Kindles will help you get more reading done, while allowing you to carry an entire bookcase's worth of books in your backpack. The word "Kindle" has become synonymous with "e-reader," and testing a couple of models for ourselves has helped us understand why.
Every Kindle we tested felt great in the hand, had extremely impressive battery life — especially compared to tablets, including the iPad — and featured an e-ink display that looked more like paper than we expected. Amazon has also steadily iterated on its Kindle hardware, introducing features like the ability to play audiobooks through Bluetooth headphones or speakers, and improved durability.
We've broken down the pros and cons of each model to help you decide which one of the best Kindles is the ideal choice for you.
How We Picked the Best Kindles
Our Kindle recommendations are based on a mix of research and hands-on testing. Below are the factors we considered most highly when deciding which Kindles to include in this buyer's guide.
Screen Size: Amazon's Kindles are available in screen sizes between six and seven inches. One inch may not seem like a lot, but it can make a big difference. Larger screens can display more words per page than smaller ones, or allow you to view the same number of words at a bigger text size. Importantly, larger-screened Kindles aren't appreciably bigger than the smaller models.
Pixel Density: A screen's pixel density determines how sharp text or images look on the display. This metric is measured in ppi (pixels per inch). If a screen has a pixel density of over 200ppi, your eyes will have trouble distinguishing between digital and analog text. Most Kindles have reached this threshold.
Durability: Amazon has redesigned most of its Kindles to be both waterproof and dustproof, so you can safely read in the bath or on the beach.
Storage: All Kindle models have at least 8 GB (gigabytes) of storage, which is enough space to hold hundreds of books
Battery Life: Kindles have legendarily good battery life due to their screen technology, and the fact that reading digital books isn't a very power-hungry task. This has held true even as newer Kindle models have been designed with backlights, which illuminate the screen in the dark. When Amazon says a Kindle will last “weeks” without a charge, it means it.
Best Kindles: Reviews and Recommendations
Best Overall: Kindle Paperwhite
Why It Made The Cut: The Kindle Paperwhite’s screen, speed, and durability make it the best e-reader available from any company right now.
— Screen Size: 6.8 inches
— Pixel Density: 300 ppi
— Waterproof: Yes
— Large screen size
— 17 LED backlights
— USB-C charging
— No physical turn-page buttons
The current Kindle Paperwhite is Amazon’s newest e-reader, and it’s the most technologically advanced model yet. It features a large, 6.8-inch display with a pixel density of 300 ppi. In our tests, text looked stunning, and we were able to comfortably read for hours at a time without feeling eye fatigue. We were especially impressed with the Kindle Paperwhite’s performance in low-light situations.
The lights beneath the display provided sufficient illumination for late-night reading without feeling overly bright. Additionally, Amazon allows you to adjust the color temperature of the Kindle Paperwhite’s display to make it easier on your eyes by reducing the amount of blue light it emits.
If we had to distill the experience of reading on a Kindle Paperwhite into a single word it’d be delightful. We already mentioned the quality of this e-reader’s screen, but it’s so good that it bears repeating. Anyone used to reading books on a phone or tablet will immediately notice the difference between an LCD and E-ink display, and while the latter is less capable, it’s way better for reading. We were also pleased by how snappy the Paperwhite was when flipping through digital pages, searching for a specific term, or highlighting an important passage.
The Kindle Paperwhite is the first of Amazon’s e-readers to feature a USB-C port for charging. This move is welcome as most gadgets are adopting that charging port, which means you’ll have to carry fewer cables around when you travel. This is the second generation of Kindle Paperwhite that’s waterproof, and we still appreciate this feature every time we take the e-reader to the beach.
Another big design shift that Amazon made with this Kindle Paperwhite is shifting toward using more sustainable materials. The current Paperwhite is made from 60 percent post-consumer plastics, 70 percent recycled magnesium, and comes in wood fiber packaging that comes almost entirely from recycled sources or managed forests.
Our only quibble with the Kindle Paperwhite is that it doesn’t have physical turn-page buttons, which means you’ll need to tap or swipe its screen each time you want to advance. This was a deliberate design choice, but it makes the Kindle Paperwhite a little more cumbersome to control with one hand. This is disappointing because the Paperwhite’s thinness and lightness makes it the perfect single-handed reading device.
Amazon offers the Kindle Paperwhite in a regular and “Signature Edition” variation, which features four times the storage, and sensors that automatically adjust its back lights based on the amount of light in your room. We feel that these extra features are nice to have, but not necessary, which is why the standard Kindle Paperwhite takes the top spot in our guide.
Best Budget: Kindle (9th Generation)
Why It Made The Cut: Amazon’s 9th Generation Kindle has many of the same features as the company’s high-end e-readers at a far lower cost.
— Screen Size: 6 inches
— Pixel Density: 167 ppi
— Waterproof: No
— Ultra portable
— Bluetooth support
— Lower pixel density display
— Micro USB port
— No page turn buttons
The 9th-Generation Kindle is a little basic, but it shares enough features with its premium siblings that nomadic readers should seriously consider it. Its 6-inch display has a resolution of 167 ppi, which means text will look a little blocky, but not enough to be distracting. Compared to the paper-like Paperwhite, though, there’s no contest.
Amazon’s last update to the basic Kindle brought screen backlighting and Bluetooth support to Amazon’s entry-level e-reader, and both features substantively improve the experience of using it. The 9th-Generation Kindle has four backlights, which is far less than the 17 on the current-generation Paperwhite, but far more than the 0 that came on the model it replaced.
This feature will be especially welcome when reading books on a plane because you can work through your book without disturbing the passengers next to you. The basic Kindle’s Bluetooth support allows you to listen to audiobooks through wireless headphones or speakers, which is a nice-to-have feature if you have a backlog on Audible.
There’s a lot to like about the 9th-Generation Kindle, but some of its features are a little long in the tooth, especially its micro USB charging port. Carrying around a charging cable for a single device is cumbersome, and becoming borderline unacceptable. We hope that Amazon’s next hardware revision to the entry-level Kindle will include a move to USB-C. We’re also pulling for Amazon to update the Kindle’s design to one that’s waterproof.
The 9th-Generation Kindle has all the same core features as Amazon’s other e-readers, and while we can complain about its lack of extras, we still recommend it to anyone who’s sick of reading books on their phones.
Best With Buttons: Kindle Oasis
Why It Made The Cut: The Kindle Oasis is Amazon’s largest, most feature-rich e-reader, and a must-have for voracious e-book readers.
— Screen Size: 7 inches
— Pixel Density: 300 ppi
— Waterproof: Yes
— Huge screen
— Physical turn-page buttons
— Most comfortable to hold
— Least portable
The Kindle Oasis is the Royles Royce of e-readers, except its bells and whistles are actually useful to people who want the most luxurious e-book reading experience anywhere they go.
The Oasis’ 7-inch display is almost the same size as an actual paperback book, and the extra screen size made a material difference in our tests. We were able to adjust the size of a book’s text without feeling like we were being less efficient. The Kindle Oasis has 25 backlights, which evenly lit the display to make nighttime reading that much easier. If you read before bed, the Kindle Oasis will quickly become your bedside companion. It may also become your go-to beach and bathtime gadget, as it’s completely waterproof.
This is the only Kindle to feature physical turn-page buttons, which makes a huge difference in how easy it is to hold with one hand. The back of this e-reader is tapered, which gives your hand something to grip while you’re reading. In our experience, our thumb could easily rest on top of the forward page turn button while we were reading, and press it very lightly when we were ready to move on. Our experience reading on the Oasis was similar to our time with the Paperwhite; pages turned quickly, and we could navigate around the device with no problems.
You can still turn the page on the Kindle Oasis by swiping the display, but once you get used to physical turn-page buttons, it’s hard to go back. The Oasis’ page turn buttons and large display are its two greatest strengths, but they add an appreciable amount of bulk. You can immediately tell the difference between using a Kindle Oasis and Kindle Paperwhite, and your choice between them comes down to how much you prioritize portability.
In our view, the Kindle Oasis is aimed at hardcore e-book readers who want the most features in their e-reader even if it means carrying around a larger gadget. Our big gripe is that the Kindle Oasis has a micro USB port, which means you’ll be carrying around a bigger piece of gear and another cable. If that doesn’t bother you, the Kindle Oasis is an incredible choice.
How To Buy A Refurbished Kindle
There’s nothing quite like buying a brand new gadget, but Amazon makes it easy to buy a refurbished Kindle if you’re looking to make more sustainable purchasing decisions, or want to make some money. The site has actually dedicated separate product pages to refurbished versions of the 9th-Generation Kindle and Kindle Oasis.
Amazon doesn’t offer a refurbished version of the current Kindle Paperwhite, but we’ll keep our eyes peeled if it does. The store says that its certified refurbished hardware is guaranteed to look and work like a brand-new Kindle, and eligible for the same 30-day return policy as Amazon’s new hardware.
If you have an older Kindle, and are interested in buying a new one, Amazon has an upgrade program that’s surprisingly consumer-friendly. Amazon will give you a 20 percent discount on your new Kindle, plus trade-in credit that you can apply toward your purchase. If you’re looking to upgrade to a higher-end Kindle, and have an older model sitting in your junk drawer, this is a pretty compelling offer.
Things to Consider Before Buying a Kindle
DRM (Digital Rights Management): The Kindle is compatible with several digital text formats, including PDFs and .txt files, but it can’t read books that are locked by Digital Rights Management. This primarily means you won’t be able to read books purchased on Barnes & Noble’s Nook marketplace.
Conversely, if you buy a lot of digital books from Amazon’s Kindle store, you won’t be able to sync them to a non-Kindle e-reader if you decide to switch platforms. This is important to understand because large digital book libraries can cost hundreds of dollars to assemble, and you should make sure you’ll always be able to access them.
Lock Screen Ads: The entry-level version of any Kindle model will have advertisements for popular books, or other Amazon gear, on its lock screen. These ads won’t pop up while you’re reading books, navigating through the Kindle store, or looking through your library. If you want a completely ad-free Kindle experience, you’ll need to spend an additional $20 on an ad-free version.
Q: How do I responsibly dispose of my Kindle?
If you're replacing an older Kindle with one of our recommendations, we recommend reading our guide on how to responsibly dispose of e-waste.
Q: How many books can a Kindle hold?
This will vary based on the size of your books, but most estimates place the capacity of a Kindle at between 2,000 and 3,000 books.
Q: Can I still use the Kindle app on my other devices?
Yes. Amazon will sync your place using a feature called WhisperSync, which acts like a digital bookmark. If you read a book on your Kindle at home, you’ll be able to pick up exactly where you left off when you open the same title on another device.
Q: What does “weeks” of battery life actually mean?
Amazon says its Kindle’s last several weeks on a single charge, but the company defines that figure as “based on a half hour of reading per day with wireless off and the light setting at 13.”
Final Thoughts on Kindles
We’re generally fans of multi-use gadgets as they can do more (naturally) and cut down on waste. The Kindle is one of the very few single-use gadgets that we can recommend wholeheartedly because of how well it gets its single job done. The experience of reading books on a Kindle is so far superior to using a smartphone or tablet that we would never consider switching back.
Yes, you will need to carry an additional gadget around instead of firing up the Kindle app on another device, but the Kindle’s restrictions can actually make it easier to read. You’ll never have to worry about a notification popping up on your screen to distract you from your book. The battery anxiety you feel when using your phone — especially during a trip where outlets are few and far between — is completely gone.
Reading on the Kindle can’t completely replicate the experience of cracking open a hardcover or paperback book, but the ability to carry hundreds of titles around with you at once makes it worth the tradeoff.
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.