Nothing beats a relaxing evening at home with a good book. Of course, not everyone has room for a stack of books, let alone a library. But that shouldn’t stop you from reading. It can certainly make reading difficult, as you often have to pause to unload books to other people or second-hand stores. Fortunately, e-readers present a better option that keeps all your books stored on a single device (or in the cloud), making it easy to read one book and then move on to the next without worry. And if you’re someone who likes to read in bed or while lying down, the best e-readers are well-lit and much easier to handle than a non-illuminated book that requires you to turn pages.
Sure, you could use your phone, but that’s not the ideal experience. The thing about dedicated e-readers: They don’t have email, the internet, social media, or other distracting entertainment options to pull you away from reading. They also have a long battery life. Unlike popular phones and tablets, which can wash out in direct sunlight or have a strong and painful glow, many e-readers use E Ink technology, which produces something like a monochrome text display.
I love E Ink screens because the suspended layer and non-glossy screen makes your e-reader look like printed paper. This is probably the best e-reader feature if you have sensitive vision, as it is much kinder on the eyes. Glare-free touchscreens make reading on a device a pleasure again. The best e-reader models are now waterproof, so they’re perfect for reading at the beach or by the pool. You may find that your Your local library offers free e-book downloads for its members
and free e-books are widely available and easy to find online.
Many people are still attached to their physical book collections and I can’t blame them. But with an e-reader, not only do you have the freedom to take as many books as you want with you, you can also search and highlight passages of text and easily change the font size. Many also come with an accompanying stylus for taking notes, and you’ll never be out of luck without a reading light. All the best e-readers on the market have self-illuminating screens.
The list below (which I update periodically) is mostly populated by Amazon Kindle e-reader devices, including the classic Amazon Kindle, Kindle Paperwhite, and Kindle Oasis, because I believe it’s still the best digital “ecosystem” for your best e-reader reader experience system. Amazon also offers many low-budget and subscription options. And while Barnes & Noble is still building its Nook e-reader, I wouldn’t rush to recommend it. If you want to avoid Amazon products, I would suggest going for a Kobo model.
So, are you ready to start reading again? Whether you’re big into biographies, into fantasy, into sci-fi, or into a graphic novel, you’ll find the best e-reader for your digital book needs on this list.
One of the problems with having a sophisticated, already great e-reader like the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite is that it’s hard to make it much better. The same can be said for Apple’s iPhones and many other devices. But with an e-reader, you’re dealing with a limited feature set and a core technology, E Ink, that seems pretty much stuck in neutral.
Not surprisingly, then, the new 11th generation Kindle Paperwhite (2021) ($130) isn’t a huge upgrade over the 2018 Kindle Paperwhite. Although we can give Amazon credit for improving it with new features — namely, a larger 6.8-inch screen with upgraded lighting and USB charging -C — that offer enough improvements to entice you to buy one, whether you already own a Paperwhite or not. It is the winner of the CNET Editors’ Choice Award in the e-reader category.
Note that the new version costs $10 more than the previous Paperwhite. And a step-up model, the Paperwhite Signature Edition, adds wireless charging and extra storage — 32GB instead of 8GB — as well as an auto-tuning light sensor for $190. A Kids Edition is also available. As with previous Kindle models, expect the new Paperwhite to be released sporadically throughout the year. It should cost around $100 during sales.
Read our Kindle Paperwhite (2021) review.
Amazon’s flagship E Ink e-reader got a slight update in 2019 — but this Kindle e-reader is basically identical to the previous Kindle Oasis except for one key difference: It has a new built-in color-adjustable light that lets you adjust the color tone from cool to warm depending on whether you read during the day or at night. You can also schedule the screen temperature to automatically update at sunrise and sunset — unlike the Night Shift feature on Apple devices.
At $250 for the base configuration, the Oasis is expensive for an e-reader. Most people will be happy with the more affordable Paperwhite for reading Kindle e-books, but if you want the best of the best with an anti-glare screen for your reading experience — and don’t mind paying a premium for it — the Oasis it’s definitely her. The Kobo Formawhich also sells for $250, has an 8-inch screen, larger than the 7-inch Oasis.
Read our Amazon Kindle Oasis (2019) review.
The 2019 edition of Amazon’s flagship e-book reader, which Amazon simply calls Kindle, now features a self-illuminating screen and an upgraded design. At $90 this e-book reader is already reasonably priced, but this Kindle device regularly sells for as little as $55. I prefer the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite, which has a high-resolution screen (text and images appear a little sharper), is waterproof, and has a better lighting pattern. But if you don’t want to spend a lot on an e-reader, the standard Kindle is a good choice, especially when it’s on sale.
Read our Amazon Kindle (2019) review.
Rakuten makes a series of Kobo e-readers that are not only powered by the Kobo store, but also natively support 14 file and e-book formats (EPUB, EPUB3, PDF, MOBI, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP, TIFF, TXT, HTML, RTF, CBZ and CBR). In other words, if you get your e-books — or any other digital documents — from any place except Amazon, this device is a Kindle alternative that will probably read them. The Kobo device has its own online book store with thousands of books and has built-in support for checking out e-books from local libraries through the OverDrive service. (You can get library books on Kindles through OverDrive’s Libby app, but it’s not as smooth a process.)
The Kobo Libra H20, which retails for $170, sits in the middle of the range and, as its name suggests, is fully waterproof. It has a 7-inch E Ink HD screen (resolution 1,680×1,264 pixels), a built-in light and no ads (you have to pay $20 to remove them from Kindle devices).
Available in black or white, you can use Kobo Libra in portrait or landscape mode. Other Kobo e-readers include the entry level Kobo Nia ($100), Kobo Clara HD ($118) and the flagship Kobo e-reader, the Kobo Forma ($250), which features a larger 8-inch high-resolution screen.
There was a select group of readers who loved the 9.7-in Kindle DX, which was discontinued several years ago. Sony and others have made iPad-sized E-ink “tablets,” but they tend to be quite expensive. Kobo is now trying to fill that jumbo e-reader niche with the 10.3-inch Elipsa, which is sold as an “Elipsa Pack” and includes a SleepCover and stylus. The display is quite sharp and easy to read with an E Ink Carta 1200 touchscreen that has a resolution of 1,404×1,872 (227 PPI) and a dark mode.
Despite having a 1.8GHz quad-core processor with 32GB of storage, an E Ink device like this still feels relatively sluggish compared to an iPad (using Apple Pencil). But performance is pretty decent, and battery life remains a big strong point for E Ink devices — like other e-readers, the Elipsa’s battery life is rated in weeks, not hours.
Elipsa natively supports 15 file formats (EPUB, EPUB3, FlePub, PDF, MOBI, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP, TIFF, TXT, HTML, RTF, CBZ, CBR) and weighs 13.5 oz (383 g), plus The cover adds extra weight, making this a pretty heavy e-reader. However, you can use the case to support the e-reader so you don’t have to hold it while reading, taking notes, or reviewing and marking up documents.
Large e-readers aren’t for everyone, but if you want to see a lot of words on a page or increase the font size, this Kobo e-reader is an attractive option. They are also good for viewing PDF files.
The LifeBook P10 is an alternative for slightly less, but CNET has yet to review that model.
If you don’t want to pay a premium for Kobo’s larger e-readers, the Clara HD is a good alternative at $120. It’s a simple e-reader that features Kobo’s built-in ComfortLight Pro lighting and a 300 ppi “HD” screen (1,072×1,448 resolution), 8GB of storage, and a 1GHz processor.