eReaders offer a number of advantages over reading e-books on a tablet or phone. They have screens designed for extended reading that resist the glare of sunlight and therefore cause less eyestrain. Since they don’t have a lot of the bells and whistles of a tablet, they are typically much lighter, cheaper and have a much longer battery life (typically lasting weeks). Some newer models are waterproof. eReaders store thousands of books and bookmark your spot so it’s easy to pick up where you left off. A big consideration should be the e-book subscription services you will choose or already have as the Amazon Kindle books cannot be read on other devices without converting the files, and the same applies to the Barnes & Nobles’ Nook and Kobo. eReaders can usually be traded in for some money back. This page is reviewing black & white eReaders only and not their color (more tablet-esque) counterparts. We actually believe for strictly book reading purposes eReaders are a better choice, but if your goal is mainly reading magazines or comic books you might want a tablet instead for the color options.
What to look for when buying an eReader:
Make sure the eReader gives you features that you want such as highlight capabilities, back-lighting, free wifi, etc., and has a big enough selection of books to choose from for its price.
eReader Device Proprietary Selection
The native capabilities of the device should give you access to a large enough bookstore to find books you are interested in, otherwise be prepared to convert your e-books from other formats, a sometimes daunting and technical task.
Most eReaders are around 6 inches which makes them convenient for travel. There are reasons to opt for larger sized screens, such as the need to use enlarged font more often.
While the differences in weight between eReaders is typically minuscule, after holding the device in your hands for a few hours a heavier weight will make a difference.
Most newer eReaders have incredible battery life and are usually fast-charging, but you will want to ensure the device will not require constant charging.
You will want the option to keep your libraries accessible on your device. Most Kindles will hold a few thousand books, which should be plenty. Some devices also come with the option of additional storage cards.
For those people who prefer to read at locations like the pool, beach, or in the bathtub, you may want to invest in a waterproof eReader.
So which eReader is the best? Well, it comes down to, which eReader is the best for your needs? If you are just starting out you might look at the Kindle Paperwhite as an inexpensive starter device. If you are a current eReader owner looking to upgrade you might check out the Kindle Oasis. Below we have broken out each of the eReader families and then listed what we feel are the top choices within these.
Top eReader Families
The Kindle advantages include free Wi-Fi or Cellular connectivity, dictionaries, place-holding on multiple devices, fast speed, LED Back-lighting, as well as access to millions of books in the Kindle Store and library which are typically cheaper than the other booksellers’ e-books. Disadvantages are ads unless you purchase the ad-free model. In general, Kindles have better parental controls than other eReader brands. Since their inception, Kindle has remained the largest player in this space and they maintain a very solid, positive reputation for almost all of their eReader devices.
Nooks are a decent equivalent to the Kindle eReaders. Nooks are ad-free and you can visit a store if you need assistance. Download options are the Barnes & Noble books. The Glowlight Plus is waterproof. The larger bezel is annoying to some who feel it interferes with reading, while others like the area to hold the device. Nooks play audiobooks. The new Glowlight 3 is getting mediocre reviews so far, and there are concerns surrounding the longevity of the company which have made some hesitant to buy these eReaders.
Praised for being the best waterproof eReader, the Kobo Aura H2O is receiving high marks for holding its own compared to the Nook and Kindle. Nighttime readers love the nightlight strength. While it can read any file formats, direct downloads are only possible from the Kobo site, which is limited in selection. No audiobook options. The newest Kobo, Clara, is priced extremely competitively with the other major brands, but was too bare bones for us to review here. The Aura ONE has a direct library connection called OverDrive which makes it the easiest eReader to connect to free library books.
Top 4 Picks
Kindle Paperwhite Starting at $119.99
At around $120.00, we listed the Kindle Paperwhite for its low barrier to entry (a fancy way to say it’s cheap), which makes it an ideal starter eReader, especially if you’re unsure if you like electronic reading. While the base model displays ads, these are only on the sleep or screensaver screens and you can also opt for the pricier version without ads – which usually will run about $20.00 more. Going with the Kindle brand means you will have access to the Kindle/Amazon bookstore, supplying the largest selection of books available on the market today, and also gives you access to free and discounted books on a regular basis. The newest version also DOES have back-lighting as opposed to the older 2016 model.
Cons: No audible, not waterproof, 4 GB storage.
Kindle Oasis Starting at $249.99
Similar to the Kindle Paperwhite, the Oasis packs in all of the perks of a Paperwhite and then some. As the name implies the Oasis is ideal for beach travel, although it can really be used anywhere conveniently. Upgraded features include it being waterproof (bubble bath reading anyone?) and the storage which is double that of the Paperwhite. Another large enhancement from the Paperwhite is the ability to play Audiobooks through bluetooth headphones or speakers (although you can either choose to read or listen, not both at the same time, which would be nice). At around $250.00, the price climbs by over $100.00 more than the Kindle Paperwhite, making this the luxury model upgrade for those die-hard eReader lovers.
Kobo Aura One Starting at $229.99
The Kobo Aura One, is a pretty cool alternative for the book lover who doesn’t want to be tied to Amazon’s proprietary library. Many book formats are natively supported but if you already have Kindle or Nookbooks you will need to convert those with special software in order to read them on this device, which requires some fairly technical aptitude. The Kobo Aura One has the same features (but amazingly costs less at an average of $229.00) as the high-end Kindles, it’s waterproof, light, includes mega amounts of storage, and boasts one of the largest eReader screens available (who are we kidding, size sometimes matters). The largest advantage with the Kobo Aura One is the immediate access to library books using a program called Overdrive, a bonus from Rakuten, Kobo’s parent company, who owns this software. Overdrive allows you to use your library card number to instantly access the books available through the public library, so the overall savings of using this can be huge even with the larger up-front cost of the device itself.
Cons: Kindle formats have to be converted, price.
Nook Glowlight Plus Starting at $69.00
Barnes & Noble hit it out of the park with this model. People love The Glowlight Plus for its gentle but effective back-lighting, its waterproof chassis, its large bookstore inventory, and what we believe is the best advantage – the ability to take it into a physical store for help. If you have purchased this as a gift you can rest assured that Aunt Millie can still find someone who will set this up for her if you’re not in the state. The downside is that these are no longer for sale from Barnes & Noble, so you have to find a second hand source like eBay to buy one.
Cons: No longer sold at Barnes & Noble.
Top 4 Comparison Table
|Kindle Paperwhite||Kindle Oasis||Kobo Aura ONE||Nook |
|Average Review Score||4.5 out of 5 (~64k reviews)||4 out of 5 (~3.8k reviews)||4.1 out of 5 (~100 reviews)||4 out of 5|
|Best Pick For||Lowest Price||Overall Quality||Waterproof & Library Access||Physical Store Assistance|
|Average Price||$119.99||$249.99||$229.99||$69.00 (no longer available new)|
|Service||Kindle Services||Kindle Services||Kobo ebooks||Barnes & Noble NOOKbooks|
|Weight||7.23 oz||6.9 oz||7.05 oz||6.9 oz|
|Screen Size||6 inch||7 inch||7.8 inch||6 inch|
|Storage||4GB (~2000 books)||8GB (~6000 books)||8GB (~6000 books)||4GB (~2000 books)|
eReaders That Didn’t Make the List and Why:
- Kindle E-Reader: While this is the lowest priced Kindle at around $79.00, there isn’t too much to report on with this device except that Amazon has recently added the ability to play audible books on it (with bluetooth headphones or a speaker). This pared down version has no back-lighting, is not waterproof and has around half the screen resolution of all the other Kindles at 167 ppi, whereas the other Kindles have 300 ppi. For $20.00 more or sometimes the same price when a good sale is running, we believe the PaperWhite is well worth the small increase in price.
- Kindle Voyage: At an average cost of $199.00, the Voyage is praised for its sleek design and one panel glass display (no sand or crumbs can wedge into the bezel). We refrained from including it in our top 4 items because it lacks the advantages of the Oasis which is only $50.00 more. The Voyage has no ability to play audible, is not waterproof and has half the amount of storage as the Oasis. For twice the price of the Kindle Paperwhite which has most of the same features, we didn’t feel the flat screen was enough to warrant including this device as a top pick.
- Kobo Aura H20 & Kobo Clara: We didn’t even consider these two devices from Kobo since they both lack the Overdrive (instant library access) functionality that really pushed the Kobo Aura ONE to the front of our list. It’s disappointing to us that all Kobos don’t have this feature.
- Nook Glowlight & Glowlight 3: Poor reviews took the Glowlight 3 out of the running. The original Glowlight (not the Plus) is missing the waterproof chassis that make its successor a top pick.
Are there other eReaders we should have included?
Let us know by recommending your favorite one here.