The best e-readers are the equivalent of having a library in your pocket. Whether you’re a voracious reader or a casual one, a dedicated e-reader provides a focused approach to consuming books. Take your digital book collection wherever you go, borrow books from a library or friends, or read digital newspapers or magazines—all with a few finger flicks of a your entire personal library virtually anywhere. Read books (or digital editions of newspapers or magazines) in just about any lighting situation.
The latest dedicated e-readers start at a relatively inexpensive price, especially as compared with the prices of a tablet. Such e-readers use a non-glare, low power display to reproduce text and graphics in a way that looks as if it were printed on paper. Those qualities are what make e-readers excel at, well, reading, as compared to the bright, glarey touchscreen LCDs used by tablets. Which isn’t to say tablets can’t be used to read books—in fact they are great for reading comics, graphic novels and books with color illustrations. But tablets tend to be heavier, and their color touchscreen displays are highly reflective.
Portable and capable of storing hundreds of titles, e-readers are a great way to bring your favorite ... [+] books anywhere.
E-readers’ screen technology designed to mitigate eye strain. According to Dr. Yuna Rapoport, M.D. MPH and the founder and director of Manhattan Eye, “Our normal blink rate is about 18 times per minute. Whenever we stare at a screen, our blink rate goes down to about four to six times per minute. This happens with all full-color LED backlit screens, but less so or not at all with an E-Ink or Paperwhite display. This allows for our blink rate to be the normal 18 times per minute, which reduces or diminishes dry eye and ocular surface disease.”
E-readers are extremely thin and lightweight, and in most cases, their rechargeable batteries last weeks, not mere hours—a huge convenience compared with tablets. Let’s take a look at 10 of the best e-readers—including a few tablets—currently available.
Screen type: Paperwhite display | Screen size: 6.8 inches | Battery life: Up to 10 weeks
Best for: Anyone who wants a great waterproof e-reader tied to Amazon’s e-book and audio book ecosystem.
The Signature Edition of the popular Kindle Paperwhite e-book reader from Amazon builds on the features of the baseline Paperwhite model, and adds wireless charging, ups the storage to 32GB and removes lockscreen adds at this higher price. All versions of the Paperwhite have an adjustable warm light so you can easily read in direct sunlight or in a dark room, but the Signature Edition ups the ante and makes its front lighting adaptive, so it automatically adjusts the brightness of the screen based on your ambient lighting conditions. All of these features are what makes this lightweight, 7.3 ounce model our choice as the best e-reader overall. (If the convenience of an auto-adjusting light, wireless charging and four times the storage space aren’t important to you, save money and opt for the Paperwhite model with lockscreen ads for $140, or without lockscreen ads for $160.)
The Signature edition reader is designed to work seamlessly with Amazon’s Kindle Store or extra-cost Kindle Unlimited service for acquiring e-book content directly from the device. You can pair this e-reader with an Audible subscription and Bluetooth headphones or earbuds to listen to audiobooks. The Kindle Paperwhite only has a touchscreen for page navigation. It has a high-resolution display with 300 pixels-per-inch screen, and it is waterproof (IPX8 rated).
Screen type: Paperwhite display | Screen size: 6 inches | Battery life: Up to 4 weeks
Best for: The Amazon Kindle is ideal for casual readers who don’t want to spend a lot but want a comfortable e-reader.
This baseline Amazon Kindle offers access to the same content as the Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition, but from a technological standpoint, it’s less impressive. For starters, the display is smaller, just 6 inches to the Paperwhite’s 6.8 inches. It has 167 pixels-per-inch resolution, which means text will be sharp, but not as crisp as on the higher-resolution display of the Paperwhite. The screen is glare-free, which makes reading viable in direct sunlight. The smaller display also means this e-reader has a smaller footprint, and it weighs just 6.1 ounces, making it a good choice for one-handed reading. Unlike the Paperwhite Signature Edition, this e-reader is ad-supported, so any time you’re not actively reading, the device’s lock screen will display an advertisement for an e-book currently available from the Kindle Store (pay $15 more to get rid of the ads).
To keep this e-reader affordable, it includes just 8GB of internal storage, which is honestly adequate for the average reader. Unfortunately, it’s not waterproof. And while it has an adjustable front light, you can only control the intensity, not the warmth of the light.
Screen type: E-Ink display similar to Paperwhite | Screen size: 6 inches | Battery life: Up to 4 weeks
Best for: Loyal Barnes & Noble customers who already have a library of e-books bought at B&N and want a portable e-reader as versatile as an Amazon Kindle.
As America’s last remaining nationwide bookstore chain, Barnes & Noble has long had its own e-reader and e-book store, in competition with Amazon Kindle. In many ways, this reader is similar to the Kindle Signature Edition: It has a a long battery life; 32GB of storage; and automatic brightness and lighting adjustments.
The GlowLight 4 has a high-resolution, 300-dots-per-inch, glare-free screen, same as the Amazon Kindle PaperWhite. GlowLight 4 supplements its touchscreen navigation with four physical buttons—two on each side—so you have a choice if you prefer the tactile feedback of a physical button. The buttons help make the Nook GlowLight 4 more comfortable and usable in one hand. Barnes & Noble also provides free in-store support, should you ever run into problems using your e-reader. In addition to books purchased through the Barnes & Noble’s e-book store, this e-reader supports ePub, PDF, Adobe DRM ePub and PDF files.
Screen type: E-Ink | Screen size: 7 inches | Battery life: Several weeks
Best for: Someone who wants a feature-packed, waterproof (IPX8 rated) alternative to Amazon’s Kindle that can also play audiobooks and makes it easy to rent books through your local library.
The Rakuten Kobo Libra 2 uses a 7-inch E-Ink display with 300 pixels per inch at 1264 x 1680 resolution. Its adjustable ComfortLight Pro front light lets you customize the brightness and temperature of the light, while blue light is automatically reduced. This model supports Dark mode, so if you prefer reading light text on a dark screen, you can do so.
This 7.6 ounce e-reader has 32GB of internal storage, which is enough to hold up to 24,000 e-books or 150 Kobo audiobooks. It works with Kobo’s own digital store and with 15 file formats. This Kobo has the OverDrive service for borrowing digital library books integrated into the device, so you can borrow and read e-books directly, without taking extra steps as on other devices. Since the device is waterproof, you can comfortably read in a bathtub, at a beach or poolside.
Screen type: Paperwhite display | Screen size: 7 inches | Battery life: Up to 6 weeks
Best for: Avid bibliophiles looking for a larger and more versatile display than found with Amazon’s other e-readers.
The Amazon Kindle Oasis has a slightly larger display, and adds two physical buttons for page turning, in addition to the usual touchscreen gestures for navigating a book. This model has a slightly larger screen compared with the Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition still at 300 pixels-per-inch resolution and with an adaptive warm front light that automatically transitions from white to amber based on the ambient light (you can make manual adjustments as well). The display auto-rotates, so you can flip the device around and use the buttons left-handed as well.
Instead of a plastic casing, the Oasis features a slick aluminum body and weighs just 6.6-ounces; together with its ergonomic design, this model is easier to hold one-handed. The Oasis comes in 8GB and 32GB ($30 more) versions and is fully waterproof, so it can be taken and used virtually anywhere.
Screen type: Paperwhite display | Screen size: 6.8 inches | Battery life: Several weeks
Best for: Young people, between the ages of 6 to 15.
While Kindle Paperwhite Kids is not Amazon’s least expensive e-book reader for a young audience, it does offer the best display and longest battery life. It also includes a cover, an ad-free reading experience and a two-year “worry-free guarantee.” So, if the device gets damaged, Amazon will fix or replace it for free—useful since the e-reader is water resistant, but not waterproof.
Giving a child a dedicated e-reader as opposed to a full-featured tablet has some benefits. For one thing, an e-reader is purpose-made and distraction-free: All kids can do with the device is read e-books or listen to audiobooks. They can’t switch to surfing the Internet, watching videos or playing games. Another advantage: The glare-free screen reduces eyestrain as compared with a tablet. This Kids edition also includes a one year subscription to Amazon Kids+ (normally priced at $3 per month), which provides unlimited access to thousands of age-appropriate e-books and audiobooks.
Screen type: E-Ink | Screen size: 10.3 inches | Battery life: Several weeks
Best for: Someone who wants to be able to edit or annotate documents using their own handwriting directly on the touchscreen, plus read e-books and PDF documents.
The Kobo Elipsa Pack is more than a just an e-reader. It is a digital notebook with a generously sized 10.3-inch touchscreen and support for as many separate virtual, custom-named “notebooks” as you wish. Each of those notebooks can be populated with an unlimited number of pages upon which you can freely write, draw or create content using the included stylus or the virtual (on-screen) keyboard; and files can be synced with DropBox.
Your handwritten content can be set up to automatically convert into editable typed text. You’re also able to read and annotate PDF files with ease, plus read e-books or listen to audiobooks. The device comes with 32GB of internal storage. The Elipsa Pack has all of the core e-reader features common to Kobo’s lineup, including access to the Kobo e-book store and the ability to easily rent books from a library directly from the device.
Screen type: LCD | Screen size: 8.3 inches | Battery life: Up to 10 hours
Best for: Anyone who wants a full-featured tablet that can also serve as an e-reader and audiobook player.
Apple’s iPads are among the most popular and highly functional tablets on the market. Unlike a dedicated e-reader, the iPad Mini is a general purpose tablet, with a full-color touchscreen LCD versus a glare-free E-Ink display. The iPad mini remains the Apple tablet best-suited for reading books because of its smaller size and lower weight, as compared with the larger-screen tablets. These attributes make it easier to hold the device in one hand while reading for extended periods.
Apple has its own Books store and app, for buying and reading e-books and playing audiobooks. Or, you can download other e-reading apps onto the tablet—including ones for Amazon Kindle and B&N Nook. With these apps, the iPad Mini replicates much of the functionality of these popular e-readers while giving you access to the specific stores (for example, Kindle Store or Nook e-bookstore).
While this tablet’s color display is great for reading digital books with images, including graphic novels and comics, it has a few catches when used as an e-reader. When reading e-book content in some lighting conditions (like direct sunlight) the screen has more glare than a dedicated e-book reader. Plus, if you don't turn on Airplane mode, it is easy to get distracted by incoming alerts and notifications from other apps, text messages or incoming emails—or to stray from reading, entirely.
Screen type: LCD | Screen size: 8 inches | Battery life: Up to 12 hours
Best for: If you want a low-cost e-book reader that doubles as a full-featured tablet, the Amazon Fire HD 8 Plus is your pick.
Because it’s owned by Amazon, this device comes with the Amazon Kindle app pre-installed. When you launch this app, it transforms the tablet into a Kindle e-book reader and audiobook player with a full-color display. As with any color tablet, the LCD screen’s glare—especially in direct sunlight—can detract from reading, and be harder on your eyes. However, since this is a tablet, you can also use the Fire HD Plus for any other common tablet function—including checking emails, playing games or streaming movies—and it has wireless charging, too. As you’d expect for a tablet, it is thicker and heavier than a dedicated Kindle e-reader, and has battery life measured in hours, not weeks.
On the plus side, the Fire HD 8 Plus comes with 32GB or 64GB of internal storage, expandable up to 1TB with an optional micro-SD memory card. This low-priced version of the tablet displays on-screen ads on its lock screen when it’s not in use (ditch the ads for an extra $15). For an avid reader, a dedicated Kindle e-reader is a better option, but this Fire HD 8 Plus tablet is a decent and versatile mobile device that does a lot more than just display e-books.
Screen type: LCD | Screen size: 11 inches | Battery life: Up to 13 hours
Best for: Anyone who wants a full-featured, Android-based tablet that runs e-book reading and audiobook playing apps from Google, Amazon and other sources.
The Galaxy Tab S8 is part of Samsung’s higher-end tablet lineup. This model includes an 11-inch display, comes with 128GB or 256GB of internal storage (expandable to 1TB with an optional micro-SD card) and it runs the latest version of Android. Because this is a full-featured tablet, it comes with a vast collection of preinstalled apps (including Google Play Books) and gives you full access to the Google Play Store, where well over a million additional apps are available—including those for competing e-book providers.
As an e-book reader or audiobook player, you can acquire content from the Google Play Store, or download and install the Amazon Kindle or Audible app, for example, to acquire eBooks and audiobooks from the Kindle and Audible stores, respectively. The benefit to using a tablet as an e-book reader is that it offers a full-color display, so illustrations, photos and other graphics will be displayed as they were meant to be seen. The downsides here are the same as with other tablets—the LCD display can be glarey to read in bright light; the tablet is larger and heavier than a dedicated e-reader; and battery life is measured in hours, not weeks. But if you already are immersed in the Android ecosystem for your cell phone, this tablet could be a great companion for e-reading.
That depends. Are you a dedicated reader? An e-reader displays specially formatted digital files that faithfully reproduce the words, images and layout that would otherwise be displayed in a printed book, magazine or newspaper. Using a special E-Ink or Paperwhite display—both of which are designed to replicate the look and feel of paper—you can stare at an e-reader screen for many hours at a time and experience far less fatigue and eye strain than you would with a full-color tablet screen or computer monitor.
Because these devices have front lights for use at night, too, they can be used in any lighting situation—from direct sunlight to a dark room—and what you see on the screen will appear crystal clear. At the same time, you’re able to customize the appearance of text by adjusting the font and font size easily.
That said, the purpose of an e-book reader is to give you full access to your entire digital library of e-books and then allow you to read them anywhere and anytime—on a device that’s extremely convenient to carry around and hold in your hand. Plus, many of these devices also allow you to listen to audiobooks.
E-readers come in a wide range of screen sizes and each includes a different selection of features designed to make your reading or audiobook listening experience as comfortable and enjoyable as possible. Let’s take a look at some of the key features to consider when choosing which e-reader is best for you.
The Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition is one of the most versatile e-readers available.
The size of an e-reader’s touchscreen helps to determine the overall size and weight of the unit itself, which directly impacts how comfortable it is to hold in your hands and how much content can be displayed at once. While a larger screen allows you to see more, it makes the overall device heavier to hold.
Multiple device types can act as an e-book reader, and the choices above reflect top choices for “e-reader” in a more broad sense. However, the term “e-reader” more specifically can mean a device using an electronic paper display, such as those with an E-Ink or Paperwhite (Amazon’s name for its equivalent) display. Such displays are usually monochromatic and are much easier on your eyes than a traditional LCD tablet or computer monitor screen. By design, these displays reduce or totally prevent eye strain. However, they don't do a great job reproducing photographs or graphics, since the screens lack color. (Color electronic paper display technology exists, but is generally not available in the devices sold as e-readers due to its higher price.) As a result, this type of display is great for reading books and novels, but not as good for reading what would otherwise be a full-color graphic novel or books with color illustrations and photos.
If you use a traditional, full-color tablet as an e-reader, it will be larger and heavier than a dedicated e-reader, but also better suited for reading graphic novels and illustrated books. But such screens produce glare when used in bright light.
An e-reader with 8GB of internal storage will hold thousands of e-book files or hundreds of audiobook files at once and give you quick access to any of that content.
Plus, all of your e-book and audiobook purchases are automatically stored in the cloud, so as long as your reader has internet access. In this way, you can always redownload something quickly if it’s not stored on your device. While you may benefit from 16GB or 32GB of internal storage, the average person will find that 8GB provides plenty of storage space. Some e-readers have a micro-SD card slot for expanding storage as you need it.
A tablet with a full-color screen (that also serves as an e-reader) will have a battery life measured in hours—typically 8 to 12 hours per charge. However, the batteries inside dedicated e-readers with an E-Ink or Paperwhite display last for weeks at a time.
While using the device’s adjustable front light or Wi-Fi connectivity could drain a battery a bit faster, even the most avid reader or audiobook listener won’t have to recharge their e-reader’s battery more than once or twice per month at the most.
This is perhaps the only aspect of using an e-reader that can get confusing. The type of e-reader you have directly impacts where and how you can acquire e-books and audiobooks.
For example, all Amazon Kindle e-readers are compatible with e-books and audiobooks acquired from the Amazon Kindle Store and audiobooks acquired from Audible. These services can be accessed directly from the device when it’s connected to the internet via Wi-Fi.
Likewise, all Barnes & Noble Nook e-readers are compatible with content acquired from the B&N Nook Store. And all Rakuten Kobo e-readers use the Kobo store. None of these e-readers are compatible with the other, which means you can only get your content from the store associated with your e-reader.
If you’re using a tablet, the game changes: With either an Apple or Android tablet, you can use apps from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Rakuten to access their respective e-books and audiobooks. Apple tablets also have the Apple Books app, and the Android tablets have the Google Play Books store.
In addition to tablets, all smartphones, tablets, computers and some smartwatches, are also compatible with the Audible service for acquiring and listening to audiobooks.
Other independent online stores sell or distribute e-books using an industry-standard e-PUB file format or PDF format. The drawback to reading an e-book in a PDF file format is that you can’t change the display font and if you alter the font size, it does not always properly reformat on the reader’s display.
When purchasing individual e-book or audiobook titles from the Kindle Store, Nook Store, Kobo Store, Apple Books or any other e-bookstore, you can sometimes pay a bit less than a printed paperback or hardcover book. Prices can vary across the stores.
Subscription-based plans, like Amazon Kindle Unlimited, give you unlimited access to hundreds of thousands of e-books and audiobooks for a flat monthly fee. Alternatively, you can borrow e-books at no cost from a local library using Overdrive or Hoopla Digital. Most e-readers are compatible with OverDrive, but only the recent Kobo e-readers have OverDrive baked into the hardware, so you can rent a book directly from the device instead of having to go through multiple steps to acquire a book.
Most local public libraries now lend e-books for free to anyone with a library card and who sets up a free account with an online service, like Overdrive or Hoopla Digital (whichever service your local library has a partnership with). Once you’ve purchased an e-book reader, contact your local library to determine how to borrow e-books and audiobooks, and visit those service to verify e-reader compatibility.
Thousands of free e-books abound elsewhere, through services like Project Gutenberg and Open Culture. Many of these titles, however, are older and in the public domain, so you don’t expect to read the latest bestsellers on these services.
When seeking out free e-books from any service, make sure you select a file format compatible with your reader. In many cases, you’ll need to acquire the free e-books or audiobooks using your computer and then transfer the files to your reader.
In general, e-readers are very easy to use. When you purchase a new device, connect it to your home’s Wi-Fi and set up a free account with the compatible bookstore, and can then begin purchasing and enjoying individual e-books or audiobooks.
If you still have questions about how to use an e-book reader or what these devices are useful for, here are some answers to commonly asked questions.
This all depends on the features you’re looking for and what types of other equipment you already use. For a dedicated e-reader, we chose the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition as the best overall e-reader. It’s lightweight, compact, has a great battery life, offers a good screen resolution (which can be viewed in any lighting situation), comes with plenty of internal storage, has a battery that lasts for weeks and it also serves as an audiobook player. Plus, this Kindle model is waterproof, so you can read in the bathtub, poolside, or at a beach and not worry about getting the device wet.
However, if you also want to be able to handle larger content like graphic novels, or use a stylus for notetaking and annotations, look for a larger-screen electronic paper e-reader, or go with a full-featured Apple or Android tablet. Which you choose will depend on whether you already use an iPhone or Android smartphone, because you want all of your apps, data, documents, files and photos to seamlessly sync between these devices and your computer. Either platform is suitable for reading books and graphic novels, or listening to audiobook content.
Instead of focusing on the brand name of the e-reader or tablet, focus on the features and functions it offers.
If you’re an avid reader, buying a dedicated e-reader is definitely worth the investment. Compared to using a tablet to read e-books, you’ll probably prefer the portability and ergonomic design of an e-reader. The latest e-readers are also waterproof, so you can literally read while soaking in a bathtub, while enjoying a battery life that lasts for weeks, instead of just hours.
The other huge benefit to dedicated e-readers is that the display is glare-free and can easily be seen in any lighting situation—from direct sunlight to when you’re in a dark bedroom and reading while in bed. The latest E-Ink and Paperwhite displays are also easier on your eyes, so you won’t experience eye strain when staring at the screen for extended periods.
A Kindle is a dedicated e-reader that also plays audiobooks. A full-featured tablet, however, is also designed to handle a wide range of other tasks and allows you to stay connected to the internet to manage your emails, surf the web, participate on social media platforms and share photos or video clips, for example.
While a Kindle has a display that can be viewed in any lighting situation, the on-screen content will be seen in black and white, not full color. A tablet displays all content in color, so any illustrations, photos or graphics are displayed exactly as they were intended to be seen.
Yes, most e-book readers can display and store PDF files. However, when viewing these files, your ability to customize how they look on the reader’s screen is limited. Plus, in most cases, you need to manually transfer PDF files from your computer to your e-reader.
Any Kindle e-readers works with the Kindle Unlimited service. For $10 per month (after an initial free trial period), you get unlimited access to a vast and ever-growing library of e-books and audiobooks, plus free digital subscriptions to your choice of three magazines.
Keep in mind, not all of the latest bestsellers or books from popular authors are offered through the Kindle Unlimited subscription service. Depending on the type of books you enjoy reading and how many books you anticipate reading or listening to per month, this service may or may not be worth it to you.
Yes. Some of the latest e-readers automatically give you the ability to purchase, download and play audiobooks. To utilize this feature, however, you need to pair wireless headphones or earbuds to the e-reader. Then, once an audiobook is acquired and stored within your device, you’ll have access to on-screen buttons for playing, pausing, fast forwarding, rewinding and accessing others listening features.
Most of the newer e-book readers can also play audiobooks when you pair them with wireless ... [+] headphones or earbuds.
To get the most out of your listening experience on an e-reader, you’ll need to use either Bluetooth (wireless) headphones or earbuds. Headphones offer a longer battery life, fit over your head and cover your ears. Earbuds fit within your ears and are much more convenient to carry around when they’re not being worn. Read more about the best headphones and earbuds.