Kindle Guide: The Best Kindles For Reading E-Books and Audiobooks 2020 - Rolling Stone
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Kindle Guide: The Best Kindles For E-Books and Audiobooks

Whether you’re settling in for a good book before bed or planning your weekend reading, here’s how to find the Kindle for you

Kindle

Courtesy Amazon

Amazon

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Few gadgets have completely taken over a piece of the tech world like Amazon’s Kindle. The word “Kindle” has become shorthand for e-readers the way Kleenex is for tissues, and its reputation is well-earned. Through a mix of great features, easy access to Amazon’s digital book store, and minimalist design, the Kindle is really easy to recommend.

I resisted getting one for a long time because I was comfortable reading on my iPhone’s screen, but the Kindle’s e-ink display is a lot easier on my eyes, so I can read for longer periods of time. If you’re considering making the jump from physical to digital books, but don’t know which Kindle to get, we’ve broken down the entire line to help you out.

And if you want to know your non-Kindle options, we have a guide explaining the best alternatives.

What Are The Best Kindles?

There are many factors to consider when choosing the right Kindle for you; below are the most important ones, which we considered while we were researching this list.

Screen resolution: All Kindles have a black and white e-ink touch sensitive screen, which is less power hungry and more glare-resistant than the LCD screen on a smartphone, but they vary in resolution. High-resolution screens make digital text look sharper and more appealing, and brings the experience of reading an ebook closer to reading a physical book.

Back lighting: One of the biggest advantages of reading on a Kindle is its backlit display, which illuminates the screen for nighttime reading. The number of back lights varies by Kindle model, so if you’re a big nighttime reader, this is important to consider.

Battery life: Amazon says Kindles get “weeks” of battery life, which the company defines as “four weeks, based on a half-hour of reading per day with wireless off and the light setting at 13.” Cranking up the brightness, turning on its wireless settings, and streaming audiobooks will drain the battery faster. You should expect to get roughly 16 hours of battery life per charge with mixed usage.

Storage: Ebooks are extremely small (Moby Dick is 654 pages and takes up a little over one megabyte of space), so you can store hundreds of them on a Kindle at one time. But if you use the Kindle to read large PDFs, or listen to audiobooks, you’ll fill up its internal storage really quickly. There’s no way to add more space to a Kindle, so this is something to keep in mind.

Waterproof rating: Electronics and water don’t typically mix, but the latest generation of some Kindle models are waterproof. If you plan on reading a lot in the bath, by the pool, or on the beach, this is a great feature to have.

Audiobook support: Amazon acquired the audiobook service Audible in 2008, and the most recent generation of all Kindle models allow you to download titles to your Kindle, and listen to them through Bluetooth headphones. If you get the Kindle and Audible version of a book, an Amazon technology called WhisperSync will automatically keep your place between both of them, so you can pick up exactly where you left off.

Special offers: Every Kindle comes gives you the option to get a version with or without “special offers,” which is shorthand for built-in advertising. Kindles with special offers will show ads when their display is on standby mode, and on the main book selection screen. Advertisements will not be present when you’re reading a book.

1. BEST OVERALL: Kindle Paperwhite

Kindle Paperwhite

Amazon

Amazon’s recent update to the Kindle Paperwhite brought additional storage tiers, waterproofing, and other great features that make it the best e-reader for most people. Its six-inch e-ink display has a resolution of 300ppi, which will make digital text look extremely sharp, and five LED back lights, which will make the display even easier to read in the dark. It comes in two storage options: eight gigabytes (good for avid e-book readers) and 32 gigabytes (good for e-book and audiobook enthusiasts).

The new Kindle Paperwhite is the first one to earn an IPX8 waterproof rating, which means it can be submerged in up to one meter of water (3.3ft) for 30 minutes without getting damaged. If you’re afraid of dropping your Kindle in the tub or pool, you’re covered. The only minor downside is that the Kindle Paperwhite is the heaviest option on this list at 6.6 ounces, but that shouldn’t be a deal breaker given all of its other great features.

Unless you want a truly premium e-reader with non-essential but nice-to-have features, this is the right choice.

2. ENTRY LEVEL: Classic Kindle

Kindle

Courtesy Amazon

Amazon

The standard “All-New” Kindle is a great choice if you want to get back into reading, or take your entire library wherever you go. It has a six-inch e-ink display with a resolution of 167ppi (pixels per inch), which is lower than the other Kindles in this guide, but won’t make text look very pixelated or chunky. The display has four LED back lights, so you can read in the dark without keeping a lamp on, or using the overhead light on an airplane. At 6.1 ounces, it’s the lightest Kindle on this list, which you’ll appreciate if you want to carry around an e-reader all the time.

It has four gigabytes of storage, which can hold hundreds of books, or a handful of audiobooks. This is enough space for the average reader (it can hold roughly 3,500 copies of Moby Dick), but may not be the right choice for audiobook fans. Finally, it’s not waterproof, so this isn’t the Kindle to replace your beach read. The basic Kindle is a great e-reader that only comes up a little short when compared to the higher-end options in this guide. If you’ve never owned an e-reader before, you won’t be disappointment.

Note: Amazon also offers a “Kids Edition” version of this Kindle, which has the same specs, no special offers, and access to thousands of books through a program called “Free Time.” It’s available for $109.99.

3. PREMIUM PICK: Kindle Oasis

Kindle Oasis

Amazon

The Kindle Oasis is the premium pick in this guide, and if you’re serious about having the best digital reading experience, it’s definitely worth considering.

One of the biggest differences between the Oasis and other Kindles is its size and design. It’s the only Kindle with a seven-inch 300ppi e-ink display, which makes it even closer to a traditional paperback book. That additional inch of screen space also allows you to bump up the text size while getting the same amount of words on the screen as smaller Kindles. Despite the larger size, the Kindle Oasis weighs 6.6 ounces, which puts it between the standard Kindle and Paperwhite.

The Oasis is also the only Kindle to have physical page turn buttons in addition to a touch screen, so you can hold it more comfortably one-handed. A slight notch in the back makes it easier to hold, too.

Amazon focused heavily on the Kindle Oasis’ display technology. It has 25 LED back lights, which makes it extremely easy to read in the dark. It has an ambient light sensor to automatically adjust its brightness based on the lighting conditions in your room, and the ability to change the color temperature of the display so less blue light hits your eyes (Blue light is emitted from digital screens, and some studies show that exposure to it at night makes it harder to fall asleep).

Beyond that, the Kindle Oasis shares its other great features with the Paperwhite. It has 8gb and 32gb storage options and earned an IPX8 waterproof rating. Most of the Kindle Oasis’ features aren’t absolutely necessary, but you’ll appreciate them every single time you use the device. The larger screen, page-turn buttons, and ability to change its color temperature make it the right choice for people who take digital reading very seriously.

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