The best ereaders are the perfect device for avid readers. They may look like a traditional tablet but they’re something else entirely. So, before you opt for a subpar alternative, consider why you should get a dedicated reading device.
There are a number of e-ink tablets out there that use screens made, confusingly by E Ink. The most popular of course are Amazon's Kindles, but Kobo ereaders provide plenty of competition, as do models from Onyx and PocketBook. There are other players in this area, but availability is quite patchy.
So, what's an E Ink display? Well, instead of the typical computer-like screen and its issues with blue light, E Ink screens are glare-free and replicate that textured look of paper.
E Ink screens require less power as well, so the battery life on these ereaders vastly outperform traditional tablets. And, they’re also much better for the eyes due to the light, in some cases, having adjustable hues. We can read for hours on one of these and not have to worry about eye strain.
In that spirit, we’ve gathered the best ereaders to help you get caught up on that long list of books you’ve been meaning to read. But, don’t expect to find an all-in-one device. You’ll still want to give our guide to the best tablets a look if you need that kind of functionality. And, for Amazon fans, we’ve collected our top picks for the best Kindles as well.
The best ereaders 2022
We gave the Kobo Libra 2 full marks in our review, which should really say all you need to know about the ereader. It's a fantastic all-around champion that should be your first port of call when buying an E Ink device.
We liked the Libra's screen – it's got great contrast compared to older ereaders – as well as its battery, which lasts for weeks, and its charging, which uses USB-C so is quicker to power than lots of rivals.
All the other great features that make Kobo ereaders stand apart from the Kindles are here as well. OverDrive support to let you borrow library books (yes, this remains despite the phone app being moved over to Libby), Pocket integration so you can read saved web articles, extensive file format support, and a very streamlined interface. More importantly, for the first time for Kobo, it brings Bluetooth connectivity so you can listen to audiobooks, and ups the storage from a mere 8GB on the older models to 32GB.
It does all this without costing too much more than the Libra H2O that it's replaced. It's in no way 'cheap', but take all the upgrades into account and the value for money here is unbeatable.
Read our full Kobo Libra 2 review
[Update: On September 1, 2022, Kobo announced the launch of the Clara 2E which will be replacing the Clara HD down the line. We haven't tested it yet, but it comes with more bells and whistles than the older model, so there's a good chance we could replace the Clara HD once we've discovered with the newer model is like.]
While the basic Amazon Kindle and the Kobo Nia are cheaper than the Kobo Clara HD, this is our pick for a budget option as it, for a tiny bit more money, gets you a 300ppi 6-inch screen – a much better resolution that the cheaper options. More importantly, that screen has amber LEDs and an automatic time setter for the blue-light filters to come into play. That's something neither the Amazon Kindle nor the Kobo Nia will get you.
It was the Clara HD that introduced the rapid page turn engine to the Kobo UX. This feature allows you to quickly move forward in an ebook by holding down on the bottom-left corner of the screen. The slight caveat is that it only works with KEPUB e-books – i.e. the ones bought directly from Kobo.
And despite being an older model with a now-aging E Ink screen, the Clara HD is remarkably responsive and text selection can be quite precise. There's 8GB of internal memory, so you can store hundreds of ebooks and its size makes it really quite portable. So if you're after a budget ereader, we can't recommend the Kobo Clara HD highly enough.
Read our full Kobo Clara HD review
The best Kindle right now is also the latest one: 2021's upgrade on the Kindle Paperwhite feels like a big jump up from its predecessor, making it the first port of call for people who want an Amazon ereader.
It now has a larger display being 6.8-inches, and this is a big selling point as the previous model was a little on the small side. Even better, thinner borders means less plastic to hold onto or look at. The screen offers a resolution of 300ppi with a glare-free display that means you can read it in bright sunlight without a problem.
In addition, it's speedier than its predecessor. Amazon promises up to 20% faster page turns than before and such differences soon add up. Charging is faster too thanks to USB-C support, with up to 10 weeks of battery life possible here (an improvement over the older version).
Elsewhere, an adjustable warm light means you can change the screen shade from white to amber and get things just how suits you. Also, it's waterproof with an IPX8 rating so it's perfect for using in the bath or while relaxing in the pool on holiday.
It's a little pricey for a Kindle but it's a worthy investment. It really does make a huge difference compared to cheaper ereaders.
Read our full Amazon Kindle Paperwhite review
If money is no object and you want the most luxurious reading experience a digital ebook reader can give you, then it doesn't get any better than the 2019 version of Amazon's Kindle Oasis. While it might be getting a bit long in the tooth (considering tech these days has a quick turnaround), it's still our pick for the most premium ereader you can get today.
Despite an aluminum chassis, the Oasis is lighter than the plastic-bound Kobo Libra 2 listed above and its IPX8 waterproofing means it can easily handle an accidental dunk in the bath, the pool or the kitchen sink. The backlight can be adjusted from white to warmer yellow hues to reduce eye strain, and it can even be scheduled to become warmer at bedtime (say, 9:30pm for example).
There's also the usual Kindle Oasis features we saw in the previous generation. There's a high-quality and large 7-inch display with E Ink technology that makes words on the page crisp and clear, and a 'ridge' on one side of the sleek metal body that has been designed for easy and comfortable single-hand use. In addition, the buttons to turn pages are within easy reach of the thumb even if you have small mitts and have the smoothest performance of any asymmetric ereader on the market that sports these buttons.
There's also plenty of storage space onboard, with 8GB being the starting point, but you can get a 32GB version of the Oasis if you've got (or planning on having) a large digital library. The base model comes with Wi-Fi enabled, but there is an LTE option as well, which allows you to download ebooks from the Kindle Store no matter where you are.
Read our full Amazon Kindle Oasis review
If you can't decide between a tablet or an ereader, the Onyx Boox Nova Air C offers both. Due to its E Ink-based refresh rate, it's not perfect when watching YouTube videos or typing up documents in Google Docs, but it’s certainly possible.
Its strength lies with its extensive support for Android and the Google Play Store, so you have plenty of options for how to get ebooks. It's thin too, being thinner than a paperback novella and only a little heavier than a typical smartphone.
A dimmer display than competitors makes it a little difficult to use in dim environments, but a two-tone backlighting system helps as needed. A stylus is included too for any time you need to sketch out a design or jot down some notes. It's a curious mix of a bit of everything while not quite mastering it all, but it's worth considering.
Read our full Onyx Boox Nova Air C review
If you don't really require all the features of the Onyx Boox listed above, you can opt for a larger (10.3-inch) screen E Ink device that's great for note taking. The Kobo Elipsa also comes with a stylus in the box and is a little cheaper (in some markets) than the 7.8-inch color-screen Nova Air C. That screen size, though, makes the Elipsa a little unwieldy.
Not only does it ship with the Kobo Stylus, it also comes and a sleepcover (which has a nook for the pen by the way), so you're not paying for extras.
Despite its headline act of stylus support, the Elipsa is an ereader first and foremost and its large screen size is perfect for comic book and graphic novel fans, but the ability to write on the device and save notes, lists and whatever else you want is a massive plus. You can, in theory, even mark up PDFs, making signing digital documents a slightly easier process too.
Of course, as a Kobo device, it comes with all the features that the company is known for – broad file format support, an excellent UX, and OverDrive, Pocket and Dropbox integration. Honestly, the Elipsa has a lot going for it... if you really are in need of a note-taking, stylus-toting ereader.
Moreover, compared to Onyx devices, Kobo is far more widely available and is a worthy contender for a multi-purpose E Ink tablet, albeit a niche one.
Read our full Kobo Elipsa review
Most mainstream ereaders only have a monochrome screen, with smaller brands like Onyx and PocketBook offering color options. If you're really into comics and graphic novels, it could be worth considering the latter's InkPad Color.
Don't expect to see a lot of color saturation on the screen – this is an issue with the screen tech's limitations and not the fault of the ereader maker – but we think having at least some color is better than reading in black-and-white when the pages aren't meant to be that way.
Admittedly the PocketBooks function best in European markets as access to the built-in store and cloud services aren't available elsewhere, but if you have an existing collection of colorful ebooks purchased from elsewhere, the InkPad Color will let you easily sideload, including transfering directly from a Dropbox account.
The UX has some quirks that we're not big fans on at TechRadar, but its physical control buttons are a welcome addition. There's also audiobook support available here, as is a 3.5mm jack in case you'd rather plug in your headphones than use a Bluetooth set or a portable speaker.
Like Onyx, PocketBook isn't available in all markets, but you could import it.
Read our full PocketBook InkPad Color review
Kindle or Kobo: which ereader is best for you?
Whether you should opt for a Kindle or a Kobo ereader depends on what you're looking for from your ereader and, more often than not, that decision will be ruled by price and feature set.
Both Amazon and Kobo have premium offerings in the Kindle Oasis and the Sage respectively, but there are budget ones as well. The Paperwhite and the Clara HD are excellent in their own way, with the Kobo Libra 2 offering a stunning middle path with plenty of bang for your buck.
That said, Amazon has the biggest marketshare by far, but Kobo devices have several advantages over their direct competition. So, what should you consider before buying an ereader? Below are a few considerations to keep in mind.
All Kobo ereaders have OverDrive baked-in, meaning anyone with a public library membership in countries where there is support can borrow ebooks from their local library. Most public libraries in the US, UK, Australia and Singapore now allow members to borrow ebooks, saving you plenty of money in the long term on purchasing books.
That said, the ability to borrow library books is also available on Kindles, but only in the US for now. However, Kindle users can take advantage of Amazon's Prime Reading service – available for free to all Amazon Prime members. There's over a thousand titles to choose from, but you won't own the books you read via the Prime Reading service.
If you're keen on owning all the books you read, then the Kindle Store usually has way more titles on offer than the Kobo Store – primarily due to Amazon's self-publishing platform – but Kobo's Super Points system allows you to save points you earn on purchases for later use (note that these points do have an expiration date).
Another thing to keep in mind when choosing an ereader is the support for different file types. All Kindle ebooks you purchase from Amazon will be in .azw format, although the ereaders will also support .mobi files too. There is no .epub support here and you will need to use a tool like Calibre to convert .epubs to a supported format (either .azw or .mobi).
Kobos, on the other hand, will support most file types (it can handle 15 formats) – with the exception of Amazon's own .azw of course. You'll even be able to read PDFs, text files, comics and graphic novels on your Kobo device, just to name a few.
You'll find that the Kindles have some custom fonts designed by Amazon, with Bookerly and Ember being the most popular ones. We found that the list of fonts on Kindles is extensive enough that we didn't find the need to sideload more, but you can if you need to.
Kobo devices also have their own set of default fonts, but there's no rule against sideloading more, including Amazon's own custom ones like Bookerly. And sideloading is as easy as plugging your Kobo ereader into a computer and moving your desired font to the device's fonts folder.
Built-in Bluetooth has been a standard feature on Kindles since the 8th-generation models. So if you've got a Kindle model (whether the basic one, the Paperwhite or the Oasis) that was launched in 2016 or later, you'll be able to connect a set of wireless headphones to listen to audiobooks. The caveat here is that the audiobooks needs to have been purchased from the Kindle Store or Audible.
This was where Kobo was languishing behind its competition, but with the launch of the Libra 2 and the Kobo Sage, the company has caught up. Both models have Bluetooth, so you can easily pair wireless headphones to listen to audiobooks. Unfortunately you can't sideload any purchased from third parties – audiobook support on Kobo is only from those purchased from the Kobo Store.
External app support
Goodreads is a great social platform for avid readers and, ever since Amazon acquired the company, there's seamless integration with Kindle devices available on the ereaders. It's a great and easy way to keep tabs on your library. However, integration with other platforms on Kindle devices stops there.
Other than OverDrive support to borrow library books, Kobo also has a partnership with Dropbox. If you happen to have your library saved in a Dropbox folder, you can easily connect the two and transfer files to the device without needing to plug the ereader into your computer – but note that Dropbox accessibility is limited to the more premium Kobo models, having debuted on the Forma.
Then there's Pocket support on the Kobo devices as well. This app allows you to read long-form articles on the web that you save for later, and syncing with your Pocket account will give you access to them all on your Kobo ereader.
So, which one should you buy?
There are some differences between the two platforms when it comes to the user interface as well – the main being the ability to organize your library on the device. While you can create folders and collections on both Kindle and Kobo devices, you can only organize ebooks you've purchased from the Kindle Store on an Amazon device. If you've added books you've purchased from elsewhere, they will sit in the main library but you will not be able to move them to a folder.
On the other hand, everything you have stored on your Kobo device can be organized as you see fit.
Pretty much everything else about the two platforms is competitive, including pricing, so the choice of device ultimately rests on whether you'd like to borrow library books or if you're a Prime member, what file format the vast majority of your existing library is, and whether you'd like to listen to audiobooks when you're not reading.
At the end, you won't go wrong with either a Kindle or a Kobo, with both offering their own set of pros and cons.
What is the difference between an ereader and a tablet?
If you already own a tablet – either an iPad or an Android device – do you really need another device to read digital books on? Perhaps not, but there are a few advantages an ereader offers that you won't get with a tablet.
1. Battery life
Ebooks readers use far less power than a tablet, allowing manufacturers to claim days, if not weeks, of battery life. And every single model listed above offers at least a few days of battery if you're an avid reader, which gets pushed to a couple of weeks at least if you're a casual reader. With tablets, you'll be doing a lot of other things besides reading, and they would likely need topping up every day.
2. E Ink technology
As mentioned above, every ereader on the market uses an E Ink screen with a matte finish, unlike the shiny reflective displays on tablets. This makes it easier to use ereaders in bright sunshine, which can be a problem with some backlit tablet screens.
3. Blue light filter
While dark mode has become quite common in recent times and many modern electronic screens automatically adjust their displays depending on ambient lighting, there's no filter to reduce sleep-disrupting blue light. Ereaders, however, use front lights with a white to yellow hue that's a lot better for the eyes (and your sleep pattern) as compared to phones and tablets.
4. Affordable and convenient
There are a few other reasons to consider an ereader over a tablet: they're typically smaller and lighter, with thicker bezels so you can hold them comfortably while reading. And they're also typically cheaper – the most expensive ereaders (like the 3G version of the Kindle Oasis or the Kobo Forma) cost as much as a budget tablet. While you'll likely get more bang for your buck with a multipurpose device, you'll need to contend with limited battery life and a bright screen that's not quite the best option for reading digital books.
What are note-taking ereaders?
There's a different class of E Ink tablets that are designed specifically for note taking. These devices typically have bigger screens – 10.3 inches is quite common – and can be used with a stylus. The most popular digital note-taker like this is perhaps the ReMarkable 2, but others like the Onyx Boox Max 3 and the Kobo Elipsa are a little more versatile.
The latter two actually allow you to read ebooks and annotate as you go, while you need to jump through a few hoops to get ebooks loaded onto the ReMarkable as it's primarily a note taker and not an ereader.
It's easy to argue that tablets from Samsung and Apple are perhaps far more useful than E Ink digital note takers, but if you don't need a multimedia device, then the better battery life and easy-on-eyes screen of a dedicated research device like the Onyx Boox Note Air and Kobo Elipsa might make a lot more sense for some users.
Why buy an ereader?
According to a 2014 report from the Stanford Center for Teaching and Learning, we've trained our eyes to skim and dart on screens (thank you, internet), constantly hunting for specific bits of information we're after – a non-linear behavior 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' – that actually helps us better absorb and comprehend what's on the page, even if it's a digital page that mimics the real thing.
To us, that sounds like a great argument for giving ereaders their own space, away from the distractions of apps and constant notifications on our modern do-all devices. With a dedicated ereader, you can even browse for new books without leaving the house.