eReaders may seem like a thing of the past, but they’re still a worthwhile investment for bookworms and students. Unlike the Kindle Fire or the iPad, dedicated eReaders have E Ink screens that prevent eyestrain, and can run for weeks on a single charge.
What to Look for In an eReader
Before you go out and buy the cheapest Kindle on Amazon, let’s take a second to review some of the features that you might need from an eReader.
- File Compatibility: The Kindle Paperwhite only works with a small selection of file formats, which forces users to buy eBooks from the Amazon store. That’s fine for most people, but it’s bad news for anyone who buys eBooks from non-Amazon sources. If you want an eReader that’s compatible with other file formats, like EPUB, then a Kobo eReader is your best bet.
- Size: If you feel limited by the small size of most eReaders, then you should pick out a larger product, like the Kobo Forma. The Forma works in portrait and landscape orientations and can accommodate people who need to read with larger font sizes.
- Book Borrowing: All of the eReaders in this article work with local libraries for book borrowing. That said, Kindle Paperwhites offer the most extensive book lending selection.
- Bluetooth: Kindle Paperwhite devices have built-in Bluetooth for audiobooks. It’s a neat feature, but it isn’t a major selling point. That said, Kindles can seamlessly jump between eBooks and Audiobooks without losing your place, which is a selling point.
- Water Resistance: The Kindle Paperwhite and Kobo Forma have an official IPX8 water resistance rating, which makes them a smart option for bath-time or poolside bookworms. These devices can handle immersion in 6-feet of water for an hour.
- Lit Screens: All of the eReaders in this article have back-lit or side-lit screens for nighttime and outdoor reading.
Now that you have an idea of what you’re looking at, let’s jump into it. Here are the best eReaders for 2020.
Best Overall: The Kindle Paperwhite
The Kindle Paperwhite is still the king of eReaders. It’s easy to use, incredibly lightweight, and its reliance on the Amazon ecosystem makes it a straightforward device for even the least tech-savvy readers. Newer Paperwhite models have side-lit screens, an IPX8 water-resistance rating, Bluetooth capabilities, and the ability to jump between eBooks and Audible audiobooks without losing your place.
Of course, Kindle devices are notorious for their closed ecosystem. The Kindle is, essentially, locked to the Amazon digital bookstore. Files from other distributors must be in the Kindle eBook format.
If you don’t care about water-resistance or Bluetooth, then you might want to keep an eye out for older, refurbished Kindle Paperwhites. They crop up on Amazon and Woot every few months, and they’re a lot cheaper than brand-new eReaders.
Kindle Paperwhite – Now Waterproof with 2x the Storage – Includes Special Offers
The Kindle Paperwhite is thin, light, side-lit, and lasts for weeks without a charge. It also has Bluetooth capabilities for listening to audiobooks.
Read Any File Type: Kobo Clara HD
If you need an eReader that’s compatible with nearly all file types, including EPUB, MOBI, and PDF, then the Kobo Clara HD is your best bet. It looks and feels like a Kindle Paperwhite, and is built with the same display and touch controls as the Kindle. The Clara HD also has a temperature-adjustable backlight, while the Paperwhite has a simple brightness-adjustable sidelight.
The Kobo Clara HD is easy to use and has a dedicated bookstore, but its open nature may be confusing for less tech savvy readers. The Clara HD lacks Bluetooth, doesn’t have an IPX water-resistance rating, and provides no alternative for the Kindle’s “X-Ray” feature, which gives Sparknotes-like info on stories and books.
The Kobo Clara cannot run Amazon eBook files natively, as Amazon’s proprietary DRM protects these books from “unauthorized” use. If you want to read your extensive Amazon eBook library on the Kobo, then you need to convert them to EPUB or MOBI files first. It only takes a second with the KCR Converter tool.
Kobo Clara HD 6" Carta E Ink Touchscreen E-Reader
The Kobo Clara HD is, essentially, a Kindle Paperwhite that can read all filetypes. It's a fantastic option for people who have PDF and EPUB files, although it doesn't have Bluetooth capabilities.
Best Premium Option: Kobo Forma
If you’re looking for a large display, physical page-turn buttons, and a comfortable form factor, then check out the Kobo Forma. It’s the big daddy of eReaders, with an IPX8 water-resistance rating, a temperature-adjustable back-light, and the ability to work in portrait or landscape orientations. The Kobo Forma also offers the extensive file compatibility of the Kobo Clara HD—although it still won’t work with Amazon eBooks without the help of a file converter.
Feature-wise, the Kobo Forma is nearly identical to the Kindle Oasis. We chose to feature the Kobo Forma for its extensive file support, but if you’d like to stick to Amazon’s ecosystem, then the Oasis eReader is likely a better option.
Best Not-an-eReader Option: The iPad
I know, it doesn’t have an E Ink screen, but the basic iPad might be a better option for you than a dedicated eReader. It’s a full-featured tablet that’s great for browsing the web or streaming video, and its built-in Books app has the same fantastic features that you’ll find on a Kindle Paperwhite (including temperature controls). The iPad will work with any file type, and you can even download the Kindle app to access your Kindle library and browse the Kindle eBook store.
Android tablets also make for fantastic eReaders and cost a lot less than the iPad. If you go down this route, then we suggest the affordable Samsung Galaxy Tab A, which will work will all file types and can work directly with the Kindle app and book store. The Amazon Fire tablet is another option that sells for under $100, although it doesn’t work with EPUB files natively.
Apple iPad (10.2-Inch, Wi-Fi, 128GB) - Space Gray (Latest Model)
It doesn't have an E Ink display, but the iPad makes for a wonderful eReader. Its built-in books app is incredibly customization, it works with all file types, and it can download the Kindle app for Amazon eBooks.