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Updated: 19 May 2022

How we test ebook readers

Discover how we test the latest ebook readers to find the most durable models with the highest screen quality.
Michael Passingham

We put every ebook reader through a series of gruelling tests. Whether you're using your ebook reader on a beach, in bed or while squashed on a train, we'll be able to recommend an ebook reader that won't disappoint.

Each ebook reader we review is put through its paces using a combination of tests designed to mimic how you will use your device in real life. We test whether ebook readers can stand up to the bumps and scratches that come with living at the bottom of your bag, and see how easy they are to read in a variety of light conditions.

No matter how and where you intend to use your ebook reader, we'll be able to tell you which model is the perfect fit for you. Our ebook-reader reviews answer common questions such as:

  • What's the screen quality like?
  • How easy is it to read in different light conditions?
  • How durable is the screen?
  • Is it easy to download books from the ebook store?
  • Should I buy it?

With the help of our experts, we rate every ebook reader passing through our test lab, offering a comprehensive review that you can trust.

Head over to our ebook reader reviews page to see which models offer great value for money.

How we assess ebook-reader screen quality

Ebook readers are designed to accompany you anywhere and everywhere, which is why it’s essential that they’re easily readable in all sorts of conditions. We run a series of screen-quality tests in different light conditions to see how well each device performs.

The beach test – We get two experienced assessors to use every ebook reader in bright light. We then change the intensity of the light – just like when you're reading on the beach and the sun goes behind a cloud. From this, we can see whether the ebook reader's screen adapts to changing light conditions and whether it remains comfortable to read throughout.

Reading in bed – We also test ebook readers in normal light conditions and in near darkness. This is to see how the built-in light of an ebook reader can cope, so you'll know if a device will work the way you want it to at night. We want to provide a clear picture of how ebook readers behave in a variety of situations.

Magazines, newspapers and illustrated books – Ebook readers aren't just made for reading books: you can also read magazines, newspapers, recipe books and illustrated books. We download a mixture of content to check how well the screen displays these types of publications too. Our test-programme reading list includes the children's classic Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl, The Guinness Book of World Records and the morning's copy of The Times.

How durable is the screen?

Following feedback from Which? members reporting that some ebook-reader screens break too easily, we’ve incorporated display durability into our test programme.

We run two tests to investigate how sturdy each device is. Some ebook readers prove to be much sturdier than others, though we'd still recommend that you use a case to protect your device if you're tossing it into a handbag.

The scratch test – Designed to mimic a key pressing against the screen when stowed in your bag, we run a pointed implement across the screen. We increase the force until the screen breaks to assess how much pressure the device can withstand. Our tests reveal a large variance in the resilience of each device.

The drop test – We simulate the effect of an impact on the device by dropping a ball bearing on to the screen from increased heights. This test reveals how likely the device is to survive if dropped from a height or if it's accidentally stood on.

Is it easy to download books from the store?

Getting books on to your device is crucial to the ebook-reader experience. After all, you don't want to waste valuable reading time wrestling with an awkward-to-use online store.

If the process isn't smooth and simple, it can leave you wishing you’d packed a paperback instead. We assess how easy it is to download books on to the device, as well as what file formats are supported, whether you're tied to one ebook store and if there's an option to borrow books for free from an online library.

Should I buy it?

Using all the test data, we award each ebook reader a total test score so that you can easily see which are the best and worst. The score that we give each ebook reader is made up of a combination of elements – you can see the breakdown below.

Please note that we don't take price into account. However, we do give Great Value logos to high-performing devices that are cheaper than your average Best Buy.

  • 50% performance
  • 25% ease of use
  • 15% features
  • 10% durability

An ebook reader has to achieve 84% or more to be a Best Buy. Our best ebook readers advice page has more tips on picking the model that's right for you.