EBook readers might get overlooked for tablets and smartphones, but for dedicated readers who don’t like dragging heavy books around, eBook readers have a much-loved place on the market. Today, electronic bookworms have a huge range of choices whether they’re looking for the most affordable, most ergonomic, most accessible, or simply the best ereader on the market.
If you’re looking for a Father's Day gift and you want your dad to finally go digital, here’s a guide to the 10 best eBook readers of 2021 and what sets each apart.
The price of eBook readers has dropped dramatically since they first came out. You can essentially choose an eBook reader across 3 price brackets. The lowest-cost eBook readers, like the basic Kindle and the Amazon Fire 7 tablet, cost under $100. They don’t boast many bells and whistles but they do a great job of delivering a quality reading experience.
Mid-range eBook readers include the highly popular Kindle Paperwhite, the NOOK Glowlight Plus, and the Kobo Clara HD, which all retail at between $100 and $200. At this price range you’ll find some extras, like waterproofing and backlighting.
Battery life matters in an eBook reader because no one likes to have to put down their book in the middle of the action because they ran out of power. However, it may not be a huge factor in your decision since all eBook readers use very small amounts of power.
That said, if you travel often or are the type to forget to charge your devices, some eReaders are known to last longer than others. The Kindle Oasis, for example, can last up to 8 weeks on a single charge. The Kobo Aura One can go roughly a month without seeing a power outlet, while the Barnes & Noble Nook GlowLight Plus has enough battery for around 6 weeks.
The biggest test when choosing an eBook reader is the quality of the reading experience. Although you might think that the most important issue here is screen size, it’s not necessarily the case.
Most eBook readers have screens that measure 6”. The Kobo readers are larger, measuring 7.8” for the Aura One and a massive 8” for the Forma. This means you can read larger fonts more easily, but it also makes them less comfortable to hold in one hand.
The screen resolution is more important than the screen size for readability. The best eBook readers have a DPI (dots per inch) resolution of 300DPI, including the Kindle Paperwhite, the Kobo Aura One, and the Barnes & Noble NOOK GlowLight Plus. The basic Kindle reader still has a DPI of only 167, which is a huge difference.
Newer eBook readers are much easier on the eyes because they use Carta E Ink technology instead of LED or LCD screens. These are unlikely to leave your eyes with that tired, overworked feeling you can get when you stare at a screen for too long. The Kobo models use Carta E Ink to achieve a beautiful, crisp text that is easy to read and easy on the eyes.
One of the best eBook readers for a good reading experience is the Kindle Paperwhite, which uses E Ink along with a specially designed font called Bookerly that genuinely does make it faster for the eye to recognize words for speedier page scanning. The contrast is clear and the screen is carefully designed so that there is no glare that can make it hard to read in certain lights.
Although the earliest eBook readers didn’t come with integrated lighting, it’s become one of the best features on an e-reader and one you can expect on most devices.
While more basic devices have LED backlighting, the best eBook readers today incorporate advanced lighting features. All of Kobo’s eReaders feature ComfortLight Pro technology, including the Kobo Aura One which has a color shift filter to reduce blue light and make it easier to fall asleep. There’s also the option of leaving it up to the eBook reader itself to choose the lighting you need. Some readers such as the Barnes & Noble NOOK GlowLight Plus and the Kindle All-New Oasis detect the ambient light and automatically adjust the backlighting for the best reading experience.
Whether or not a touchscreen makes a difference to your eBook reader choice is a matter of personal preference. A touchscreen can make it easier to scroll through a long library list of books, like that offered on the Amazon Fire 7 tablet which doubles as an e-reader. That being said, physical buttons like those on the basic Kindle can be more ergonomically friendly as well as being more convenient when you’re reading on the beach or in gloves and can’t easily activate a touch screen. Some of the top range eBook readers provide you with both options, like the Kindle All-New Oasis.
After the reading experience, perhaps the next most important factor when choosing an eBook reader is the supported formats. There’s no one eBook reader which natively supports all formats, which means that you either will need to do some clever reconfiguration to make your eBook reader support other formats, or start off by deciding which formats you prefer and then choose the right reader accordingly.
All of the Kindle readers and Amazon’s Fire 7 tablet support Amazon’s own Kindle books which come in .mobi format, or AZW, as well as .pdf and .txt files. Amazon’s library is definitely the easiest to use and is very extensive. If you have Amazon Prime you get unlimited access to the Amazon Prime Reading Library, but .doc, .jpg and .html files need to be converted before you can read them and Google’s free EPUB books are a real hassle to reconfigure for a Kindle.
Kobo’s eReaders support the widest range of eBook formats, including EPUB, .mobi, .pdf, .html and .txt. With the Kobo Aura One you can read Kindle books that are in open .mobi format as well as Google EPUB books, but there are no periodicals in Kobo’s library and neither Amazon’s lending library books nor Apple books can be read on a Kobo reader.
The Barnes & Noble NOOK GlowLight Plus and NOOK GlowLight 3 both come with access to Barnes & Noble’s entire bookstore, which is possibly even bigger than Amazon’s. A NOOK also supports documents and books in EPUB, .pdf, and .png formats, among others, but you can’t read a Kindle or Apple iBooks eBook on a NOOK reader without converting it first.
Your choice of eBook reader might be governed by which format you read the most. If you have Amazon Prime already, then a Kindle could be the best choice, but most public libraries in the US lend eBooks too through the Overdrive program. Kindles don’t have native support for Overdrive formats, but Kobo’s Libra H20, Aura One, and Clara HD all do.
Today, not only do you not need physical books to read books, you don’t even need your eBook reader with you. Some of the top eBook readers have easy-to-use apps for Android and iOS so that you can access your entire e-library from your smartphone and tablets. Kindle features free, easy-to-use apps for Android and iOS that pulls up all of the books in your Amazon account and provides clear, easy reading on your device. Barnes and Noble’s NOOK devices and Kobo eBook readers also include Android and iPhone apps that let you read on whatever phone, tablet, or device you prefer.
The weight and size of your eBook reader makes a difference, too. Although a tablet doesn’t seem very heavy when you first pick it up, if you hold it in one hand for hours you’ll start to feel the weight. There’s a significant difference between the Amazon Fire 7 tablet, which weighs in at 14oz, and the basic Kindle, also from Amazon, which is one of the lightest eBook readers at just 5.6oz.
Most eBook readers weigh between 6 and 7 ounces – for example, the Kobo Libra HD and Kindle All-New Oasis both weigh 6.8 ounces. Some eReaders, however, such as the Amazon Fire 7 tablet and the Kobo Forma, are designed to be larger and therefore weigh more and take up more space in your handbag.
If you want to read on the beach, by the pool, or just in the bath without worrying about what splashes of water could do to your eBook reader, it’s a good idea to look for one of the new generation of waterproof e-readers. The Barnes & Noble Nook GlowLight Plus is IP67 certified, which means that it can survive being submerged in freshwater up to 1 meter deep for up to 30 minutes. The Kindle Oasis and Kobo Aura One both go further with IPX8 certification, so they can cope with up to 60 minutes in freshwater at a depth of 2 meters. Although this doesn’t mean that we advise you to read underwater, it is reassuring to know that your eBook reader can survive being dropped in the bath or the pool.
Whether you want to take a pile of books on vacation (without the pile of books) or just want the convenience of pulling an eBook reader from your bag while you’re waiting in line, there’s an eBook reader that fits your needs, price range, reading habits, and comfort level.