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The best ereaders for 2024

Ereaders can stuff an entire bookcase into a device that fits in your pocket. They beat reading on a phone or tablet thanks to their E Ink screens that are easier on your eyes. And the text displays so clearly, printed pages look almost fuzzy by comparison. Some screens are even available in color now. We’ve tested models from all the major brands to come up with recommendations for a budget pick, one with buttons and the best ereader overall.

Plenty of apps, including the Kindle app, will let you download and read digital books on a phone or tablet. But what makes ebook readers different is the screen: nearly all of them use technology from a company called E Ink. It manufactures electronic paper displays (EPD) composed of three sheets: one containing millions of microcapsules filled with black and white ink particles sandwiched between transparent electrode layers. When a charge is applied, either the black or white particles shift to the top, forming letters and the whitespace around them.

Because these displays are so different from standard LED panels, you can expect most ereaders to do a number of things well. They’ll be easier to stare at for long periods of time and easier to read in direct sunlight. Also, since E Ink displays only require power to rearrange the ink, these devices have much longer battery lives than even the best tablets: we’re talking weeks, not days.

The ereader market is not as saturated as, say, the smartphone market, but there are still plenty of options out there and they do have small but important differences among them. They tend to range from around $100 to more than $400, though usually the higher end options are stylus-enabled read/write E Ink tablets like the Kindle Scribe. Beyond price, you should consider physical properties like buttons, lights, storage and resolution, as well as how the software lets you find and access books.

With any ereader, you’ll navigate the OS via taps and swipes, and some add physical page-turn buttons. Most with built-in buttons have an auto-rotating screen so you can press with your right or left hand.

As E Ink technology has advanced, resolution has greatly improved – even the budget Kindle ereader has a 300 ppi display. You can still find models with lower resolution, but we don’t recommend them.

Some ereaders have front LEDs that support light temperature adjustment. That means you can switch to a warmer light after the sun goes down, which will feel easier on the eyes. If you’re concerned about blue light, you should go for a reader with that feature.

The capabilities of these pocket libraries have advanced considerably since the early days. In addition to storing books, some let you browse the web, run apps and play music. The screen’s frame rate can’t handle gaming, but it’s good enough to show you the Wikipedia entry for New Zealand’s South Island while you read Birnam Wood.

If you listen to audiobooks, you may want a Bluetooth-enabled ereader capable of playing them. Most of the models we tested have that ability, with the notable exception of the Nook ereader we tried. Keep in mind that audiobook files can take up more space than print files so you’ll probably want a device with a higher storage capacity if you plan on doing a lot of listening.

Above all, you should consider where and how you intend to find books to read. Most ereaders make it easiest to shop through their own ebook store, but all of them (even Kindles) will now let you download titles from other sources, like libraries, unaffiliated ebook sellers and free public domain sites.

Photo by Amy Skorheim / Engadget

Kindle, Nook and Kobo all have their own stores that you access directly from each brand’s devices. Prices are fairly competitive among the sellers, too – as I write this, the current NYT bestselling fiction ebook is $13 at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, eBooks.com and the Kobo store. The top nonfiction release, The Anxious Generation, costs $16 at all four.

Amazon offers Kindle Unlimited for $12 per month, and it includes four million titles from which you can pick your next read. It includes audio and ebooks, but you won’t find many big, new releases or older bestsellers. Kobo has a subscription called Kobo Plus with about 1.3 million titles: it goes for $8 per month for ebooks only, $8 for audiobooks only or $10 for both.

Buying a book from a proprietary store instantly delivers it to your device, provided you’re connected to WiFi. It also syncs your reading across devices and apps, so you can pick up where you left off on your phone if you forgot your ereader at home. It truly is the most convenient way to go, but if you don’t want to be locked into one brand’s store, or if you opt for an ereader without its own marketplace, you do have options.

Stores like ebooks.com and Google Play have millions of ebooks for sale as digital rights-managed (DRM) ePub files, which nearly all current ereaders (excluding Kindles) can display. Titles from some publishers like Tor and public domain classics from sites like Project Gutenberg are also sold as ePubs, but without the added DRM. Consequently, Kindles do support those files. Books you get from third-party sources will look just like ones you bought from a proprietary store, thanks to the flowable, formatted nature of ePub files. While these device-agnostic ebook collections give you extra options for finding your next read, they require a few additional steps to get the files onto your ereader.

To do so, you’ll typically need a computer running a free program called Adobe Digital Editions (ADE). After buying and downloading the ePub file, open ADE and plug your ereader into your computer. Your device should pop up in the left panel. Drag and drop the ePub file from your downloads folder into the main panel in ADE. The file will display as an image of the book cover. Drag that image onto your device on the left panel. If the file includes digital rights management (which protects against unauthorized copying) you’ll need to authorize your ereader, which requires using or creating a free Adobe ID. Once you’ve finished adding files to upload, eject the reader from your computer to complete the transfer process.

Kindles use a web-based uploader instead of the ADE method. But since Kindle uses its own proprietary DRM technology instead of Adobe’s, the only files it can accept from third parties are non-DRM files, such as from Tor Publishing or Project Gutenberg. After downloading a compatible ePub file, drag and drop it into your browser with the Send to Kindle page open. As long as you’re signed into Amazon, this wirelessly transfers the files to your associated device.

Boox also uses a browser uploader called BooxDrop (along with many other methods) to deliver ePubs to the device. Open it from the Boox App menu and you’ll see a device-specific url. Type that into your browser to access a file delivery portal that uploads to your library. Boox’s built-in ereader app, NeoReader, also doesn’t support files with DRM, so you won’t be able to read current titles from most publishers using that app. Fortunately, Boox devices run nearly every ereader app out there, Kobo and Kindle included, letting you access ePubs any number of ways.

Your local library card lets you borrow audio and ebooks through a program called Overdrive and its companion app Libby. On a Kobo, you have have built-in access to Overdrive in a separate tab. Once you’ve linked your library card, the search function will include results for titles available from your local library; a few taps will upload your selections to your device for the length of the loan. I personally find it easiest to borrow the title I want through the Libby app on my phone. After that, the book pops up on my Kobo’s home screen once the device syncs.

To read library books on a Kindle, you can either go through the Libby app or the Overdrive section of your library’s website. Once you click Borrow, you’ll see the option to “Read now with Kindle,” which takes you to Amazon’s site to sign in. After that, the book will be delivered to your device the next time it connects to WiFi.

For other ereaders, you’ll go through your library’s Overdrive portal and download the ePub after clicking the Borrow button. You can then use the ADE process we described above. Devices that run external apps, like the Boox Leaf 2, allow you to read library books via the Libby app, just as you would on a smartphone or tablet.

You can also use the Libby app to borrow audiobooks, but you won’t be able to access them through your ereader. (The exception is an ereader, like the Boox Leaf 2, that allows external apps). I found it was easier to listen to an audiobook on my phone anyway, regardless of whether I borrowed it through Libby or bought it from Kindle or Kobo.

Four ereaders are arranged on a dark brown wooden table outside. There are Boox, Kindle and Kobo devices showing the covers of different novels from Tana French, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Martha Wells.

Photo by Amy Skorheim / Engadget

When putting together any guide, the first thing we do is spend hours researching the field. We look at what’s available, what’s new, and what shoppers and professional reviewers have to say. Then we narrow a list to the best candidates for hands-on testing.

I ended up getting eight ereaders, representing five different brands: Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Boox and PocketBook. I bought, borrowed and uploaded books for each device using the methods above. Over the course of four weeks I evaluated each one in the areas of book access, ease of reading, extra features and overall value. Here’s everything we tested so far:

Photo by Amy Skorheim / Engadget

Screen size: 6” | Resolution: 300 dpi black & white, 150 dpi color | Capacity: 16GB | Waterproof rating: IPX8 (submergible to 6 feet for 60 minutes) | Warm light: Yes | Lock screen ads: No

Read our full Kobo Clara Colour review

Our previous pick for this category, the Kobo Clara 2E was an excellent ereader with a crisp display, a warm glow and responsive, intuitive touch controls all housed in a waterproof device that felt premium. When Rakuten announced the Clara would be updated, I worried we’d see a device with superfluous revamping to justify an inflated price. Thankfully, that’s not the case. The Kobo Clara Colour not only adds color and a faster processor, it’s just $10 more than the previous generation.

As the name suggests, this ereader adds color to the page, lending a little vibrance to book covers, tables and graphs, and even the panels of graphic novels. The technology comes from E Ink, in the form of the Kaleido 3 module that incorporates a color filter layer on top of the standard black and white microcapsule layer. That results in two different resolutions on one screen: 150 dpi for color and 300 dpi for text.

Full-color pages remind me of comic book art from the ‘60s, muted but saturated. Color makes book covers more enticing and adds a little variety to headings, and tables in some non-fiction books. It’s certainly not a necessary feature, but it adds vibrance and it’s fun. There is a slight difference in clarity between the color and non-color version of the Clara. If you look closely, you can see a bit of noise on the white parts of the page. That’s due to the added color filter layer. It’s not distracting and only something I noticed when comparing the two generations side-by-side. but if absolute clarity is your primary goal, you may be better off with a non-color ereader.

Probably the more useful upgrade here is the dual 2GHz processor, a bump from the Clara 2E’s 1GHz CPU. There’s a noticeable improvement in the speed of the page turns and navigating from the menu to the page and back again is nearly instantaneous. As with the 2E, the Colour rarely mistakes a swipe for a tap or a page turn gesture for a menu request.

The adjustable warm front light is still here (it’s actually a little warmer on the Colour) and makes reading at night easy on the eyes. The operating system is the same, with intuitive access to the Kobo store, your personal books and titles from your local library via Overdrive. You can customize your reading experience with options for font, font size, line spacing, margins and so on. Kobos don’t have a way to save a group of display settings like the Kindle does, so I’d love to see that added with future OS upgrades. But for now, the customizations are just enough to get your book how you want it to look.

The Colour is nearly identical in shape and size, and has the same premium feel as the 2E, though the plastic has a grainier finish. The bezels are noticeably less flush with the screen now, though that didn’t alter my reading enjoyment.

Now that it costs $150, the Kobo Clara Colour is $50 more than the base model Kindle. But the waterproof build, warm front light, responsive controls and lack of ads (which cost $20 to get rid of on Amazon’s device) make it worth it. And, in great news for the right to repair crowd, it’s even designed to be user-repaired once it falls outside of warranty through a partnership with iFixit.

Pros

  • Customizable settings
  • Even more responsive touch controls
  • Color is pleasant and text is crisp
Cons

  • Kobo’s store not as vast as Kindle’s.

$150 at Rakuten Kobo

Photo by James Trew / Engadget

Screen size: 6” | Resolution: 300dpi | Capacity: 16GB | Waterproof rating: None | Warm light: No | Lock screen ads: Yes

Amazon has dominated in the ereader space for so long that I was surprised when a Kindle device didn’t win me over. A Kobo may have taken the top spot here, but nothing can beat the standard Kindle when it comes to price. It’s listed at $100 but has gone on sale every few months since its debut in October 2022, sometimes for as low as $75.

With it, you can access the best of what Amazon has to offer, including many exclusive titles. Kindle Exclusive is a catalog made up of a million titles, including books by established authors as well as newer, self-published writers; Kindle Unlimited offers the widest selection of any subscription-based reading service out there; and Audible Originals is made up of narrated titles and podcasts you can only hear through a Kindle device or Amazon-owned app.

If you like to switch between audiobooks and ebooks, Kindle is the way to go. When you buy both iterations of a title, you not only get a discount, but the Whispersync feature lines up where you are in the e-printed version with the narration, too. Say you listen for an hour and then want to read – the synchronization lets you pick up on-screen where you left off audibly. (Though we should point out that you can’t listen and read simultaneously on the same device.) In tests, the feature was fairly accurate, getting me close enough on the page or in the audio to figure out my spot.

The standard Kindle doesn’t feel particularly luxurious, but it doesn’t feel cheap either. The shell has a velvety finish that doesn’t collect fingerprints, but I found myself wishing it had more texture for a better grip. Navigating from a page to the menu isn’t as speedy as Paperwhite or the Kobos we tried. And it takes a few moments to wake from sleep after hitting the button and swiping.

Page turns are quick, but the touchscreen gestures didn’t always do what I wanted them to. I’d often find the page skipping forward when I thought I’d tapped to go back. There’s no warm light, which didn’t bother me during the day, but at night it felt like I was still staring at my computer.

Kindle’s reading customization is great, letting you dial in the font, size and margins. You can even save a set of settings as a “theme,” something not offered by other devices. I created one with larger text and wider line spacing called “tired eyes.”

Some people won’t be bothered by the lock screen ads that come standard on every Kindle device (unless you pay to remove them). They’re fairly innocuous, mostly promoting Kindle book deals or specific titles (it’s not like you’ll see promos for TVs or robotic pool cleaners). 

Personally, I like being able to set the sleep screen to the book cover of what I’m currently reading, but it’s easy to get over that if all you want is a more convenient way to consume books at the lowest price. It’s also worth noting that the Kindle Kids is the same device but comes with a cover, a longer warranty and goes on sale more frequently than the standard version. 

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Kindle ebook selection is huge
  • Nice integration between ebooks and audiobooks
  • Good customization options
Cons

  • Not waterproff
  • No warm light
  • Lock screen ads

$100 at Kohl’s

Photo by Amy Skorheim / Engadget

Screen size: 7” Resolution: 300 dpi black & white, 150 dpi color | Capacity: 32GB | Waterproof rating: IPX8 (submergible to 6 feet for 60 minutes) | Warm light: Yes | Lock screen ads: No

When Kobo came out with the new Clara Colour, it also debuted the , which might be the more exciting of the two devices. In addition to color technology from the E Ink Kaleido panel and an upgraded processor, the Libra now has stylus support. It’s the only ereader on this list with that feature, making it a lot like a small — but all of its new features actually make it a better ereader.

When I wrote about the previous generation ereader, the Libra 2, I was impressed by how comfortable it was for reading. None of that has changed; the buttons and auto-rotating screen adapt the device to just about any reading position you chose and the thin design, textured back and soft-touch plastic give it a premium feel.

Kobo’s interface is nearly the same here as with other models, nicely organized to let you easily find your current reads or browse and search new titles from Kobo’s store or your local library in the Overdrive tab. The customizations for light and text let you get the page looking just how you like it, but there aren’t so many options that it feels like you’re writing code.

The new features add to the experience. In color, book covers all look more enticing — though, if your TBR list is already three feet long, this won’t not help things. The new processor makes waking from sleep, turning pages, navigating the menu and changing orientation zippy fast.

Then there’s the status compatibility. Try as they might, some new technologies their real-world counterparts. That’s mostly how I feel about styluses — I’m just a big fan of pen on paper. But Kobo’s stylus makes it so fun to highlight text and scribble notes in the margins of a book that I’m starting to come around. Plus, it neatly and magnetically attaches to the side so it doesn’t get lost.

Pressing and holding the button on the side of the stylus highlights text while flipping it around erases. I accidentally pressed the button a few times when I was trying to write, but I got used to the placement after a few minutes of using it. You can pick from four different highlighter colors and view your written notes and spotlighted text in the notes section of any title — which I could see being pretty useful for book club reads, school assignments or just refreshing yourself on a past read before you dive into the sequel.

Writing in the margins or directly on the text worked on every book I tried. Though I should point out that if you change the font size in a book, your handwritten notes will be converted to a sticky note-type box. Going back to the original font restores your original scribbles.

The Kobo Libra Colour is $30 more expensive than the Libra 2, but you get a lot for $220. If it were just an ereader, the lovely colors, responsive reading experience, fast page turns and easy highlights would make it worth the price. But you also get features that make it more than just an ereader, like Dropbox and Google Drive integration, a beta web browser and free-writing and text-converting notebooks.

Of course, the stylus costs extra and you won’t get features like notebooks and writing in the margins without it. Together, the set costs $290, which is still $50 cheaper than the most popular stylus-enabled ereader, . That one does have a bigger, 10-inch screen, which, for me, is a little big for an ereader. The Libra Colour on the other hand has just the right features at the right size, plus some extras that stretch its usefulness.

Pros

  • Premium build that’s comfortable to hold
  • Crisp text and lovely colors
  • Responsive and intuitive touch controls and buttons
  • Adding the stylus allows for margin notes
Cons

  • Kobo’s store is less vast than Kindle’s

$220 at Rakuten Kobo

Photo by Amy Skorheim / Engadget

Screen size: 7” | Resolution: 300dpi | Capacity: 32GB | Waterproof rating: None | Warm light: Yes | Lock screen ads: No

Boox released the Page in the middle of last year as a replacement for the now-discontinued Leaf 2. Stacked side-by-side, the two look identical: both have 7-inch E Ink screens, two manual page-turn buttons and a thin, lightweight design.

Inside, the Page has an extra gig of RAM, an upgraded Qualcomm CPU and a bigger 2,300mAh battery, up from 2,000mAh on the Leaf 2. The batteries last so long already — on the order of a few weeks — so I didn’t notice a significant difference there, but the extra processing power and memory has noticeably upped the wake speed, efficiency in opening apps and page-turning speed.

It still runs on a fork of Android 11, which means the Page acts more like a tablet than a conventional ereader. Like the Leaf 2, it’s best suited for the tech-savvy — you’ll get little hand-holding in setup and usage. The tablet is impressively customizable, with programmable buttons and fine-tunable settings. Boox users have created APK files to tweak and improve your experience further. The device even has speakers and can run apps like Spotify. In short, the Page can do far more than a typical ereader can, if you’re willing to experiment.

But the ereader experience is also pretty good. The soft, adjustable front light with temperature control makes for pleasant low-light reading and the flush, glare-free, 300dpi screen is crisp and detailed. Boox has its own app library or you can use Google Play to search for and download apps much like on a smartphone or tablet. You can even get ereader apps from other manufacturers, including Kobo and Kindle, and install Libby to read borrowed books from the library.

Boox’s built-in ereader app, NeoReader, is nicely featured with a good amount of control over the look of the text. But it only handles DRM-free ePubs from sites like Project Gutenberg or publishers like Tor. If you want to read ePubs with digital rights management, which make up the vast majority of current ebooks, you’ll need to use a different app. Of course, you could remove the rights management from the files, but that’s technically illegal, even after you “own” the book.

Pros

  • Capable, customizable tablet
  • Supports multiple ereader apps
  • Solid build with a crisp screen

$250 at B&H Photo

Photo by Amy Skorheim / Engadget

Screen size: 6.13” Resolution: 300 dpi | Capacity: 128GB | Water resistant: Yes, splashes and spills | Warm light: Yes | Lock screen ads: No

Boox makes two sizes of its ereader. The is smaller than the , doesn’t have buttons and goes for about $80 less. But after trying it, I don’t recommend it. It’s laggy and getting the Google Play Store to work was a pain. Once I did, page turns in apps like Kindle were excruciatingly slow.

The Boox , however, is quite fun. It’s the same size and shape as a smartphone and, in a lot of ways, acts like one. The home screen is a muted black and white version of what you might find on a standard Android — you can even add a few widgets. Like the Page, it can download and run apps from the Google Play Store and has speakers to play music and videos. The E Ink screen (a Carta 1200) renders text crisply, but images, particularly moving ones, look far grainier and rougher than they would on a real phone’s LED screen. That said, the video quality is the best I’ve seen on an E Ink screen, thanks to a software improvement Boox calls Super Refresh Technology.

But make no mistake, it’s not going to replace your phone. Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are the only connectivity and the 16MP camera is just for making document scans you can convert to PDFs. But the phone-like build is comfortingly familiar and the E Ink screen is lovely to read. At $280, it’s more expensive than a standard ereader — and some E Ink tablets — but it’s a highly portable way to read Kindle, Kobo, Google Books and other ePubs, while also handling simple games and apps like a smartphone. If you’re sick of the glow of your handset, the Boox Palma is a charming alternative.

$280 at Amazon

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