The Best Ebook Readers (That Aren’t Kindles)

The Kobo Forma, BOOX Note, and Kobo Aura H20
Amazon

Amazon has completely dominated the ebook reader market, but you don’t have to use a Kindle to get your ebook fix. There are a surprising number of ebook reader alternatives, and many of them are actually better than the Kindle.

Tablets, like the iPad, may be great for streaming video and playing games. But they make for inconvenient ebook readers. They’re expensive, they have short battery life, and their displays can be a bit aggressive on the eyes. Plus, tablets are the ultimate portable distraction. How can you sit down and read when Youtube’s siren song is just a gesture away?

Because of the tablet’s shortcomings, typical ebook readers are still the best way to consume digital books. And although the Kindle is synonymous with the term “ebook reader,” there are a lot of good reasons to stay away from Amazon’s flagship reading device.

Now, this isn’t to say that the Kindle is a bad ebook reader. They’re powerful, they last a long time, and you can buy one for just $50. But the Kindle has one very big problem—it’s tethered to the Amazon marketplace. You can’t use the Kindle to open EPUB files or PDFs (unless you want to put in an enormous amount of effort). If you want more flexibility from an ebook reader then your aversion the Kindle is completely understandable.

Lucky for you, we’ve tracked down some of the best Kindle alternatives on the market. These ebook readers have their ups and downs, but they all give you the ability to escape from (or work alongside) Amazon’s ebook market.

Kobo Aura H20 ($160)

The Kobo Aura H20
Kobo

The Kobo Aura H20 is by far the most popular Kindle alternative. It’s made Rakuten, a popular Japanese corporation, and it actually blows the Kindle out of the water in terms of physical features and file usability. Plus, it doesn’t have annoying special offers on the lockscreen.

This ebook reader has a backlit screen with an adjustable blue light filter, robust font settings, and a relatively large 6.8″ e-ink touchscreen. Like the newest version of the Kindle, the Kubo Aura H20 has 8GB of memory, a 1 GHz processor, Wi-Fi compatibility, a micro USB port, and a battery that lasts for a few weeks. It also has a water-resistant IPX8 rating, which means that it can sit in 2 meters of water for an hour before sustaining any damage.

Kobo ebook readers support up to 14 file formats, including EPUB, EPUB3, PDF, MOBI, TXT, TIFF, and HTML. You can transfer these files to the ebook reader via micro USB cable. But there’s also a dedicated Kobo e-book store, and you can use Kobo ebook readers to remotely borrow books from your library.

The Kobo Aura H20 can’t open AZW files (Amazon books), but you can use a software like Calibre to convert AZW files to the EPUB format.

Kobo Forma ($280)

The Kobo Forma
Kobo

The Kobo Forma is, essentially, the similarly-priced rival to the Kindle Oasis. It’s an ergonomic ebook reader with an 8″ display, tactile buttons, and a backlight with an adjustable blue light filter. This ebook reader has robust font settings, Wi-Fi, a micro USB port, a water-resistant IPX8 rating, which means that it can sit in 2 meters of water for an hour. It has a battery that should last a few weeks, a 1 GHz processor, and  8GB or 32GB storage options.

Kobo ebook readers support up to 14 file formats, including EPUB, EPUB3, PDF, MOBI, TXT, TIFF, and HTML. You can transfer these files to the ebook reader via micro USB cable. But there’s also a dedicated Kobo e-book store, and you can use Kobo ebook readers to remotely borrow books from your library.

The Kobo Forma can’t open AZW files (Amazon books), but you can use a software like Calibre to convert AZW files to the EPUB format.

Likebook Mars ($239)

The Likebook Mars
Amazon

If you want a non-Amazon ebook reader that can natively open AWZ-formatted books, then you should check out the Likebook Mars. (Do note that there is a difference between the ability to open AWZ files and dealing with Amazon’s DRM; this device only handles the format and won’t let you load AWZ files purchased from Amazon.) It has a 7.8″ e-ink touchscreen, an adjustable backlight, a micro USB input, and a battery that should last for a few weeks.

The Likebook Mars is surprisingly powerful when compared to most ebook readers. Its 8Core processor provides a fast refresh rate, it can download apps from the Google Play store, and it has a whopping 16GB of internal storage. Plus, the Likebook has an SD card slot for up to 128GB of additional storage and file transfer.

Unlike the Kindle, the Likebook Mars supports a variety of file formats, including EPUB, PDF, MOBI, FB2, TXT, and DOC. You can use it to borrow books from the library, and you can use the included Kindle app to read books from Amazon.

BOOX Note ($499)

The Boox Note
Amazon

If you’d like an ebook reader that’s good for productivity and creative work, then you should check out the BOOX Note. It’s one of the only ebook readers that comes with a Wacom stylus, and it’s good for writing notes in books or drawing on the go.

The BOOX Note is, essentially, the dividing line between typical tablets and ebook readers. It’s packaged with Android 6.0, it has access to the Google Play store, it comes with a handy Wacom stylus, and it has 4096 levels of pressure sensitivity for drawing on the go.

This ebook reader can open most file formats, including EPUB, PDF, MOBI, FB2, TXT, and DOC. You can use it to borrow books from the library, and you can use the included Kindle app to read books from Amazon. You read that last part correctly. Remember it has access to the Play store, which means you can download the Kindle App on it. What a time to be alive.

Obviously, the BOOX Note is a bit expensive. If you want to spend $500 on creative and productivity features, then you could just buy an iPad. This device is really geared toward hardcore e-ink fans or creatives that want to draw on an e-ink display.

Barnes & Noble Nook GlowLight 3 ($199)

The Nook GlowLight 3
Barnes & Noble

The Barnes & Noble Nook GlowLight 3 is an interesting ebook reader. It’s pretty bare bones, and it’s reminiscent of the early Kindle devices. The Nook Glowlight 3 is a great option for people that have a large Nook library through Barnes & Noble, or for people that miss the simple setup of older ebook readers.

Like older ebook readers, the Nook GlowLight 3 has tactile buttons on the side that make navigation super easy. But it also has some modern features, like an adjustable backlight, bluelight balance settings, and an 8GB memory with Nook Cloud access.

The Nook Glowlight 3 has Wi-Fi, a micro USB port, and a battery that should last for over a month. It can open ePub, PDF, and Barnes & Noble files, but it can’t open Amazon e-book files.

Andrew Heinzman Andrew Heinzman
Andrew is a writer for Review Geek and its sister site, How-To Geek. Like a jack-of-all-trades, he handles the writing and image editing for a mess of tech news articles, daily deals, product reviews, and complicated explainers. Read Full Bio »

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