The best eReader is more than a convenient way to carry an entire collection of James Paterson novels onto an airplane. Today’s eReaders are sophisticated tablets capable of displaying text and images in a wide variety of eye-friendly ways. The screens are stunning, with sharp text that looks just like real ink and paper. These displays separate eReaders from tablets, making them the best way to read digital books.
With advances in e-ink tech and touch screens, the problems of first-generation eReaders are all but gone. There are no more weird visual artifacts and lag when turning a page. You won’t need to struggle with dark screens that are impossible to see at night. And unlike the early 2000s, you have more than one or two eReaders to choose from.
But with so many eReaders on the market, it can be difficult to find the device that suits your needs and your reading habits. Do you want an eReader with a clean, simple interface? Do you want an eReader with a lot of file options? Do you want an eReader for teens or younger children?
Today’s best eReaders are friendly and inviting. They not only encourage reading but provide services and apps you won’t find on traditional smartphones and tablets. With the best eReader, you’ll access books, audiobooks, magazines, and more in a format dedicated to useability and your eyes.
How we selected the best eReaders
The writers and editors working on this article have spent thousands of hours reading on paper books and electronic devices. We’ve felt the sting of tired eyes and we’re glad to leave the world of papercuts behind.
Taking a critical look at eReaders starts with display clarity. These devices are designed for easy reading, and the best of the bunch must have a look that is impressive, crisp, and as close to analog ink and paper text as possible.
Most eReaders on the market offer similar stats for battery life and storage space, so we focused on the factors that separate the readers — namely screen lights, screen size, and file options. An eReader must be as easy to see as it is to navigate and budget-priced, generic eReaders are notoriously clunky with interfaces that look more like a calculator screen than a soothing, inviting digital library. We ran through the eReader menus, checking for speed and intuitiveness. If we hit a roadblock and had to click the “help” function to figure out what to do, it was a big red flag for casual readers.
Lastly, we took price into consideration. Devices more than $250 must have something special to offer (like a color display) or else why spend the money? And devices less than $70 seem sketchy from the start and will likely crash on a regular basis.
Best eReaders: reviews and recommendations
Best eReader for Kids: Fire 7 Kids Tablet, 7″ Display, 16 GB, Blue Kid-Proof Case
A kid-proof case drastically improves durability. Amazon
- 7-inch display
- 16 GB storage
- Reinforced screen and body
Why It Made The Cut: The Amazon Fire 7 Kids tablet has a colorful rubber case and reinforced body that makes this an easy pick as the best eReader for kids.
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Finding an eReader that’s kid-proof can be tough. Amazon Fire 7, the eReader for kids is more of a multi-function tablet than a simple eReader, but you’re getting a lot of computing power in a child-friendly case. Amazon does offer a child-themed Kindle Reader called the Kindle Kids, but for ten bucks less, you can get a full-blown Fire tablet. It can be used to read books if you only want to use the bare minimum of the Fire’s potential.
For parents, setting up the tablet is easy and keeps things safe and secure. You can limit social media and web access, or ban it altogether. It comes with a year of Amazon Kids+, a subscription service that gives you (and your kids) access to thousands of books, games, and more. The 7-inch screen is bright and colorful—perfect for engaging young readers getting the hang of words. And the battery lasts about 7 hours on a full charge, so it’ll be a useful tool for all-day use.
The case is thick and can withstand typical bumps and spills. The built-in stand is great for setting up on a table or desk.
Best eReader for seniors: Amazon Kindle
A classic ereader
Amazon has been refining this reader for years. Amazon
Why It Made The Cut: The iconic Amazon Kindle is still one of the best eReaders for any age, but seniors will especially love the reading light, the user-friendly text options, and the low price.
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The Amazon Kindle has come a long way since the first generation of eReaders. The most recent model added front lights for easy reading in the dark. The e-ink screen looks great even in sunlight and the fonts can be adjusted to suit the reader’s needs, making it the best eReader for seniors.
Seniors will love the simplicity of the basic Kindle. The menu screens are barebones and browsing the library is straightforward. Buying books is also a breeze, but make sure the readers understand how it works before they unknowingly rack up thousands of dollars in John Grisham debt.
The Amazon Kindle can also be used as an audiobook player and a subscription to Audible makes listening to books cost-effective. But, you need bluetooth headphones to listen, as there is no internal speaker. We wish the screen was a bit bigger, as some seniors will still have trouble seeing the 6-inch display even when text size is blown up. The next biggest Kindle size would be the Oasis, an upscale device that costs more than double the price of the standard Kindle. Save your money and stick with the affordable option.
Best eReader for PDF: Kindle Paperwhite
Thin and light
This is one of the easiest to read screens you’ll find. Amazon
- 32 GB
- 8.18 mm thick
- 6-inch display
Why It Made The Cut: The Amazon Paperwhite is not only thin, it has enough storage to load up thousands of PDFs and the little eReader has no problem displaying PDFs on its gorgeous e-ink screen.
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The best eReader for PDFs is engineered for easy reading. The bright LED lights help the e-ink display shine in a dark bedroom. The screen looks as close to physical ink and paper as currently possible. And the price isn’t too high.
But one of the hidden talents of the Paperwhite is the ability to read PDFs. While Amazon would rather you read from its library and proprietary file format (AZW), there are workarounds to get any PDF into the device. Simply connect the device to your computer and drop the PDF into the Amazon document folder. Those PDFs will now be ready to read in glorious e-ink beauty.
While other eReaders can also handle PDFs, the Amazon Paperwhite does so without stutter or formatting hiccups. Connecting to a computer might be a pain, but if you want to read a PDF for work (or fun), it’s not prohibitively cumbersome to plug it into a PC or Mac. And because the Kindle Paperwhite is one of the best-looking eReaders for any type of reading, even a PDF of car maintenance instructions will look beautiful.
Best eReader for manga: Kobo Forma
The big display handles a wide variety of formats Kobo
- 8-inch touch screen display
- 1440 × 1920 resolution
- 32 GB
Why It Made The Cut: The Kobo Forma can handle just about every file format you want, a huge plus for Manga readers whose taste goes beyond Amazon’s limited offerings. And the big display makes art and text look great.
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Japanese graphic novels (manga) come in every type of genre imaginable from a wide variety of sources, so you’ll want an eReader that can handle every type of file format to read it all. The Kobo Forma’s large e-ink screen makes black and white manga look great, almost as good as physical paper. And holding the Kobo Forma sideways in landscape mode adds to the feeling of reading a real graphic novel.
The Kobo Forma is the best eReader for manga because it can read comic book files CBZ and CBR, plus ebook files EPUB, EPUB3, MOBI, FilePub ad PDFs. Navigating through a comic is easy thanks to the side buttons. And the front lights allow for nighttime reading. It’s also waterproof, for those who love to read at the beach or pool.
The biggest drawbacks are the price and the lack of color. For reading black and white manage, this is a great tool. For reading colorful American comics, you’ll be better off with a standard tablet like an iPad which is roughly the same price. However, this eReader does look better in sunlight than the glossy screen of iPad. And manga fans will love the Koba Forma, even with the limitations.
Best eReader for library books: Kobo Clara HD
Borrowing books is simple with this device. Kobo
- 6-inch, 300 PPI screen
- 8 GB storage
- Adjustable ComfortLight PRO
Why It Made The Cut: For accessing and reading library books, the Kobo Clara HD has a seamless interface with the library app Overdrive. If you love the library, this ebook reader gives you access to a near-limitless number of free books.
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OverDrive and its Libby app make it easier than ever to borrow books from your local library, and the Kobo Clara HD eReader is the best eReader for library books. Sure, the Kindle can also link up to OverDrive and Libby, but if the library has a book that’s not compatible with the Kindle, you’re out of luck. Kobo eReaders are better suited for displaying a variety of file formats.
Simply search for your library in the app or on the OverDrive website and plug in your library card info and you’ll be set. The Kobo Clara HD is ready to borrow books from your library of choice… assuming your library participates in the OverDrive program. (Most libraries do and more are added every month.)
Besides the library functionality, the Kobo Clara HD is a big improvement over older Kobo products. The display is crisper and the touch screen is responsive. Kobo may lack the streamlined UX design of the sleek and simple Kindle, but you’re getting more options and greater freedom to buy, borrow and read the books of your choice.
Best color eReader: BOOX Nova3 Color 7.8 ePaper Color Digital Paper Tablet
Read in color
Color e-Ink is still new, but it already looks great here. BOOX
- 7.8-inch Kaleido Plus color e-ink screen
- 32 GB
- Stylus included
Why It Made The Cut: While color e-ink technology is still in its infancy, the Boox Nova3 eReader is leading the pack with a good color display and responsive touch screen making it the best of this limited marketplace.
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Color e-ink displays are almost ready for the average consumer…almost. The Boox Nova3 is a step in the right direction, and while it doesn’t do everything perfectly, it’s the best color eReader for those who want more than gray-on-gray text.
The Kaleido Plus color screen of the Boox Nova3 uses light filtering to create colors, not actual color microcapsules. You’re looking at monochrome microcapsules through a layer of filters to create color. The result is a color that is muted but looks more like paper than a glossy iPad screen. If you like that newspring aesthetic, this is a perfect eReader. But if you’re expecting the vividness of an Android or Apple tablet, you will be disappointed.
As a regular, black and white eReader, the Boox does a good enough job, but you’re paying extra for the color functionality. And if you’re not interested in the color, there’s not much else this eReader offers that you can’t find in cheaper devices like the Kindle or the Kobo products. The only other benefit of this device is the stylus; it’s responsive and this is a good eReader for annotations and jotting notes. The color ink Kaledio Plus technology is brand new for 2021, and it’s the current cream of the crop in terms of color variety and speed. We don’t know when or if color e-ink will ever be perfected, so this is the best color eReader of the bunch as of now.
Best Kobo eReader: Kobo Libra H2O
This is the biggest Kindle competition. Kobo
- 7-inch HD touch screen
- 8 GB
- 1680 x 1264,300 ppi resolution
Why It Made The Cut: The Kobo Libra H2O is the best Kobo eReader and the biggest Kindle competitor on the market, with a stunning display and responsive controls worthy of any digital bookworm.
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The Kobo Libra is the company’s flagship device, the best Kobo eReader for casual reading or intense studying. It feels good in your hand, not like a cheap, knock-off product you buy at a drugstore. Page-turning feels great, and while the touch screen is nice, the buttons are nicer. We wish more eReaders offered the tactile feel of real, physical controls.
The 8 GB internal storage may sound small, but that’s enough room for about 6,000 books. The adjustable screen light is a great addition to the Kobo eReaders, and can be used to pick the perfect amount of illumination for night readers.
Browsing the Kobo library is simple, though not as intuitive as the Kindle store. But the Kobo does support more file types than the Kindle, which is a plus for those who love EPUB books. And the Kobo Libra easily connects to your local library through OverDrive.
Best eReader overall: Kindle Oasis
You’ll find plenty of features in this ereader. Amazon
- 7-inch screen
- 25 LED lights
- 300 ppi resolution
Why It Made The Cut: Amazon’s newest Kindle Oasis eReader is the best eReader overall because it adds even more lighting options for a variety of color temperatures and displays crisp text on a big screen ideal for tired and weary eyes.
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The latest Kindle Oasis might be the best eReader overall. The screen is bigger than the standard 6-inch display of most eReaders. And the new LED lights can be automatically adjusted to suit your eyes and environment. The result is a stunning display that looks just as good in a dark room as it does on a sunny beach.
The Oasis is not cheap, costing twice as much as a Kindle Paperwhite. The bigger, brighter screen is worth the money if you spend a lot of looking at screens. Page-turning is instant, and even switching from book to menu screen is done with surprising speed and smoothness. Highlighting passages is also fast and simple.
Audiobook fans will need to provide their own Bluetooth speakers or headphones, as there is no speaker or headphone jack on the device. But if you want a device to listen to audiobooks, your smartphone is probably better equipped for the job. At just under $250 for the 8 GB version, this luxury Kindle is for serious readers who want a professional, high-quality text-based experience.
Things to Consider Before Buying a eReader
Why and when an eReader is better than a tablet?
Tablets have become affordable options for casual computing. So why would you need a separate eReader when your tablet (or phone) can access all the popular ebook apps? In a word: Readability. As colorful and bright as LCD tablet screens have become, grayscale e-ink displays are gentler on the eyes. The gray contrast lets the eye relax and focus on the text. And because eReaders are made for books, the page-turning controls are more responsive and text options are more varied than tablets and smartphone apps. Plus, eReaders are generally smaller and more travel-friendly than tablets.
The beauty of gray: Why color eReaders haven’t taken off…yet?
Most eReaders only display text and images in simple monochromatic grays. While there are a few color eReaders available, the technology of color e-ink has yet to be perfected. In the past few years, Kaledio has led the way for color eReaders like the Boox Nova3, and the results are pretty good — but not great. The color of these eReaders is dull, like a photo viewed through sunglasses. And when you look at the screen from certain angles, the color all but vanishes. This is fine for reading some books and PDFs, but those looking for slap-you-in-the-eye colors, are better off with a full-color iPad or Microsoft Surface tablet.
What types of files can an eReader display?
Amazon’s line of Kindles loves the proprietary AZW file type, but they can also handle PDFs, MOBI, standard doc files and more. However, Kobo eReaders are versatile and can digest more types of saved files. If you want to access a wide variety of books and comics, Kobo has more options. The downside: Not all file types will work as smoothly as the standard PDF and EPUB files. When moving files over to the eReader, some of the formatting may shift. This isn’t a deal-breaker, but can impact the reading experience.
Do you need cellular data to use eReader?
Nearly all eReaders today offer simple wifi connectivity. And most books will download to your device in seconds. Wifi-only models should give you enough internet juice for the average reader to load up on books at home, before a long vacation or trip into a world without internet (perish the thought!). If you want a 4G cellular connection that can download books anywhere, you’ll need to spend more for a 4G-ready eReader. And you’ll need a data plan. Those extra expenses are only worth it if you absolutely, positively need internet access wherever you travel. Because no matter where you are, sometimes you need a quick dose of Jack Reacher’s unique brand of justice.
Q: What is the best size for an eReader?
The best size for an eReader is a 6-inch screen. That has become the industry standard for Kindles, Kobos and more. It’s roughly the size of a typical mass market paperback book. You can always adjust the text size if needed. For storage sizes, anything bigger than 2 GB will house at least a thousand books or more, enough for the typical reader. Currently, 8 GB seems to be the norm for all popular eReaders, and most offer a 32 GB model at a higher price point.
Q: Can Kobo read Kindle books?
Kobo can read Kindle books, but you need to convert the file to do so and it can be a hassle. Kobol and Kindle don’t like to play together for obvious reasons. But a program like Calibre can take the Amazon file and transform it into a Kobo-friendly file. It requires some file juggling, exporting, and importing, but it can be done.
Q: Which eReader is easiest to use?
The Kindle Paperwhite is the easiest eReader to use. The menus are simple and user-friendly. There is no background clutter or extra apps to worry about. And the interface is quick and responsive. The Kindle Oasis is also a good choice, but the light options and sensors can be confusing to those new to eReader features. Amazon also provides high-quality customer service if you need help. For simply reading books, the Kindle Paperwhite is the easiest Reader.
A final thought about the best eReaders
Digital books are more than a fad. And an eReader with a gorgeous e-ink display helps you get the most out of your reading experience. They have come a long way since the days of built-in keyboards and glitchy page-turning lag. These are sleek, simple readers that are gentle on the eyes and fast on the fingers. With the best eReaders, staying up to date on reading is as easy as tapping a screen.