Whether you’re an avid mystery reader, a classic lit addict, or a voracious consumer of fantasy novels, reading books online is a great option, and an ebook reader is a great investment. An ebook reader that can be loaded up with all of your favorites saves space in your backpack and strain on your back. And it can also help you save some of the money that you’d typically spend on print copies of books. (That’s especially true if you look for free ebooks.) Ebook readers range in cost between $50 and $300, feature screens measuring somewhere between 5 and 10 inches, and most offer long battery life to offer hours of reading, whether you favor a classic novel or the summer’s hottest new release.
As Consumer Reports reviewers note, most ebook readers use screens that are illuminated by ambient light for long battery life. A few use LCD screens, which are easier to read in dim light. You’ll select the book you want to read with buttons, bars, or an onscreen swipe for touchscreen models. You can read ebooks on your smartphone, your tablet, or your laptop, but you may want to upgrade to an ebook reader if you find yourself doing lots of reading on your device. Depending on the model, ebook readers can download books (or magazines or newspapers) via a 3G network, on a Wi-Fi connection, or via a USB cord and a computer.
An ebook reader is a great purchase for voracious readers who would otherwise always be lugging a book around. They’re also useful for readers with visual impairments. A tablet with a full app store, web browser, and more robust processor and graphics offers more versatility than a single-purpose ebook reader, but tablets offer shorter battery life and less-readable type. The top names behind the ebook readers currently on the market include Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Ectaco, and Kobo. Different readers use different ebook stores and support different file formats. When you’re shopping, you’ll need to think about the screen size, screen type, connectivity, and performance level that works best for you. The ebook readers ahead receive top marks from Consumer Reports, and represent the variety of choices that the market has to offer.
5. Amazon Kindle Paperwhite ebook reader
The Amazon Kindle Paperwhite is a 6-inch ebook reader with a monochrome Carta E-ink display, a built-in light, 4GB of memory, touchscreen navigation, and both 3G and Wi-Fi for buying ebooks. (A model with Wi-Fi only is also available.) Reviewers report that the 6-inch screen “offers the best combination of display size, portability, and price for must buyers,” and the monochrome screen has very crisp type. This is one of the best models if you plan on reading in bright light, like at the beach. It’s also one of the best for reading in low light, like on an airplane, without needing to pack a separate book light. Additionally, reviewers noted that this model is one of the most responsive. It turns on almost immediately from sleep mode, opens books with almost no delay, and turns pages extremely quickly. The device supports a wide variety of file formats, and you can purchase titles from the integrated ebook store or borrow ebooks from public libraries. You can download books via either Wi-Fi or 3G, but can only browse the web with the Wi-Fi connection.
4. Barnes & Noble Nook Lowlight Plus ebook reader
The Barnes & Noble Nook Glowlight Plus is a 6-inch ebook reader with a monochrome Carta E-ink display, a built-in light, 4GB of memory, touchscreen navigation, and Wi-Fi for buying ebooks. The high-resolution screen is an upgrade over the (still excellent) display of the previous model, and the built-in light illuminates the page evenly. Unlike on other ebook readers, you won’t see the page refresh, where the screen “blinks” every few pages. The crisp type seen on this model is easy to read in bright or dim light, and the largest type size is bigger than on most other models, which makes it easier to read for users with visual impairments. Responsiveness is excellent, and navigation, which is done via a touchscreen, is easy. You can search your collection, which is convenient if you have lots of ebooks. You can purchase books through the integrated Barnes & Noble ebook store, and this reader supports ebook loans from public libraries. Additionally, the device is waterproof and gets up to six weeks of battery life on a single charge.
3. Kobo Aura H2O ebook reader
The Kobo Aura H2O is a 6.8-inch ebook reader with a monochrome Carta E-ink display, a built-in light, 4GB of memory, touchscreen navigation, and Wi-Fi for buying ebooks. This model has almost the same screen resolution as the Kindle Voyage (Consumer Reports researchers’ top pick, which we’ll cover shortly). The front light evenly illuminates the screen, though not quite as well as on some other models. The H2O is resistant to dust and water, and reviewers submerged it in three feet of water for 30 minutes with no ill effects. You can choose from about 4 million ebooks in Kobo’s bookstore, and the device supports the widest range of file formats. A memory card slot also enables you to add supplementary storage to accommodate thousands more ebooks.
2. Amazon Kindle Oasis ebook reader
The Amazon Kindle Oasis is a 6-inch ebook reader with a monochrome Carta E-ink display, a built-in light, 4GB of memory, a touchscreen for navigation, and WiFi for buying ebooks. This model provides excellent performance, with crisp type, a screen that’s easy to read in bright light or dim light, and fast responsiveness. You can create your own bookmarks, and the last page that you read is automatically saved. You can also search through your library to find titles, which is great if you have a sizable collection stored on the ebook reader. Books you purchase are downloaded via Wi-Fi, and the device supports a wide variety of common file formats. This model has a touchscreen, which you can swipe or touch to turn the page, but also features page forward and back buttons.
1. Amazon Kindle Voyage ebook reader
The Amazon Kindle Voyage is a 6-inch ebook reader with a monochrome Carta E-ink display, a built-in light, 4GB of memory, a touchscreen for navigation, and 3G and Wi-Fi for purchasing ebooks. (A version with Wi-Fi only is also available.) This model features touch areas on the side bezels, which enables you to squeeze to turn pages, or you can tap on the touchscreen. The 3G connectivity works well, but is only for downloading ebooks. This model offers very crisp type, excellent responsiveness, and useful features like the ability to create bookmarks or search your library for the title you want. Reviewers found that file support and versatility are “very good,” which makes it very likely that you’ll be able to use it to read all of the titles on your reading list.