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When it comes to reading, many people still prefer print, but e-readers are quickly becoming a device of choice, thanks to their portability, ease of use and multi-function capabilities.
Roughly the size of a paperback book or tablet — and much lighter than a hardcover tome — e-readers can hold hundreds of digital books at once, letting you carry a large library everywhere you go.
While Amazon has cornered the market in recent years with their best-selling Amazon Kindle, they’re not your only option. We looked through the entire e-reader market and found two alternatives with features the Kindle doesn’t have.
What Is the Best E-Reader?
There are many factors to consider when choosing the best e-reader for you; below are the most important ones, which we considered while we were researching this list.
Screen type: Most electronics, from smartphones to TVs, have an LCD screen which reflects light, and makes it hard to read in the sun. E-readers have an e-ink display, which is anti-reflective, and looks surprisingly like paper. The downside is that e-ink displays are only in black and white, which may be a deal breaker if your preferred genre has a lot of charts, graphs, or pictures.
Screen size: You shouldn’t have to strain your eyes to read a book on a digital screen. Our picks all have a six-inch (or larger) display, so the reading experience will be similar to holding a paperback. E-readers let you adjust your book’s text size to your level of comfort, but screen size still counts.
Battery life: E-readers are one of the most energy efficient gadgets because of their single-use purpose and black and white e-ink display. You can easily go weeks without charging one if you read for an hour a day. We made sure the picks on our list had the highest possible battery life, so you aren’t stuck on a cliffhanger in the middle of a flight.
Storage: Digital books take up a surprisingly small amount of space — even the big ones! — so all the e-readers in this guide can hold hundreds of books, and some have expandable storage if you’d like them to hold larger files, like PDFs, photos, or audiobooks.
Supported formats: Most digital books are available in a format called EPUB, but our picks can read a whole lot more. We took this into consideration because you want to use multiple digital book marketplaces to build up your library, or store your own documents.
Screen lighting: Older e-readers didn’t have any source of built-in illumination, which meant you had to rely on a natural or artificial light source to read. That’s not ideal if you’re reading next to a sleeping partner, or are in a crowded area like a plane or train. All of our picks have a lit screen, so you never have to worry about those problems. One thing to consider: an illuminated screen will use more power, so you may have to charge your e-reader more often.
Waterproofing: If you like reading in the bath or on the beach, you’ll want an e-reader that can handle a splash or two. This feature hasn’t become standardized yet, but it’s getting there.
1. Amazon Kindle Paperwhite
When it comes to e-readers, Amazon has set the standard with its popular Kindle Paperwhite model. The latest version is thinner, lighter, and has a 6.8-inch, 300 ppi (pixels per inch) glare-free touch screen that makes it feel like you’re reading text off a piece of white paper. The screen is easy on the eyes in natural light (I’ve used a Kindle for years, and can attest to that) and even features warm amber light for when you’re reading in the dark.
You’ll also be able to access a wide variety of file formats including TXT, PDF, unprotected MOBI, PRC natively and HTML DOC, DOCX, JPEG, GIF, PNG, PMP through conversion.
The Kindle Paperwhite comes with 8GB of storage, enough to hold several hundred books. You can even pair this e-reader with an audible subscription for hands-free listening. Plus, you’ll get three months of Kindle Unlimited included, letting you download dozens of top-rated mystery, romance and even classic novels.
Amazon also claims you’ll get up to 10 weeks of battery life on the Kindle. Right now, I’ve been using this e-reader for about three weeks and the battery is still well above 50%. Do keep in mind though that battery life will vary based on light settings and wireless usage. Audible audiobook streaming over Bluetooth will also reduce battery life.
If you plan on bringing your e-reader poolside, you’re in luck. The latest generation of Kindle Paperwhite has earned an IPX8 waterproof rating, which means it can be immersed in over six feet of water for up to an hour. That’s more than enough to survive a rainstorm or accidental dip.
Like all Kindles, the Paperwhite can be purchased with or without “special offers,” which is shorthand for advertising. Kindles with special offers will display ads when the device is not in use, and on the bottom of its home screen. Ads will not be inserted into books, or pop up while you’re reading.
2. Kobo Clara HD
Kobo’s Clara HD 6 is another good e-reader, and it stacks up really well against Amazon’s hardware.
The Clara HD 6 has a six-inch e-ink display that won’t show glare in the sun. The screen is touch-sensitive, so you can “turn” pages with a quick tap or swipe. What sets the Clara HD 6’s display apart is its ComforLight PRO lighting system.
The front-lit display automatically reduces its blue light exposure, which makes it easier on your eyes when reading at night. Some studies have shown that using blue-light emitting screens in a dark room can trick your brain into thinking it’s still daytime, making it harder to sleep.
Kobo says the Clara HD 6 can get “weeks” of battery life on a single charge, but how much you actually get will depend on your screen brightness preferences, and whether you keep its WiFi antenna on all the time. This e-reader has eight gigabytes of internal storage, which cannot be upgraded. This isn’t a big limitation because the Clara HD 6 doesn’t support audiobooks.
The Clara HD 6 supports the following formats: EPUB, EPUB3, PDF, MOBI, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP, TIFF, TXT, HTML, RTF, CBZ, CBR, which basically means it’s compatible with any digital book. You can also use it to check out digital books from your local library.
One of the Clara HD 6’s only downsides is that it’s not waterproof, so this may not be the best pick if you prefer reading by the pool or beach.
If you’re looking for a fully-featured e-reader that’s especially good for reading books at night, Kobo’s Clara HD 6 is the clear choice.
3. BOOX Note Air 2
The aptly-named BOOX Note Air 2 is a deluxe e-reader that takes even more cues from the tablet world.
It has a 10.3-inch bright display, so text will appear large and crisp. Instead of backlighting, the Note Air 2 has a front-lit display. This technology is better at distributing light more evenly, which makes it the best e-reader in this guide for nighttime readers.
The Note Air 2’s basic specs cover all the right bases, but what sets it apart is its capacitive (pressure-sensitive) touch screen. This type of display is used by drawing tablets, but it’s a game changer on an e-reader. You can use a stylus (included with your purchase) to fully annotate anything on your screen. You can mark up a photo, underline or circle text in a book, or write notes in the margins.
This display turns the Note Air 2 into a mini digital notebook; the only downside is that this advanced screen is probably the reason it isn’t waterproof. Here is the full list of file formats this e-reader can open: PDF, EPUB, TXT, DJVU, HTML, RTF, FB2, DOC, MOBI, CHM, PNG, JPG, BMP, WAV, MP3. That covers most major types of text, image, and audio files.
The Note Air 2 also runs AndroidOS, so you can download apps to work with additional files, or use this e-reader for more than just books.
The tablet-like features of the Note Air 2 do come with some caveats, though. Using it for more than just reading will put a bigger drain on its battery, and some files (think large PDFs or high-resolution images) will fill up its internal storage faster than digital books. The Nova Pro has 64GB of internal storage, higher than any other e-reader on this list, so if you’re looking for an e-reader that has fewer storage limitations and functions as a basic tablet, this is it.
4. Kindle Oasis
The Kindle Oasis has the widest screen on a Kindle at seven inches and the latest version also comes with adjustable warm light to keep the eye strain to a minimum.
Like the Kindle Paperwhite, the display is at 300ppi and uses e-ink technology to recreate the feeling of reading a paper book. Unlike the Kindle Paperwhite though, the Oasis also has a wide LED array for clearer, brighter visuals. Plus, you’ll also get physical buttons for page-turning if touch screens are not your thing. And, it’s considerably thinner at just 0.33mm — although not lighter.
Here are all the file types supported: Kindle (AZW), TXT, PDF, unprotected MOBI, PRC natively and HTML DOC, DOCX, JPEG, GIF, PNG, PMP through conversion.
You’ll get all the best features of the Paperwhite as well, including an IPX8 water-resistance rating for reading while you’re at the pool or even if you’re caught in the rain. It’ll work with audible too, in case you prefer listening to your books rather than reading. You’ll also get three months of Kindle Unlimited included with your purchase for instant access to a library of e-books.
Simply put, the Kindle Oasis is the more luxurious option, with an optimally bright screen and multiple storage options, as well as a slimmer, sleeker design.