference is the screen, which is a lower resolution, and there’s no water resistance.
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. The price difference between it and the Paperwhite is so small, which is why we recommend it’s worth shelling out. You can read more information about in on the right sidebar.
Read our full Kindle Paperwhite review
Why you should buy this: You’re looking for an inexpensive ebook 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 an innovative illumination feature called ComfortLight Pro that uses red and orange LEDs to illuminate the screen without the need for blue light, which can cause trouble sleeping. This is a feature you won’t find on any Kindle, 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 Forma, the Kobo Clara HD is compatible with many more formats than Kindle ebook readers, giving you the freedom to purchase your ebooks 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?
- What is a Nook?
- What format do ebook readers use?
- What’s the difference between a tablet and an ebook reader?
- How do I get books on an ebook reader?
What is a Kindle?
A Kindle is Amazon’s line of ebook readers, and it debuted in 2007. Over the years, Amazon introduced new types of Kindle devices, from the base Kindle to the Kindle Oasis, which has all the latest features like water resistance.
Amazon launched a line of tablets under the Kindle Fire branding, which may be confusing as they are not ebook readers, but Android-based tablets. This branding is not in use anymore as Amazon’s tablets dropped the “Kindle” and are now called Fire 7 or Fire HD 8 based on the screen size.
What is a Nook?
A Nook is an ebook 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 ebook reader with an electronic paper screen.
What format do ebook readers use?
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.
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.
What’s the difference between a tablet and an ebook 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. Ebook 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 ebook reader?
Whether you have a Kindle from Amazon or a Kobo from Rakuten, most ebook 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 ebook reader by physically connecting it with a cable.
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.
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