Over the past decade or so, how we read and consume books has changed drastically. Books don’t always come on paper anymore and are often read 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. Most of them now utilize E Ink technology, which is better for your eyes, your device’s battery, and for reading in direct sunlight.
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 Forma 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.
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: $280
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, yellowy hue devoid of blue light.
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 Oasis (see the next 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.
Read our full Kobo Forma review
Amazon’s Kindle Oasis (2017)
The best Amazon Kindle
Why you should buy this: You already have a library of Kindle ebooks, use your ebook reader for audio books, or just love the WhisperSync feature.
Who’s it for: The hardcore reader who’s heavily invested in the Amazon ecosystem.
How much will it cost: $250-plus
Why we picked Amazon’s Kindle Oasis (2017)
The original Kindle Oasis was tough to beat, but the 2017 Kindle Oasis built upon its outstanding features. 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.
While the 2017 Oasis doesn’t come with a battery cover, the battery life has improved and can last up to six weeks on a single charge. That is assuming you’re only reading half an hour a day and not extensively using the Bluetooth or backlight functions, but it only takes about an hour to fully charge. This type of battery life is still impressive, especially 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 now offers 8GB of storage, which is enough for thousands of books. 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.
As far as new features go, the 2017 Kindle Oasis represents a long-awaited waterproof version with an IPX8 rating, which means it’s protected against immersion in up to 6.5 feet of fresh water. It’s also the first to support audiobooks from Audible. If you own both the audiobook and ebook of a certain title, you can easily switch back and forth between formats.
Sadly, it still 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.
Read our full Kindle Oasis review
Amazon Kindle Paperwhite (2018)
The best Kindle for less than $150
Why you should buy this: You have a lot of Kindle ebooks, but you want a cheaper Kindle.
Who’s it for: The person who’s looking for an inexpensive ebook reader with all the bells and whistles.
How much will it cost: $130-plus
Why we picked the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite (2018)
After three years, the Kindle Paperwhite finally got a face-lift for 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.
There are also a few new features for 2018 that make the Paperwhite even more attractive. For starters, the new Paperwhite has an IPX8 rating, meaning you can use it in the pool or tub without worry. There’s also Bluetooth connectivity for 2018, 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.
Read our full Kindle Paperwhite review
Kobo Clara HD
The best ebook reader for less than $150
Why you should buy this: You’re looking for an inexpensive ebook reader with a front-lit HD display and plenty of storage.
Who’s it for: The reader who enjoys purchasing media in multiple formats.
How much will it cost: $130
Why we chose the Kobo Clara HD
While Kindle may be the best-known brand of ebook readers, it’s not the only company that makes them. In fact, Kobo ebook readers have been around for nearly a decade and have become a cult favorite among heavy readers.
The Kobo Clara HD features a gorgeous 300 PPI screen and 8GB of storage, and 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.
So why would you go for a non-Kindle ebook reader? The primary reason is because Kobo is compatible with many more formats than Kindle, 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
The best cheap Kindle
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-plus
Why we chose the Kindle
Amazon offers a wide range of Kindles to accommodate different budgets, so you don’t have to pay $200-plus to own one. The basic Kindle ships with a 6-inch, 167 PPI E Ink display. As such, it’s good for daytime reading, but at night, you still need your reading light to see the words on the page.
The Kindle was updated in 2016 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 and 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 its design, but internally you will find double the RAM at 512MB. It features Bluetooth audio, which can boost accessibility with VoiceView — a tool that reads aloud everything on your screen.
There’s 4GB of storage onboard the Kindle, which should be enough for around 3,000 ebooks. Amazon also added Bluetooth connectivity to the Kindle, meaning you can pair headphones and listen to Audible sections on the ebook reader.
You will pay $80 for this Kindle if you don’t mind ads, but there is 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 reader 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 Format 8 (AZW3)||Kindle (AZW)||TXT|
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.
Kindle files and Apple iBooks are not supported, but Kobo supports the most file formats natively of any ebook reader.