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Which ebook readers support PDF, ePub and AZW?

By Tom Morgan

See which Amazon Kindle and Kobo ebook readers support PDF, ePub and AZW files, along with digital newspapers and magazines.

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There are a range of ebook readers on the market for avid readers to choose from, from the entry-level Kindle (£60) and Kobo Aura (£100) to the premium Kindle Oasis – the most expensive option at £270. Certain ebook readers deal better than others with image-packed documents, as our expert, in-depth testing has found.

While there's no shortage of ebook readers available, not every model to pass through our test lab can handle every type of file. The most popular formats you're likely to encounter using an ebook reader include PDFs (which can include images), ePubs (books you can rent from public libraries) and AZW, a type of file exclusive to the Kindle.

Read on as we take a closer look at which popular ebook readers from Amazon and Kobo are the best performers when it comes to compatibility, highlighting top models that can also display digital newspapers and magazines.

To see which top-rated ebook readers we've reviewed in our test lab, head to our Best Buy ebook readers page.

Which ebook readers can read PDF files?

PDF files are commonly used in a work environment. They can include images, graphics and interactive buttons, and can be password protected. Listed below are the ebook readers that support PDFs:

Amazon: Kindle Paperwhite 3G, Kindle Paperwhite (2013), Kindle (2014), Kindle Voyage, Kindle Paperwhite (2015), Kindle Oasis

Kobo: Touch, Glo, Aura HD, Aura, Aura H2O, Glo HD, Touch 2.0, Aura One, Aura (Edition 2)

Barnes & Noble: Nook Glowlight

Amazon and Kobo are the only big names still producing ebook readers, now that Sony and Barnes & Noble are out of the picture, and both brands make devices that support PDFs.

The entry-level Kindle supports PDF, as does the 6-inch Kindle Voyage, backlight-equipped Kindle Paperwhite and Kindle Oasis. Meanwhile, Kobo's waterproof Aura H2O is compatible, as is the Kobo Glo HD and the Touch 2.0, the company's cheapest ebook reader. The more recent Kobo Aura (Edition 2) and water-resistant Kobo Aura One are also on this list. We'll be testing both of these models later in the year.

Kobo's ebook readers offer a fairly basic experience when it comes to viewing PDF files. You can expect some slowdown if you're opening a large file, and in some instances we've found that margins eat up a fair chunk of display space, particularly on the Kobo Aura One. You can manually use the zoom slider to improve things, but it can be a little fiddly.

If you're reading a PDF that contains lots of images, you'll have a better experience using an ebook reader with a large screen. The Kobo Aura One has the biggest screen on the market, at 7.8 inches. If you're reading on a smaller device, such as the regular Kindle, turning the reader into landscape orientation can improve things, and you can also try zooming in. Because ebook readers aren't as powerful as tablets, the process of swiping through image-heavy documents can sometimes be sluggish.

Amazon Kindle and AZW files

All of Amazon's ebook readers support the AZW format, which is exclusive to the Kindle range. As a result, you can't read an AZW file on a Kobo, Sony or Barnes & Noble ebook reader. Listed below are the ebook readers with AZW support:

Amazon: Kindle Paperwhite 3G, Kindle Paperwhite (2013), Kindle (2014), Kindle Voyage, Kindle Paperwhite (2015), Kindle Oasis

AZW files are capable of storing page bookmarks, and can also remember where you were when you last read a particular title. If you download an ebook from Amazon's store, the file will be DRM-restricted – ie locked to the account that downloaded it, so it can't be transferred between Kindles. To find out more on Amazon's ebook reader range, head over to our Which Kindle should I buy? guide.

Which ebook readers can read free library ebooks?

You can borrow ebooks from most public libraries, and they're usually shared in the ePub format. Listed below are the ebook readers that support ePub files:

Kobo: Touch, Glo, Aura HD, Aura, Aura H2O, Glo HD, Touch 2.0, Aura One, Aura (Edition 2)

Barnes & Noble: Nook Glowlight

None of Amazon's Kindle models support ePub files, but Kobo devices manage this format with ease. Although you can borrow Kindle books from public libraries in the United States, this service is yet to reach the UK. Even so, it's still possible for Amazon Prime members in the UK to use the Kindle Owners' Lending Library at no extra cost. The service currently lists more than 600,000 titles.

The majority of public libraries that do rent out ebooks use a service called OverDrive. Kobo's Aura One comes with OverDrive pre-installed, so all you'll need to borrow digital titles is an internet connection and a library card.

Which ebook readers can read magazines and newspapers?

Ebook readers can deal with more than just regular books, as some popular models also support magazines and digital newspapers. Listed below are the ebook readers that let you read magazines and newspapers:

Amazon: Kindle Paperwhite 3G, Kindle Paperwhite (2013), Kindle (2014), Kindle Voyage, Kindle Paperwhite (2015), Kindle Oasis, Kindle (2016)

Barnes & Noble: Nook Glowlight

Amazon clearly has the advantage over Kobo in this regard, as none of Kobo's ebook readers allow users to download and view magazines and newspapers. At the time of writing, Kobo eMagazines can only be read on Android, iOS and Windows smartphones and tablets. If you like the idea of catching up on the latest headlines, we suggest you pick a Kindle ebook reader or try a mobile app.

Can I read ebooks and other documents on a tablet?

If you like the idea of editing, or simply viewing, large documents on the move, a tablet is better suited to the job than an ebook reader. Because ebook readers have e-ink displays and are less powerful than tablets, they tend to struggle with large files. Ebook readers specialise in displaying plain text and don't take things much further than that. 

You can still add, view and remove bookmarks on ebook readers, however. Amazon's Kindle range lets you add notes to books, for example, which is handy if you're studying or want to highlight a point of interest for others. Of course, these sorts of features are more advanced on tablets. To see our expert verdict on the latest and greatest tablets, head over to our tablet reviews page for more.

Looking for a new ebook reader? Our guide to the best ebook readers of 2016 can help you pick the perfect model for you.

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