The best eReaders help you stay informed and entertained at home or on the go without cluttering up your living space, backpack, or luggage. They also can make the best tech gifts. But before you choose a product for this year’s reading goals, it’s important to understand just why you’d want one of these devices rather than simply using your tablet to download the latest book.
The biggest draw of eReaders over other smart devices is their screen type and lighting. Tablets and laptops use LCD (liquid crystal) displays and backlighting to render images. EReaders use E Ink technology designed to appear like ink on paper and are generally front-lit for an optimally comfortable reading experience with minimal interference from glare.
With the best eReaders, you can buy, borrow, and devour the latest novel, nonfiction, graphic novel, and more from anywhere. If you’re ready to stop using stacks of hardcovers as overpriced coasters and dig deeper into the written word, don’t worry. We’ve got you.
— Best Overall: Kindle Paperwhite (2021)
— Best for Library Books: Kobo Sage
— Best for Manga: Kobo Libra 2
— Best Color Screen: ONYX BOOX Nova3
— Best Value: Kobo Clara HD
— Best for Amazon Readers: Kindle Oasis
— Best Tablet: 2021 Apple iPad
— Best for Notes: ONYX Boox Note Air 2
— Best for Kids: Kindle Paperwhite Kids
How We Picked the Best eReaders
In order to recommend quality eReaders, we started with a market overview and identified some key criteria to narrow down our choices.
Brand: We focused our picks primarily on Amazon and Kobo (we see what you did there with that anagram, Kobo). These two dominant brands in the eReader market began releasing popular eReaders within a few years of each other and have a wide array of attractive models readily available. Barnes and Noble’s Nook eReader is another long-time player (and a source of much speculation) that customers may want to consider, but it didn’t make our short list. Buyer beware: While you can still find Sony eReaders online, Sony is no longer in the eReader business.
Price: We showcased eReaders primarily in the $120-250 range to offer excellent options that fit a variety of budgets. We also made sure to note any differences in how devices access content, and how that might affect long-term costs and usability.
Screen Size: We considered a variety of different screen sizes in the context of reader preferences and reading material types. We also considered devices that allow readers to switch between landscape and portrait mode by rotating the device, to take advantage of screen real estate in service of different genres.
The Best eReaders: Reviews & Recommendations
Best Overall: Kindle Paperwhite (2021)
Why It Made The Cut: Amazon’s new and improved version of the Kindle Paperwhite now has both amber and white lighting options for more comfortable viewing.
— Dimensions: 6.9 inches long x 4.9 inches wide x .32 inches thick
— Screen Size: 6.8 inches
— Storage: 8 GB
— Lighting warmth is adjustable
— Waterproof (IPX8 rated)
— 300 ppi (pixels per inch) display
— Bluetooth compatibility for playing audio books
— No page-turn buttons
— Not ideal for manga file formats
If you plan on purchasing books primarily from Amazon, taking advantage of the ebooks included with Prime, and listening to audiobooks through Audible, you’ll want a Kindle eReader. 2021’s Amazon Kindle Paperwhite is the best eReader overall and offers superior compatibility with everything Amazon has to offer over other brands on the market, and its newest features address previous gaps with their competitors.
When you hop into a candlelit bubble bath (don’t do this while your device is charging!), you can now adjust the white LED lights to a warmer amber, which some people find more pleasing in low light settings. With a 6.8-inch screen and over four times more LED lights, we think this is a worthy upgrade from the entry-level Kindle.
That said, If you’re willing to pay more for physical page-turn buttons, a little more screen room, automatic rotating page orientation, and cellular connectivity, the Amazon Kindle Oasis may be a better choice. Or check for refurbished or pre-owned Kindle Paperwhite at Amazon Renew. Learn more about how we gauge sustainability.
Best for Library Books: Kobo Sage
Why It Made The Cut: We love that the Kobo Sage’s notebook features an outlet to reflect on what you learn in the virtual stacks and allows you to transfer your ideas across devices with Dropbox.
— Dimensions: 7.14 inches long x 6.32 inches wide x .3 inches thick
— Screen Size: 8 inches
— Storage: 32 GB
— Create notebooks and export handwritten notes to text
— Waterproof (IPX8 rated)
— Bluetooth compatible for headphones/speakers
— Supports the Pocket app for saved news articles
— Stylus sold separately
Voracious readers know that the local library can be a great resource for everything from the latest bestsellers to obscure regional history. With OverDrive, a digital distributor of ebooks used by libraries in a number of countries including the United States and Canada, you can skip handling well-worn dust jackets and check out your books right from your eReader.
OverDrive isn’t exclusive to Kobo, but we think the Kobo Sage’s writing features in conjunction with a Kobo stylus are a perfect counterpart to resourceful scholars and the best eReader for library books. When you create separate notebooks within the device for your ideas and plans, you can convert handwritten notes to text using the advanced notebook option, and export them with Dropbox in various file formats.
Because of limitations in storing and exporting annotations on materials with Digital Rights Management (DRM), we do not recommend purchasing the Sage with the goal of marking up borrowed ebooks, which are automatically “returned” to the library’s content list on their due date. Instead, it’s best to look at this model as a dual reader and electronic notebook. The Kobo Clara HD (our best value pick) also works great with library books at a much lower price point.
Best for Manga: Kobo Libra 2
Why It Made The Cut: The Kobo Libra 2 is the best eReader for Manga because it supports the comic and manga file formats CBZ and CBR natively so you can enjoy graphic storytelling without extra steps.
— Dimensions: 7.01 inches long x 7.64 inches wide x 1.18 inches thick
— Screen Size: 7 inches
— Storage: 32 GB
— 12 different fonts and over 50 font styles
— Supports many file formats natively, including PDF, CBZ, and CBR
— Stores up to 24,000 e-books or 150 Kobo audiobooks at a time
— Dark Mode available
— Converting Kindle files takes a few steps
Just like the Amazon Kindle Oasis, the Kobo Libra 2 has page-turn buttons, light customization from white to amber, and is waterproof to IPX8 standards at a similar price point. However, for fans of Japanese comics and graphic novels in black and white, we think Kobo’s native support of CBZ and CBR file formats is a standout difference.
You can convert these formats on Kindle, but if you’re buying an eReader for manga you might as well save yourself some time. You’ll also get more built-in storage without having to pay more.
The Libra 2 is an upgraded version of the Libra H20. If you prefer an 8-inch screen to the Libra 2’s 7 inch and only want to use your device for reading, you should also consider the Kobo Forma (a replacement of the Aura One). Keep in mind though, that it doesn’t have Bluetooth compatibility and can’t be used with headphones and speakers to listen to Kobo Audiobooks.
Best Color Screen: ONYX BOOX Nova3
Why It Made The Cut: We chose the ONYX BOOX Nova3 Color for devoted tech fans who can’t wait to hold the promise of tomorrow in their hands today.
— Dimensions: 7.75 inches long x 5.39 inches wide x .3 inches thick
— Screen Size: 7.8 inches
— Storage: 32 GB
— Kaleido Plus color technology from E Ink
— Stylus for notetaking
— Android operating system
— Includes both a speaker and a microphone
— Color does not yet compare to LCD screens
— ONYX does not have their own e-book store
Onyx has been designing and manufacturing eReaders since 2006. The ONYX BOOX Nova 3 Color was released in 2021, and uses Kaleido Plus technology from E Ink to support nearly 4,100 hues. It’s part of a very small market (as yet) of eReaders that go beyond greyscale to deliver color.
We would be remiss in not sharing this device, which gives us a glimpse into the future of eReaders. But is it worth its exceedingly high price point? We’re not so sure.
If you geek out at the latest tech and value potential over proof, you can certainly find a lot to like about the option to view digital comics and illustrations in multi-hued renderings with E Ink. But for most people, if you’re that invested in color, you may as well purchase a tablet or an iPad (sadly, an Apple eReader is not yet a thing).
Best Value: Kobo Clara HD
Why It Made The Cut: The Kobo Clara HD isn’t fancy, but it has a nice balance between affordability and thoughtful features as well as access to Rakuten Kobo’s immense library of titles.
— Dimensions: 6.28 inches long x 4.33 wide x 0.33 inches thick
— Screen Size: 6 inches
— Storage: 8GB
— Adjust the warmth and brightness of the screen
— Choose from 12 different fonts and over 50 font styles
— Easy to use with OverDrive
— Extremely portable
— No page-turning buttons
— Limited storage
The simplicity of the Kobo Clara HD is undeniable and invites people to focus on reading books with a minimum of distractions. With all Kobo devices, you can check out library books, look at PDFs, and choose from nearly 6 million titles from the Rakuten Kobo store in categories ranging from biography and memoir to YA and kid’s books. While it’s not available in the US yet, it seems plausible that there may be an unlimited Kobo subscription on the horizon that would provide an alternative to Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited.
With the Clara HD’s touchscreen controls, you can select settings that automatically adjust screen brightness from white light to warm amber tones in the evening, look up words, highlight text, and more. The screen is on the small side, but with font size customization you can maximize readability.
Which Kobo eReader is best for you depends on many factors, but the Clara HD is a great starting point for readers which can also be an excellent endpoint for many.
Best for Amazon Readers: Kindle Oasis
Why It Made The Cut: The Oasis has a touch screen and page turn buttons, along with adjustable light color to protect your eyes when you can’t get enough of your Amazon downloads.
— Dimensions: 5.6 inches L x 6.3 inches W x 0.13-0.33 inches H
— Screen Size: 7 inches
— Storage: 32GB
— Adjustable screen color
— WiFi or cellular connectivity
— Page turn buttons
— Automatic screen rotation
— Expensive for what you get
For those who get most of their content through Amazon, the Kindle Oasis offers premium features for heavy reading. That includes a bigger screen with the same light color adjustability as the Paperwhite.
This model also includes extra connectivity, by offering both WiFi and the use of cellular data. Pretty much anywhere you can get a connection, WiFi or cellular, you can read the Oasis. The Oasis also has page turn buttons. Touch screens are great, but sometimes it’s easier to have a physical button to push.
The screen of the Oasis automatically rotates, so you’re always looking at a screen that’s right side up. Plus, it brings the same waterproofing, memory options (up to 32 GB), and cloud storage as the Paperwhite.
The only downside to this model is that it’s expensive for the upgrades. However, if all of your reading content comes through Amazon, it’s probably worth having their premium reader. Or check for refurbished or pre-owned models at Amazon Renew.
Best Tablet: 2021 Apple iPad
Why It Made The Cut: Apple’s basic iPad offers a premium reading experience that comes with access to apps, email, and web surfing.
— Dimensions: 9.87 inches x 6.85 inches x 0.3 inches
— Screen Size: 10.2 inches
— Storage: 64GB (up to 256GB)
— Large, color screen
— More storage (up to 256GB) than the average eReader
— Works with Apple Pencil for note-taking
— Multiple functions
— May have features you don’t use
The 2021 Apple iPad gives you far more than the average eReader (and comes with the price to show it). If you want a larger color screen and the ability to check email, shop Amazon, and read your favorite blogs, the Apple’s basic iPad can do it.
You also get access to a huge library of Apple’s apps to do everything from making a shopping list to organizing your house or playing games. This model is compatible with Apple Pencil for note-taking apps, too.
The basic iPad comes with up to 256GB of storage. Imagine all of the books, audio, and otherwise you can store with that many GBs. The iPad also includes a wide range of covers, keyboards, and other accessories.
Best for Notes: ONYX Boox Note Air 2
Why It Made The Cut: Impeccable quality, built-in note-taking apps, and several adjustable reading features provide one of the most comfortable reading experiences for those who like to annotate while they read.
— Dimensions: 9.1 inches L x 7.7 inches W x 0.2 inches H
— Screen Size: 10.3 inches
— Storage: 64GB
— Good battery life
— Solid, high-quality build
— Excellent for reading large format documents
— Built-in note-taking app works well
— Not waterproof
— Compatibility with third-party apps isn’t great
The Onyx Boox Note Air 2 comes at a premium price, but it’s one of the best reading experiences out there, especially for people who are finicky about their visuals. The Note Air 2 comes with variable adjustment for color, brightness, darkness, and contrast. It also allows you to choose between four refresh rates.
Who needs that much adjustment? People who read a lot of different types of documents and make notes on all of them. Different types of PDFs and scanned documents become so much easier to read when you can customize contrast, brightness, and text size. In addition, through the Onyx reading app, you can make in-document notes with a stylus.
Onyx also lets you read in other reading apps like Kindle, so you still get access to all of your Amazon content. The Note Air 2 goes a step above any of the Kindles with its microphone and speaker, too.
That said, this is a pricey eReader. The frame is durable, but it’s not waterproof. Finally, you can run third-party apps, and some work great but others don’t. It’s hard to predict which ones will be a win and which are duds.
Best for Kids: Kindle Paperwhite Kids
Why It Made The Cut: This kid-friendly Paperwhite comes with an extended warranty, waterproof body, and enhanced reading experience that kids and parents will love.
— Dimensions: 4.9 inches L x 6.9 inches W x 0.32 inches H
— Screen Size: 6.8 inches
— Storage: 8GB
— Waterproof body
— 2-year extended warranty
— 1-year subscription to Amazon Kids+ content library
— Better reading experience when compared to Kindle Kids
— Amazon Kids+ subscription only lasts one year
The Kindle Paperwhite Kids runs using the same hardware as the adult Paperwhite, except it includes extras that make it a great investment for a budding reader. The Paperwhite Kids offers sharper text quality, a front light that can change color, and a larger display than the Kindle Kids.
While this model provides a great reading experience for kids, the full package offers an incredible deal. In addition to the eReader, it comes with a choice of covers, an extended two-year warranty (that you don’t get with Kindle Kids), and a one-year subscription to Amazon Kids+ content library. Yes, it costs more than the Kindle Kids, but you get so much more.
Plus, this model’s waterproof frame and display are easy to wipe off or even run under water without damage. Parents can also sign into their phones and check their child’s reading list and get discussion question suggestions.
The not so great part is that the Amazon Kids+ subscription is around $40 per year. However, you can still buy books on Kindle and download books from your local library.
Things to Consider Before Buying an eReader
Unlike many tech advances that have more or less rendered their junior counterparts obsolete, we live in a world where ebooks and physical books coexist. How you exist in this seemingly contradictory world of screens and print will help inform the best eReader for you.
Before you select an eReader model, ask yourself what kinds of material you’d like to access on it. In addition to the books available in the Kobo and Amazon eReader stores, eReaders work with OverDrive to allow you to check out ebooks from your local library without leaving the house. You’ll also want to consider whether you want to view PDFs, digital comics, and news articles, and make sure their file type is supported by your reader of choice either through built-in support or a conversion process.
Do you prefer to read under the covers with a flashlight, in the bathtub, or during your commute on public transit? If your device will frequently be in proximity to water from pools to puddles left by dripping umbrellas or melting snow, a waterproof eReader is probably a smart choice. For people who primarily read in bed, a waterproof device is not as important unless you frequently keep a glass of water on your nightstand.
There’s a lot of hype that eReaders are safer for your eyes than LCD screens, similar to the hype about blue light glasses, but which eReader is easiest on the eyes also depends on your own preferences. If you have light sensitivity or if your eyes are bothered by certain types of motion, there are two key features of eReaders you should carefully evaluate. Look for devices that have warm amber light in addition to white light, and that offer adjustability. Secondly, consider that while the technology continues improving, when E Ink pages refresh there is a bit of a noticeable flash, which can bother some people.
Q: Which is better: an eReader or a tablet?
Whether an eReader or a tablet is better for you depends on your needs. Some people strongly prefer reading front-lit E Ink greyscale displays over back-lit LCD screens. Other people who want fast web access and superior color while reading will stick to a tablet or laptop to consume media.
Q: How much does an eReader cost?
Most eReaders cost between $100 and $250. That range represents name-brand devices with greyscale E Ink displays, from simple touch screens to larger models with page-turn controls and special features like waterproof materials and upgraded lighting. Color devices cost more, but whether or not this new technology is a good investment yet depends on your needs and expectations.
Q: Can I recycle my old eReader?
You can recycle your old eReader, but determining where will depend on the availability of governmental or community programs near you or whether the company you purchased it from has an in-house recycling program. These helpful suggestions from Book Riot can help you make the right inquiries to find out. Here's more about how to recycle electronics.
Q: Can eReaders read PDF?
Most eReaders can read PDF files; some better than others. You may need to reformat the file for the particular device.
Final Thoughts on the Best eReaders
Finding the best eReader requires walking a fine line between reproducing a physical book digitally and leveraging technology to enhance the reading experience. We think the 2021 Kindle Paperwhite does this quite well, and coupled with access to Amazon’s vast content libraries, it’s our pick for best overall eReader. For a little more, we also highly recommend the Kobo Libra 2 for upgraded features comparable to the Amazon Kindle Oasis, if you don’t want to buy your books from Amazon.
This post was created by a non-news editorial team at Recurrent Media, Futurism’s owner. Futurism may receive a portion of sales on products linked within this post.