Physical books are nice but they have a lot of limitations that can easily be overcome with an eReader. Apart from having a finite battery life, a digital eReader means you'll never be stuck for something to read. Here are the best eReaders you can buy in 2021 - ie Kindles and the best alternatives.
The choice of eReaders is getting slimmer and slimmer, with only Amazon and Kobo releasing a range of new models recently. That doesn't mean eBooks are going away. It's just that more and more people are using their smartphone or tablet to read books and firms like Nook are no longer around to compete in the UK.
Best eReader 2021
1. Kindle Paperwhite (2018) - Best Overall
By updating the Paperwhite, Amazon has created the best eReader around for anyone wanting a dedicated device for reading.
The Oasis offers a premium metal design and ergonomic wedge shape but adding features like waterproofing and Bluetooth to the Paperwhite means that luxury isn't worth the extra cost for most people.
Add in that the Paperwhite has a refined design including a flush screen and a lighter weight and you've pretty much got the perfect eReader. The small price rise is totally worth it for all these benefits.
Read our full Amazon Kindle Paperwhite (2018) review
2. Kindle (2019) - Best Budget Model
It's hard to say whether the Paperwhite or the regular Kindle is the better eReader because they're both excellent.
The Kindle 2019 offers better value for money and has all the things most people will look for. However, the Kindle Paperwhite has a more premium design and extra features like more storage, mobile data and waterproofing.
You pay extra for them, of course, so it really depends how much you have to spend and whether those extra things matter to you.
For us, they are both the best eReader you can get, just for different reasons.
Read our full Amazon Kindle (2019) review
3. Kobo Libra H20 - Best Durability
The Libra H20 is our pick of Kobo's stable of eReaders. It offers largely the same appealing design as the Forma, with a light chassis, chunky grip, textured back and IPX8 water resistance, as well a 300ppi screen and 8GB of storage.
But by compromising slightly on the size of that screen (at 7in) you can get the device for a far more manageable price tag.
Kobo's eBook store remains unhelpful in terms of genre curation and user recommendations, but the Libra supports ePub (so you can sideload free eBooks from Project Gutenberg) and OverDrive (so you can get eBooks from your local library). This is a great choice of eReader.
Read our full Kobo Libra H20 review
4. Kobo Forma - Best Big Screen
Strong if understated design with a chunky handle yet a slim, lightweight (and water-resistant) body: the Kobo Forma eReader is a pleasure to hold and use, and goes a long way towards justifying its high price tag.
The main lure of the Forma is the huge 8in screen making it perfect for anyone wanting more real estate than usual.
Just bear in mind that the Kobo store is less well curated than the Kindle one - luckily it's easy to side-load books and (unlike Kindles) the Forma natively supports ePub files.
Read our full Kobo Forma review
5. Kindle Oasis (2019) - Best Backlight
As you would expect, the Oasis is the best Kindle you can buy in terms of the specs and features it offers. We can't complain at the price staying the same and the eReader now having an adjustable warm light.
However, we'd like some more advancements such as USB-C and even a headphone jack. It's also a shame that Amazon has ditched the magnetic case from the previous Oasis in favour of a full wrap-around design.
This might have the most to offer, but the other Kindles in the range offer far better value for money with the Paperwhite remaining as the best all-rounder.
Read our full Amazon Kindle Oasis (2019) review
6. Kobo Nia - Cheapest Kobo
This is a solid eReader at an appealing price, but you're making quite a lot of compromises. The 6in screen is just 212ppi (all other Kobos, and all but the basic Kindle, offer 300ppi) and you can't adjust the colour temperature; there are no dedicated page-turn buttons; and it isn't officially water-resistant.
If you can afford it, and especially if you plan to regularly read close to water, the Kobo Libra H20 or Amazon Paperwhite are better picks.
But we understand that many potential buyers are looking for the lowest price, and in that market this is a worthy challenger to the basic Kindle - which has a lower screen sharpness still (at just 167ppi) and half the storage, but gives you access to the Kindle Store.
Read our full Kobo Nia review
7. Kindle Kids Edition - Best for Kids
A different kind of tablet for kids, the Kindle removes the distractions of apps, games and other stuff and ensures they can focus on reading.
You get a 12-month subscription to Fire for Kids Unlimited / FreeTime Unlimited which includes over 1000 books for kids of various ages. There's also 8GB of storage which is double the cheapest Kindle.
The selection is not the best it could be, but overall this is a decent package for the money. If you're not too fussed about those extras then you can save money by just getting the regular Kindle.
Read our full Amazon Kindle Kids Edition review
8. Kobo Clara HD - Best Value
Canadian e-reader company Kobo offers a minimalist alternative to Amazon’s Kindle Paperwhite.
For the price, you get a 6in touchscreen e-reader with 300ppi resolution and Wi-Fi connectivity – all packed into a slim, lithe body.
It is a simple and straightforward option for those on the go.
Read our full Kobo Clara HD review
How to choose an eReader
There are plenty of reasons why investing in a dedicated eReader is a good idea. They're a lot cheaper than an iPad, for example, and they’re simply a better tool for the task in hand. They can also be lighter than a book, yet store thousands of books, so you can read your way through a fortnight-long holiday just by taking your eReader along.
Most eReaders have a 6in screen, although some go a little bigger - the Kobo Forma has an 8in whopper. It looks much like paper and is easier on the eyes than the colour LCD screen of a phone or tablet, and it won't stop you going to sleep like the blue light emitted from an LCD screen can, so eReaders are better for late-night reading.
This type of screen excels in bright sunlight, which can cause reflections on the glossy screens of other mobile devices. They are also an ideal size and weight to comfortably cradle for prolonged periods. Most modern eReaders have a touchscreen and weigh around 200g or less, so will happily slip into your bag or an oversized pocket for reading on the road.
Battery life is also much better on dedicated eReaders than phones and tablets, here measured in page turns rather than hours. So while your tablet could conk out halfway home, creating a genuine cliffhanger at the most inopportune point within your novel, an eReader could keep going for weeks or even months without needing a recharge.
Bear in mind, though, that eReaders with built-in backlights (technically they’re front lights, but we’ll use the conventional term since everyone knows what it means) will last much less time between charges if you use the light all the time.
Content is an important consideration, as your device may be restricted to its manufacturer’s own bookstore. For example, Kindle eReaders are limited to Amazon’s admittedly very well-stocked online bookstore, while Kobo eReaders let you browse other stores.
Read our Kindle Store vs Kobo Store comparison to find out more.
A memory card can boost the storage capacity for ebooks and, if supported, music, video and other media. Be sure to check which file formats a device supports - not just media, but also whether it can handle ePub, PDF, TXT, RTF and other document file types. Kindles don't support ePub, but here's how to put ePub ebooks onto a Kindle.
Also consider connectivity. While your device will probably hold more than enough books to keep you occupied until you’re next in range of a Wi-Fi hotspot, a cellular connection will allow you to download content on the move. It will also add to the device’s price.