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27 Nov 2019

Are you buying an ebook reader on Black Friday? Here's how to make the most of it

Whether it's for you or someone else, we've got the key advice you need to know

by Sandra Vogel and Tom Morgan

Black Friday sales are upon us, which means popular ebook readers from Amazon and Kobo are on offer for a limited time. To help ebook reader newbies, we're running through some of the latest Black Friday deals and sharing tips on how to build your library.

Ebook readers have been with us for more than a decade. The first Kindle was launched in November 2007, and since then millions have made the leap and read many or even all of their books electronically.

However, many people still only read paper books, so if you're thinking of buying an ebook reader on Black Friday, either to make the leap yourself or as a gift for someone else, we've got all the information you need.

Best ebook readers - top-notch screens and impressive battery life.

Black Friday ebook reader deals

Amazon Kindle 2019 - was £69.99, now £54.99 (21% off)

We liked: Easy to use, screen light feature
We didn't like: No waterproofing

Amazon's entry-level ebook reader is the Kindle. For a limited time, you can grab one from Amazon at £54.99, equating to a £15 saving. This affordable ebook reader has a 6-inch display and a screen light that lets you enjoy your favourite novels in low light.

Read our full Amazon Kindle 2019 review, or buy it now on Amazon.

Amazon Kindle Oasis - was £319.99, now £269.99 (16% off)

We liked: Impressive screen, comfortable to hold
We didn't like: Not the most durable ebook reader around

The Oasis is the priciest member of the Kindle family. It has a 7-inch display and can be purchased with or without 4G connectivity. Amazon's discounted model comes with 32GB of internal storage, which is enough for thousands of books.

Read our full Amazon Kindle Oasis review, or buy it now on Amazon.

Kobo Forma - £199

We liked: Large screen, clear text
We didn't like: Heavy compared with small models, no support for audiobooks

Kobo is Amazon's biggest rival and the Forma sits at the top of its range. It has a hefty 8-inch display and offers up access to the Rakuten Kobo book store and Overdrive lending library. The Forma's built-in backlight can be adjusted to appear 'warmer' (more orange) to reduce eye strain during the evening.

Read our full Kobo Forma review.

Make sure you pick the perfect ebook reader for you this Black Friday. Consult our selection of expert ebook reader reviews.

How to get started with ebooks

There are two leading brands of dedicated ebook readers in the UK: Amazon's Kindle, and the Kobo range. Both offer several options, with prices ranging from £70 to £260.

Both Amazon and Kobo offer iOS and Amazon apps so that you can read books from their stores on mobile devices, as well as desktop apps.

It's not just books you can read digitally: magazines, newspapers, comics and graphic novels are all available for ebook readers, and some ebook readers also support audiobooks.

Using an ebook reader: the good

With ebook readers designed to be portable, you'll have no trouble carrying them around. They're smaller and lighter than physical books and you can store thousands of page-turners on a single device.

Ebook readers use a technology called e-ink, which is greyscale and more restful to look at. Ebook readers are not backlit, and so the glare is much less than a tablet or phone. These screens use much less power than the full colour panels on phones, tablets and laptops and so will go for days or even weeks before recharging is needed.

Other benefits of using an ebook reader include:

  • Choice of fonts - ebook readers offer a range of fonts, including dyslexia-friendly fonts, so you can choose the one you prefer. You can also choose the text size to suit.
  • Syncing - you can sync your ebooks across devices, picking up from where you left off,
  • Connected - ebook readers come with wi-fi so that you can connect to its bookstore and your library to download books. Some also come with a Sim card so that you can download via the mobile networks.
  • Help with reading - ebook readers come with an built-in dictionary so that you can look up unfamiliar words.
  • Listen to your book - Kindle readers support audiobooks.

Using an ebook reader: the bad

While ebook readers are delightfully portable, there are some downsides to reading your books on a screen. For starters,e-ink displays aren't suited to photographs and graphics.

In terms of navigation, ebook readers don't make it easy to skip ahead or look back in a book. You'll have to manually tap through to find the page you're looking for. And then there's the cost - even the cheapest ebook reader is quite a hefty initial outlay.

Ebooks on your smartphone or tablet

If you don't want to shell out for an ebook reader, you can read ebooks on your phone, tablet or computer: both Kindle and Kobo ebook readers have free companion apps for Android smartphones and tablets, for iOS smartphones and tablets, and for Windows and Mac.

All you need is an account with either Kobo or Kindle, with a username and a password. If you're already an Amazon customer, your Amazon login is the one you'll use for Kindle.

Your account will be specific to you, rather than being tied to a particular app or device, so when you log in to an app you'll be able to see all your books, browse the store and get new ones. Your reading is stored in the cloud, so if you move from, say, your ebook reader to the app, you'll pick up in the app where you left off on the ebook reader.

It doesn't matter if your tablet runs iOS and your phone Android (or the other way round), as the apps will still synchronise because they are tied to your account.

Borrowing ebooks from libraries

A good way to get started with ebooks is to borrow them from a public library, which might also offer e-magazines and audiobooks. Typically, public library e-lending services support apps across a range of different devices, so you should find that smartphones, tablets and laptops are all supported.

Borrowing ebooks from a library is much the same as borrowing physical books: you can borrow them for a limited period with options to renew a loan depending on the popularity of the ebook. You can reserve ebooks that are already out on loan, and you'll also be limited in the number of ebooks you can have on loan at any one time.

You should get a warning when a loan period is coming to its end, and ebooks will be automatically returned when the loan finishes.

Managing your ebooks

Both Amazon and Kobo will keep your ebooks in their respective clouds, but you might also want to manage them yourself on a PC or a Mac, which a program called Calibre (below) can do for you.

With Calibre, you can manage a central store of all your ebooks, regardless of where you got them from. You can read ebooks from within the app and convert titles into other formats, including those suitable for Kobo and Kindle ebook readers.

To move the books over to your ebook reader, you'll need to use the charge cable to connect the ebook reader to your computer, then choose to send a book to your device, and Calibre will put a copy on to your ebook reader in the right format for reading.

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