Even for the most ravenous of book lovers, dedicated ereaders can be a fairly easy idea to dismiss. After all, if you've got a modern big-screen smartphone or a tablet, it's dead simple to just download Amazon's Kindle app to get your ebook fix.
According to a 2014 report from the Stanford Center for Teaching and Learning, however, the way we read on our smartphones and PCs is different from how we read on paper. Thanks to the internet, on screens we've trained our eyes to skim and dart around, constantly hunting for the information we're after — a non-linear behaviour the Stanford paper calls 'surface reading'.
When reading from a paper book, by contrast, our brains switch to a more concentrated form of information processing — dubbed 'deep reading' — and it's a mode that actually helps us better absorb and comprehend what's on the page.
To us, that sounds like a great argument for giving books their own space, away from the distractions of apps and constant notifications on our modern do-all devices.
And while there's certainly something irreplaceable about curling up with a good hardcover or paperback, nothing beats the convenience of a digital device when it comes to size, browsing for new books — but with a dedicated ebook reader, you can arguably have the advantages of both.
By design, they're simpler device made for the singular purpose of reading — and they have advantages too, such as batteries that last weeks rather than hours, and much-clearer legibility in direct sunlight.
Here are the 5 best ebook readers you can buy today.
Kobo Aura H2O
The Aura H2O is Kobo's flagship model, an unrepentantly big-and-tough unit with a large 6.8-inch display and waterproofing, so it can be used with impunity in the bathtub or by the poolside.
It has a microSD expansion slot and a USB charge-port on its bottom edge, which are covered by a discrete plastic flap when not in use to keep them water tight. While that larger physical size means it won't as easily slip into a handbag or jacket pocket, it's still quite comfortable to hold thanks to a soft-touch plastic back with slightly tapered sides.
And true to Kobo form, it's very flexible in terms of settings and customisability — fonts, font-weights, line spacing, margins and justification can all be fine-tuned to a high degree. However, we found some default font-weights resulted in unevenly-rendered text (narrower arches in letters, for example), so we needed to fiddle for a couple of minutes to get things more comfortable.
Kobo's thrown a few extra beta features onto the Aura H2O, so you can play sudoku, solitaire or word scramble, sketch drawings or browse the web.
The Aura H2O isn't as fast as the Kindle Voyage in some areas; there's a slight delay in text input, for example, which means you've got to be quite deliberate, especially when you're initially setting up accounts and entering passwords. And one spot where Kobo in general falls short is that you don't have the option to upload and archive your own ebooks and PDFs to the cloud, something you can do with Amazon's Kindle platform.
Its larger size means the H2O won't appeal to everyone, but if you like to read longform web articles alongside your ebooks (and/or while you're in the bathtub) this is a fantastic option.
- Read our Kobo Aura H2O review
Amazon Kindle Paperwhite
Prior to this year's launch of the Kindle Voyage, the Paperwhite was Amazon's top Kindle offering. Amazon's actually refreshed the device three times — most recently in the middle of this year, although some stock of the previous model does still seem to be floating around, so be aware.