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The best ebook reader to buy right now

The best ebook reader to buy right now

Image: Will Joel / The Verge

From reading in the bath to scribbling notes in the margins, from diving into the Amazon ecosystem to avoiding it outright, there’s an e-reader for everyone.

Any ebook reader will let you cram a Beauty and the Beast-sized library’s worth of books in your pocket, but so will your phone. An ebook reader offers a more book-like reading experience, with fewer distractions and less eye strain, and many include extra features, like adjustable frontlighting. Some really are pocketable. Others are waterproof or offer physical page-turning buttons, while a few even let you take notes.

I’ve been using ebook readers for nearly a decade, and I’ve gone hands-on with dozens, from the Kindle Paperwhite to lesser-known rivals like the Pocketbook Era. Whether you want something your kid can throw against the wall or a waterproof, warm-glow Kindle that won’t ruin your spa ambiance, these are the best ebook readers for everyone.

The best Kindle

Dimensions: 6.9 x 4.9 x .32 inches / Weight: 205 grams / Screen area and resolution: 6.8-inch screen, 300ppi resolution / Storage: 16GB / Other features: IPX8 waterproofing, Bluetooth audio support

If you mostly buy ebooks from Amazon, you’ll want a Kindle, and the 11th-gen Kindle Paperwhite is the best choice for most people. Starting at $139.99, it’s cheaper than the Kobo Libra Colour — my top non-Amazon ebook reader, which I’ll dive into later — for many of the same features. Those include a large 300pi display and an adjustable warm white frontlight, which make for a clear and enjoyable reading experience. The latter also conveniently improves sleep by cutting down on blue light that interrupts melatonin production.

That warm white frontlighting is an advantage over the cool white of the $99.99 base-model Kindle, and unlike the base Kindle, the Paperwhite has IPX8 water resistance. The $189.99 Signature Edition Paperwhite also has an auto-adjusting frontlight and no lockscreen ads. It also has wireless charging, which is a rare feature to find in an e-reader.

Photo by Chaim Gartenberg / The Verge
The Kindle Paperwhite comes with an adjustable warm white frontlight.

Amazon is the largest online retailer in the world, and it dominates the US ebook market, so Kindle owners have access to advantages owners of other ebook readers don’t. Much of Amazon’s hardware strategy depends on offering cut-rate discounts to pull you into its content ecosystem. If you have Prime and buy a lot of Kindle ebooks, the Paperwhite is the best choice because Amazon makes it incredibly easy to buy and read its stuff. Its ebooks and audiobooks are often on sale, and Prime members get more free content through Prime Reading. Rivals like Kobo offer sales, too, but it’s hard for them to offer discounts as steep as Amazon does.

There are downsides, though. The Paperwhite has lockscreen ads unless you pay $20 extra to get rid of them. It’s also too big to hold comfortably with one hand. Perhaps the Kindle Paperwhite’s biggest flaw, though — which it shares with all Kindles aside from Fire tablets — is that it’s not easy to read books purchased outside of Amazon’s store. Kindle ebook formats are proprietary and only work on Kindle. Unlike Kobo and other ebook readers, Kindles don’t support EPUB files, an open file format used by pretty much everyone except Amazon. So, for example, if you often shop from Kobo’s bookstore (or Barnes & Noble or Google Play Books or many other ebook stores), you can’t easily read those books on a Kindle without using a workaround. There are ways to convert and transfer file formats so you can read on the Kindle and vice versa, but it’ll take a couple of extra steps.

However, if you don’t buy your books elsewhere or you don’t mind shopping from Amazon, you’ll be more than happy with the Kindle Paperwhite.

Read our full review of the Kindle Paperwhite.

The best non-Amazon ebook reader

Dimensions: 5.69 x 6.34 x 0.33 inches / Weight: 199.5 grams / Screen area and resolution: 7-inch screen, 300ppi (black-and-white), 150ppi (color) / Storage: 32GB / Other features: Physical page-turning buttons, waterproofing, Kobo Stylus 2 support, Bluetooth audio support

The Kobo Libra Colour is an excellent alternative to Amazon’s ebook readers, especially for readers outside the US or anyone who doesn’t want to tap into Amazon’s ecosystem. Kobo’s latest slate offers many of the standout features found on the 11th-gen Kindle Paperwhite — including waterproofing, USB-C support, and a 300ppi display — along with a few perks that make it more helpful and enjoyable to use.

The color display is the most obvious. The Libra Colour uses E Ink’s latest Kaledio color screen technology, which provides soothing, pastel-like hues that still pop in direct sunlight. It’s not as sharp as reading in monochrome — the resolution drops to 150ppi when viewing content in color — but it’s a nice touch that makes viewing a wider range of content more pleasant. Book covers and comics, while still muted, have an added layer of depth, even if the colors are nowhere near as vivid as that of a traditional LED tablet.

Photo by Sheena Vasani / The Verge
Thanks to its physical page-turning buttons and color display, the Kobo Libra Colour is an impressive e-reader.

Additionally, the Libra Colour works with the Kobo Stylus 2 (sold separately), which means you can highlight text with various colors or take notes using Kobo’s integrated notebooks. You can also take advantage of some of the more advanced capabilities found in the Kobo Elipsa 2E, allowing you to solve math equations, convert handwriting into typed text, and insert diagrams. This lets the Libra Colour function as a mini notebook of sorts, though I wouldn’t use it as a primary note-taking device since the seven-inch display can feel cramped to write on.

The color display is only part of the appeal, though. The Libra Colour also lacks lockscreen ads — unlike the base Paperwhite — and packs physical page-turning buttons, which feel more intuitive to use than tapping either side of the display. The speedy e-reader also supports more file formats, including EPUB files, and makes it much easier to borrow books from the Overdrive library system. Native support for Pocket, meanwhile, means you can read your articles offline if you’re someone who uses the long-standing bookmarking app.

Image: Kobo
Kobo’s lightweight Libra Colour makes for a great ebook reader, even if it’s not the cheapest model.

However, at $219.99, the Libra Colour costs $70 more than the entry-level Paperwhite — and that’s without Kobo’s $69.99 stylus, which is required for performing certain tasks. That gap widens further when the Paperwhite is on sale, which it regularly is. There’s also the fact that the Kobo can’t easily tap into Amazon’s vast library of ebooks, which can be frustrating if you’ve amassed a collection of Kindle titles over the years. It can be done, but you have to convert file formats using third-party apps, which is tricky and can take time.

But if those things don’t matter or apply to you, the Kobo Libra Colour will give you the best digital reading experience of all the e-readers on our list. It’s my personal favorite, if nothing else.

The best cheap ebook reader

Dimensions: 6.2 x 4.3 x 0.32 inches / Weight: 158 grams / Screen area and resolution: 6-inch screen, 300ppi resolution / Storage: 16GB / Other features: USB-C support, Bluetooth audio support

The base-model Kindle ($99.99 with ads) is the best cheap ebook reader. Its 300ppi resolution makes text clearer and easier to read than the lower-resolution screens on other ebook readers in its price range. Plus, it even has USB-C for relatively fast charging.

Reading on its six-inch screen feels a little more cramped than it does on the larger displays of the Kindle Paperwhite and Kobo Libra Colour. However, the flip side is that its small size makes it pocketable, light, and easy for small hands to hold. Combined with its relatively affordable price, the Kindle is also the best ebook reader for kids — especially in the kids version Amazon sells for $20 more. It shares the same exact specs but is ad-free with parental controls, a two-year extended replacement guarantee, and a case. It also comes with one year of Amazon Kids Plus, which grants kids access to thousands of kids books and audiobooks for free. After that, though, you’ll have to pay $79 per year.

Image: Kindle Kids
The kid-friendly version of the Kindle comes with colorful cases.

The base Kindle doesn’t have extra conveniences like the physical page-turning buttons found on Barnes & Noble’s entry-level e-reader, the Nook GlowLight 4e. However, you do get something more important: snappier responses. On most of the other entry-level ebook readers I tested, including the GlowLight 4e, I had to wait a few seconds after tapping the screen for the page to turn. The Kindle, in comparison, offered no perceptive lag.

There are other tradeoffs. There’s no water resistance, unlike the Paperwhite, and battery life is good, but it’ll last you three weeks tops — not months, like the Paperwhite. And because it’s an Amazon ebook reader, you’re also locked into the Amazon ecosystem and have to pay extra to get rid of ads. But if you can do without all of that, the Kindle delivers the essentials for under $100.

Read my full review of the Kindle.

The best ebook reader for taking notes

Dimensions: 7.6 x 8.94 x 0.30 inches / Weight: 390 grams / Screen area and resolution: 10.3-inches, 227ppi resolution / Storage: 32GB / Other features: Handwriting to text conversion, magnetic stylus, Bluetooth audio support

Of all the large ebook readers I tested, the Kobo Elipsa 2E stood out the most because of its excellent note-taking abilities. You can directly write on pages, and the notes will not disappear, which makes for a more intuitive note-taking experience than the Kindle Scribe, which only supports on-page notes on select Kindle titles. Otherwise, you’re limited to making annotations on cards that are like disappearing sticky notes.

You can also sync your notes with Dropbox or view them online, and Kobo can even convert handwriting to typed text. Amazon rolled out a similar capability for the Kindle Scribe, but it can only convert handwriting to typed text when you export notebooks and not as accurately. By contrast, Kobo lets you convert your handwriting not just while exporting but also from within a notebook itself.

The Elipsa 2E also offers other helpful note-taking tools. Like the Kobo Libra Colour, it’s capable, for example, of solving math equations for you. You can also insert diagrams and drawings, and it’ll automatically snap them into something that looks cleaner and nicer. There’s also a great selection of pen types and ink shades.

True, the Kindle Scribe starts at $60 less, but the Kobo Elipsa 2E comes with twice the storage. You can step up to the 32GB Kindle Scribe if you want the same storage capacity, but that puts it at essentially the same price as the Kobo. I recommend just forking out the money on the Elipsa 2E instead.

I also recommend the Elipsa 2E over the Onyx Boox Note Air 2 Plus, even though it, too, offers much better writing tools than the Kindle Scribe. That’s because it costs a whopping $449 and also isn’t as readily available in the US market. The Onyx Boox Note Air 2 Plus also comes with too many distracting extras, like an easy-to-access music player and the Google Play app store preinstalled so you can download multiple reading apps, including both the Kindle and Kobo apps. However, Kindle and Kobo notes didn’t show up on the Onyx Boox Note Air 2 Plus — and you can’t annotate their books anywhere as easily as you can on their respective devices.

Note-taking capabilities aside, the Kobo Elipsa 2E is also a good e-reader, but it comes with the same strengths and weaknesses as other Kobo e-readers. There’s support for a wide range of file formats, but you can’t easily read Kindle books without converting them first. Its 227ppi display is also slightly less sharp than the 300ppi screen found on the Kindle Scribe and the Kobo Libra Colour. However, the 10.3-inch screen does balance things out a bit and makes text easier to read, so it’s not really a noticeable drawback.

Other ebook readers that didn’t make the cut

There are some other ebook readers I tested that I didn’t feature above but are still worth highlighting. Here are the most notable:

Kobo Clara Colour

If you’re looking for a non-Amazon alternative that’s more affordable than the Kobo Libra Colour, the new Kobo Clara Colour — the successor to the Kobo Clara 2E — is worth a look. At $149.99, the ad-free e-reader costs more than the Kobo Clara 2E (which you can still buy), but I think it’s worth the extra $10. It continues to offer the same six-inch display and IPX8 waterproof design, but the e-reader now offers color. Plus, it’s noticeably faster — something I was happy to see, considering the occasional lag on the Clara 2E sometimes got on my nerves. You don’t get the Clara Colour’s physical buttons or stylus support, but that’s a fair tradeoff at this price point.

Nook Glowlight 4 Plus

In 2023, Barnes and Noble released the new Nook Glowlight 4 Plus. If you own a lot of digital books from Barnes and Noble, this could be a good Kindle alternative. Otherwise, I’d still recommend the Kobo Libra Colour to everybody else. The $199.99 Nook Glowlight 4 Plus is a good e-reader with a lot to offer, including a lovely 300ppi screen, waterproofing, physical page-turning buttons, and even a headphone jack. However, it’s just not as snappy, which makes setting it up, buying books from the device itself, and navigating the interface a slow ordeal. It didn’t help that the screen sometimes froze, too, which meant I had to restart the device while in the middle of a book.

Kindle Oasis

Finally, I didn’t mention the Kindle Oasis, which has physical page-turning buttons, a larger screen, and was considered a high-end device when it launched in 2019. Amazon no longer lists the aging e-reader in its official Kindle lineup, however, and it lacks some features even the base model offers, including USB-C. That makes it less appealing at $249.99 — that is, assuming you can even find it in stock. If you’re willing to pay that much for a high-end reader, I’d take a look at the Kobo Libra Colour instead.

Update, June 28th: Updated to include the Kobo Libra Colour and Kobo Clara Colour, as well as to remove the Kobo Sage.

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