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19 July 2021

How to buy the best ebook reader

Ebook readers hold thousands of books in a device that's lighter than your average paperback. Our expert guide will help you to pick the best ebook reader for you.
Michael Passingham
Reading ebook

Ebook readers can store thousands of books, magazines and newspapers, so you'll never run out of reading material while you’re out and about. But when it comes to extra features, there are a lot of decisions to make when choosing between different Kindle and Kobo models.

Ebook readers start at about £60 for a basic model, but can cost more than £200 if you want something with all the latest features such as screen lighting, waterproofing and the best-quality screen that's easy to read no matter the weather.

Best ebook readers

Ebook manufacturers don't launch new models very often, and when they are launched they tend to stick around for a few years. Below we've highlighted the very best models from the past few years that are still available to buy. Click through to each review to find out more.

Only logged-in Which? members can view our recommendations in the table below. If you’re not yet a member, you can get instant access by joining Which?

  • 82%
    £109.99

    This mid-range model does a decent job in all tests and has plenty of useful features. It's a little cheaper than its main rival, too, making it a tempting choice.

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  • 84%
    £199.00

    This large ebook reader is well worth a look and features lots of premium features. It's an easy Best Buy.

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  • 87%
    £229.00

    This high-end model is packed with features and a sumptuous, large screen. It's expensive, though, and only those with very specific needs should consider it.

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  • 89%
    £109.99

    This mid-tier ebook reader is our highest-scoring model, which is impressive given the price. It's well worth buying and is the best-value ebook reader around.

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  • 91%
    £69.00

    The latest base model Kindle is more expensive than the previous-generation 2016 model, and now features audiobook support and has a screen light built in. This puts it on nearly an equal footing with the Kindle Paperwhite. Read our full review to find out whether it cuts the mustard.

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Product recommendations correct as of April 2021

Should you buy an ebook reader or use a tablet or smartphone app?

An ebook reader is designed specifically for reading ebooks and not a great deal else, so it's optimised for this. Some ebook readers let you browse specific web pages, but the experience is limited.

However, you can also read books on an iOS or Android smartphone or tablet using ebook apps from Amazon Kindle, Apple Books, Google Play, Kobo and more. 

If you want to read books in digital format, you'll need to decide whether to spend your money on a dedicated ebook reader or use a smartphone or tablet app instead. We've analysed the pros and cons of each option below.


Our guide on where to find free or cheap ebooks will help to keep even the biggest bookworms well supplied without spending a fortune.


Pros and cons of ebook readers

Pros

  • The e-ink display of an ebook reader is designed to be easy on the eye, so you should be able to read even under direct sunlight. 
  • Ebooks are designed to be light and slim – even lighter than the average paperback – and offer weeks of battery life at a time. 
  • Ebook readers tend to be cheaper than smartphones and tablets, with basic models costing less than £70. 
  • The very latest Kindles support audiobooks and text-to-speech.

Cons 

  • The black and white e-ink screens of ebook readers are less good at displaying images, or any content designed to be shown in colour. 
  • Ebook readers offer a relatively poor web-browsing experience compared with tablets and smartphones, and some don't let you browse online at all.
Man using a tablet and taking notes

Pros and cons of ebook reader apps

Pros

  • The most popular ebook reader apps are often free on smartphones and tablets, meaning you won't have to pay extra for an ebook reader to get access to a whole library of ebooks. 
  • The screens of the best tablets and smartphones are bright and colourful, and will display picture books and magazines better than an ebook reader. 
  • Tablets and mobiles are versatile and able to browse the web, play videos and perform all kinds of other functions.

Cons 

  • Battery life on tablets and smartphones is much lower than on ebook readers (hours versus weeks), so you might find yourself frequently running low on charge if you find a book you just can't put down. 
  • Reading in bright light can be trickier on a tablet, as sunlight tends to glare off the screen in a way that renders text unreadable, or causes eye strain.

How much should I spend on an ebook reader?

Ebook readers can cost as little as £60, but prices for the highest-end models are around £200. 

The basic software used and the books available will be the same across all models in a range. All Kindles, for example, can access exactly the same content, so if you're just after a cheap way of reading a few books on holiday, there's no need to spend more on a higher-end model. 

But as with any tech product, paying a bit more will get you more bells and whistles – such as more advanced backlights or 4G connectivity. We've highlighted some of the most useful features below.

Best ebook reader features to look for

  • 4G connectivity: All ebook readers let you connect to the internet via wi-fi so you can download books and other content, but some Amazon Kindles also let you connect over 4G. For a higher upfront cost (£60 extra on a Kindle Paperwhite in April 2021) you get unlimited 4G connectivity for downloading ebooks and other items from Amazon's Kindle store.
  • Advanced screen lights:  All current-generation (as of April 2021) Kobo and Kindle models come with LED backlights. Some models have lights that adapt to the time of day, so as it gets later the light will turn a warmer yellow (rather than the harsher, bluer light used during the daytime). This is said to aid sleep. Some models also have automatic brightness adjustments based on lighting conditions.
  • Faster processors: Top-spec Kindle and Kobo models are faster than their cheaper siblings. This doesn't make a huge difference when reading books (although you might notice page changes are slightly speedier), but it can be handy if you use your ebook reader to browse the web or to navigate PDF documents with images (read our guide to find out which ebook readers support PDFs).
  • High-resolution screens The more you spend on an ebook reader, the higher the resolution of the screen (meaning it looks sharper), measured in 'pixels per inch' (ppi). The base model Amazon Kindle has 167ppi, while top-spec models from Amazon and Kobo have 300ppi. 
  • Larger screens: The largest current ebook reader is the Kobo Forma, with an 8-inch screen. Of course, a bigger screen doesn't automatically mean a better ebook reader, and you might prefer the compact size of a 6-inch model.
  • More storage: Most people won't need more than 4GB of storage, and many won't even use half that. Upping your storage inevitably adds to the price (going from 8GB to 32GB on a Kobo Forma, for example, will cost you £50), and only those planning to download lots of image-heavy content, such as comics and graphic novels, or audiobooks (Kindle only), are likely to need a lot. 
  • Waterproof ebook readers: These devices will survive an unexpected rain shower or even a (brief) dip in the bath. We test all ebook readers with claimed waterproofing by plunging them in some soapy water. See more on how we test ebook readers.