Amazon Kindle versus Kobo ebook readers
By Oli McKean
What are the best ebook reader brands?
Amazon and Kobo are the largest companies of note still creating new ebooks. More and more bookworms are turning to free-to-download ebook apps for smartphones and tablets when building their digital book collection - hence why Sony and Barnes & Noble longer sell new ebook readers in the UK.
Amazon's Kindle range, which includes the entry-level Kindle, Paperwhite and premium Oasis, remains the top choice for buyers looking for a new ebook reader. Even so, Kobo is now a big contender to Kindle's crown, recently unveiling the Kobo Aura (Edition 2) ebook reader and its waterproof Kobo Aura One. Buyers happy with a second-hand model can still find ebook readers from Barnes & Noble and Sony online, but you'll struggle finding support if you run into hardware issues.
Listed below are the reliability scores for Amazon Kindle, Kobo and Barnes & Noble ebook readers. The highest-scoring brand of ebook reader achieved a reliability score of 89%, while the worst scored 76%. Scroll down for the details.
Look at our Best Buy ebook readers reviews to find out which models top our tests.
|Ebook reader brands rated|
|Brand||Average test score||Reliability rating||Customer score||Verdict|
|79%||77%||This brand has yet to produce an ebook reader that has scored less than 70% in our test lab. Which? members also have positive things to say about the brand, and ebook readers from this brand last for a long time. Just 10% of this brand's ebook readers experienced a fault in the first four years of ownership.|
|N/A||51%||This brand has the lowest customer score in our survey, although it performs well for reliability, finishing higher than key competitors.|
|80%||64%||This brand produces a wide range of ebook readers, but its customer score is surprisingly low. Our survey has found that the company's devices are less reliable than ebook readers from other brands in our survey.|
Amazon has released several iterations of its popular ebook reader. From the cheap and cheerful Kindle (2016) to the rather pricey Kindle Oasis with its unique charging case, there is a good selection of models to choose from. The depth of the Amazon Kindle range means that you're likely to find an ebook reader perfectly suited to you, regardless of your budget. We take a closer look at the pros and cons of the Kindle range, below.
Interested in a Kindle ebook reader? Take a look at our Kindle reviews page for more details on the latest and greatest.
- Kindles have easy access to a huge range of titles via the Kindle Store. Amazon tends to have the greatest range of ebooks, also offering free classic books. Our latest ebook store research has found that Amazon and Google go head-to-head for price.
- Amazon's ebook readers are ideal if you enjoy reading the news on the way into work, with access to UK and international papers and magazines on the Kindle bookstore.
- There is a good range of Kindles to choose from, whether you opt for the budget-priced Kindle (2016) for around £60 or the Oasis, which will set you back closer to £270.
- Kindle apps are available to download for Android and iOS smartphones and tablets, which means you can read on your Kindle then pick up from where you left off on your mobile. Even if you forget your Kindle, you won't be left without a good read.
- On the subject of accessibility, the latest version of the Kindle arrives with Bluetooth,which means visually impaired readers can put on some wireless headphones and tap the screen for spoken feedback.
- Kindles can't access the popular ePub format that lets you borrow ebooks from your local library. If you prefer to borrow rather than purchase, you'll find the Kindle disappointing. Meanwhile, Kobo's range of ebook readers do support the format.
- If you buy a Kindle, it's hard to swap brands in the future because your virtual library will use the AZW format, which isn't compatible with other brands.
- Kindles aren't waterproof. If you're after a waterproof ebook reader to use by the pool on holiday, it might be worth looking at Kobo's range. The Kobo Aura One, for example, comes with an IPX8 rating, which means it's waterproof for up to 60 minutes in up to 2 metres of water.
- Some Which? members have told us they've had issues with their Kindle's screen breaking or freezing. We survey thousands of ebook-reader owners every year to find out the scale of such problems.
Kobo ebook readers
Kobo ebook readers, sold by WHSmith and through Kobo directly, are quickly becoming well known in the UK market. While Sony and Barnes & Noble wave goodbye to ebook readers, Kobo is still releasing new models to offer alternatives to Amazon's Kindle range. The company also has its own smartphone and tablet offering in the form of the Kobo Reading app, which is home to over 4 million paid-for and free titles.
More recently, Kobo unveiled its IPX8-rated waterproof ebook reader - the Kobo Aura One - and the Kobo Aura (Edition 2). Click on the links to find out whether they offer serious competition to Amazon's Kindles. Prices for Kobo's ebook readers range from £70 up to around £190. If you want to learn more about Kobo's range of eook readers, take a look at our Kobo reviews page.
- Kobo ebook readers are compatible with the ePub format, so you can borrow books from the library and buy from different ebook stores. This sets them apart from Kindles, which are a little more limited when it comes to compatibility.
- The Kobo store has over four million titles, and a good selection of those are older books that are available to download for free.
- Some Kobo ebook readers come with unique features, such as the waterproof Kobo Aura H2O. The more recent Kobo Aura One can also survive a dip, and it features a unique 7.8-inch screen that automatically adjusts brightness levels to protect your eyes from glare.
- Kobo doesn't support audio books, so if you prefer listening to reading, you might be better off with another ebook reader or an MP3 player.
- At present, you can't download magazines or newspapers from the UK store.
- Kobo ebook readers are a cheaper alternative to Amazon's Kindle range, but this tends to be reflected in the quality of the devices. Some (such as the Kobo Touch 2.0) don't have a dedicated backlight, for example.
Barnes & Noble Nook
Barnes & Noble is a well-known ebook reader brand in America that originally launched the Nook in the UK. If you're after a Nook ebook reader now you'll have to settle for a second-hand model, or a refurbished unit. Barnes & Noble no longer sells ebook readers on its website.
Considering the average price of a second-hand Nook tends to land around the £40-50 mark, we think a new entry-level Kindle is a better option.
- Typically, devices from Barnes & Noble are fairly cheap.
- If you're willing to buy a used model and don't mind not being treated to firmware updates, you'll grab a solid ebook reader at a low price.
- Availability. This brand no longer sells its own ebook readers in the UK.
- Barnes & Noble has also stopped selling Nook Books in the UK, which means you'll need to sign up to Sainsbury's Entertainment on Demand to grab new digital titles.
- It’s possible to manually load ebooks onto the Nook Glowlight via USB, but it’s a time-consuming process.
- Nook models have a small internal memory with room for about 240 ebooks, significantly less than Amazon's basic Kindle, which can store over 1,000.
- There's no 3G support on the Nook. If you want to download ebooks on the go without wi-fi, the Nook isn't the ebook reader for you.
Sony ebook readers
Sony launched its first ebook readers in the UK back in 2007. While the brand has since looked to phase out its line of ebook readers, it's still possible to pick up a Sony Reader second-hand at a bargain price.
- Sony uses the ePub format, so you can buy books from a range of ebook stores, including Google and WHSmith.
- You can download free books to the Sony Reader from sites such as Project Gutenberg.
- The internal memory on Sony ebook readers tends to be relatively large, enough to store around 1,000 books.
- Sony models tend to be difficult to find brand new. However, they're still available from online stores such as Amazon and eBay.
- Though the Sony book store has been phased out, it's still possible to download ePub format books from other sources onto your Sony Reader.