The best ebook readers you can buy, no matter your budget
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 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.
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.
Kobo Aura One
Why you should buy this: You want a waterproof ebook reader with a big screen that supports more ebook formats
The Best Ebook Reader
Kobo Aura One
With a waterproof design, long battery life, and 8GB of storage, the Aura One is our favorite ebook reader.
$229.99 from Kobo
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, boasting a 7.8-inch E Ink HD touchscreen. It also has 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 devoid of 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 is 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.
You’ll still prefer the Oasis (see the next entry) 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 stifles blue light, supports more ebook formats, has a larger screen, and has built-in borrowing from your public library. Oh, and it costs less.
Our full review
The best Amazon Kindle
Amazon’s All-New Kindle Oasis (2017)
Why you should buy this: You already have a library of Kindle ebooks and you want the best Kindle that exists, damn the money
The Best Kindle
Kindle Oasis (2017)
It isn’t waterproof, but it has amazing battery life and we love the cover. This is, by far, the best Kindle.
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: $250-plus
Why we picked Amazon’s All-New Kindle Oasis (2017)
Last year’s Kindle Oasis was tough to beat, but this year’s All-New Kindle Oasis builds 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? The All-New Kindle Oasis revels in an excellent design — featuring a beautiful 7-inch display, a pixel density of 300 pixels per inch, and well-placed page turn buttons. That’s more than many tablets.
While this year’s 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’s assuming you’re only reading half an hour a day and not extensively using the Bluetooth or backlight, but it only took 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 All-New Kindle Oasis now offers 8GB of storage, 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.
As far as new features go, this year’s All-New Kindle Oasis is 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 audio books 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. more affordable options follow.
Our full review
The best Kindle for less than $150
Amazon Kindle Paperwhite
Why you should buy this: You have a lot of Kindle ebooks, but you want a cheaper Kindle
The Best Kindle Under $150
Amazon Kindle Paperwhite 2015
If you’re a normal buyer, the Kindle Paperwhite is a great mix between affordability and top-notch features.
Who’s it for: If you can’t splurge on the Oasis, the Paperwhite is the next best thing for a Kindle user
How much will it cost: $120-plus
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 life span 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 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.
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 midrange option for anyone who wants a Kindle.
Our full review
The best ebook reader for less than $150
Barnes & Noble 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
The Best Cheap Ebook reader
Barnes & Noble Nook GlowLight Plus
The Barnes & Noble Nook is still a great ebook reader, and it’s affordable, despite B&N’s many difficulties competing with Kindle.
$79.99 from Barnes & Noble
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. Each day, the GlowLight Plus will show you a selection of different excerpts from books you may like in the hopes that you splurge on new titles. It’s an unobtrusive feature, 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
Why you should buy this: You want a cheap ebook reader with no frills, or maybe you just like the white color option
The Best Cheap Kindle
If you can do without a light-up screen, this Kindle is still decent in most ways.
$79.99 from Amazon.com
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-plus to own 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. It 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 Format 8 (AZW3)
- Kindle (AZW)
- unprotected MOBI
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, however, Kobo supports the most file formats natively of any ebook reader.
- Adobe DRM ePub and PDF
Kindle files and Apple iBooks are not supported.
Update: Added the All-New Kindle Oasis (2017).
- Amazon’s $80 Kindle ebook reader is about to get Audible support
- Kindle Oasis (2017) review
- 5 of the best Kindle Paperwhite cases for easy reading on the go
- Ebook company Kobo set to go head-to-head with Audible in the audiobooks market
- Kobo’s limited-edition Aura One offers extra storage for a crazy number of books