Best E-Readers of 2018

An e-reader provides conveniences and budget-friendly options that simply can't be matched by its paper counterpart. Our shopping guide is here to help you find the best e-reader to fit your lifestyle and budget.

Have You Experienced the Joy of E-Reading Yet?

There's nothing quite like curling up with a good book, but how about curling up with a good e-reader? While the term "e-reader" might not have the same ring to it, many people prefer the convenience of e-books over paper books.

If you're new to the world of e-readers, selecting the best one to fit your needs can seem a little daunting. With all the talk of "e-ink" and "front-lit screens," you might find yourself a bit lost.

The good news is we at BestReviews are here to cut through the jargon and help you find the right e-reader for you. We pride ourselves on creating fair and thorough reviews that guide consumers through purchasing decisions. To do so, we test products in our labs, consult experts, gather opinions from existing customers, and perform extensive research.

Read on for our full guide to all things e-reader.

Older e-readers tend to be button-operated, whereas most new e-readers have a touchscreen.

Why Choose an E-Reader Over Paper Books?

Even the staunchest paperback fanatics must realize that, at times, an e-reader is simply more convenient than a paper book. Let's examine some of the reasons why you might choose an e-reader over paper books.

  • If you plan to do a lot of reading on vacation, a single e-reader consumes a lot less space in your suitcase.
  • E-books are searchable. If you're trying to relocate a passage in your book, it's convenient and easy to do so. This is particularly helpful for students as they research papers and study for exams.
  • People who live in cramped quarters may not have the space for bookshelves. Smaller homes and college dormitories are far more conducive to e-readers than they are to stacks of books.
  • Despite the upfront cost, the total expense of an e-book is usually less than the expense of buying paper books. What's more, you can download some e-books for free.
  • E-readers are extremely portable, making them easy to read on the go.
  • You can easily buy new books on an e-reader and have them downloaded and ready to read in a matter of seconds. No need to go to a bookstore or wait for a delivery.
With an e-reader, you can keep your entire library in your pocket, where it's ready to be accessed at any time in any place.

Which Type of E-Reader Should You Get?

You can find three main types of e-readers for sale today: LCD e-readers, e-ink e-readers, and front-lit e-readers. Below, we'll outline the pros and cons of each.

LCD E-Readers

LCD e-readers have liquid crystal display (LCD) screens just like the screens found on most laptops and smartphones.

Pros:

  • LCD e-readers have color screens, so they're suitable for reading illustrated children's books and cookbooks with photos.
  • Because LCD e-readers are backlit, you can use them to read in the dark.
  • Many LCD e-readers function like basic tablets. In addition to reading, you can use them to watch videos and access the internet.

Cons:

  • Screen glare is an issue with LCD displays. It can be difficult to read an LCD screen in strong, direct sunlight.
  • Typeface appears less crisp on LCD e-readers than it does on e-ink e-readers.
  • LCD e-readers have much shorter battery life than those using e-ink.

E-Ink E-Readers

E-ink e-readers have screens that are illuminated by reflected ambient light.

Pros:

  • E-ink is sometimes referred to as electronic paper, as it looks more like real paper than an LCD screen does. As such, your reading experience on an e-ink reader is more akin to reading a paper book, and there's less risk of eye strain.
  • You get an exceptionally long battery life with e-ink e-readers. In most cases, they only need charging every few weeks.
  • E-ink e-readers don't glare in direct sunlight, so you can read them outside on a bright day.

Cons:

  • Since e-ink screens are illuminated using reflected ambient light, you can't read them in the dark without an external light source—unless the e-ink reader comes with a built-in light.
  • E-ink e-readers tend to have a slower refresh rate than LCD screens, so new pages don't load as smoothly.

Front-lit E-Readers

Front-lit e-readers are a variation on e-ink screens.

Pros:

  • Unlike standard e-ink types, front-lit e-readers can be read in the dark.
  • Frontlit e-readers have exceptionally crisp displays that aren't harsh on the eyes.
  • Like standard e-ink screens, you can read a front-lit e-reader outside without running into the issue of screen glare.

Con:

  • Most front-lit e-readers are in black-and-white only, so they're not ideal for books with color photos or illustrations.

Front-lit e-readers offer the latest in e-ink screen technology. They're superior to regular e-ink screens because you can read them in the dark. Furthermore, you don't encounter the issues with screen glare that you would with an LCD e-reader.

Which E-Reader Features Matter Most?

Storage Space

It's important that you choose an e-reader with enough internal storage space to house all the e-books in your collection. Depending on the size of each e-book, you should be able to fit about 500 books onto your e-reader per 1GB of storage space. However, you should bear in mind that not all of an e-reader's advertised storage space will be usable, since some of it is taken up by the operating system.

Battery Life

An e-reader with a short battery life may frustrate some readers. If this sounds like you, check to make sure your chosen e-reader has a decent battery life. You can count on going two to four weeks between charges with a standard e-ink or backlit screen. And if you use the e-reader only occasionally, it might take more like two months for the battery to wear down. LCD e-readers, on the other hand, are likely to need daily charging.

Connectivity

Do you want to be able to connect to the internet with your e-reader? To download e-books, you'll need that capability. Most e-readers come with Wi-Fi connectivity as standard, but some models have a 3G option for an additional fee. While 3G will allow you to download e-books on the go (even when you don't have Wi-Fi), many users find it an unnecessary extra. You'd have to arrange and pay for a data plan with 3G too.

E-Book Format Compatibility

E-books come in different formats depending on where you purchase them, and not all e-readers recognize all formats. Many e-book stores use the ePub format, but Kindles aren't compatible with it. This won't be a problem if you plan on doing all your e-book shopping on Amazon, however, since Amazon's e-books are compatible with Kindle.

Screen Size

Which screen size would you prefer to read on? The most common screens measure six inches diagonally. Six-inch screens are highly portable while still being large enough to read comfortably. But e-readers do come in a range of sizes, from tiny 4-inch models to giant 13-inch behemoths.

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Select a Screen Size That Is Portable Enough for Your Lifestyle

When deciding what screen size you want for your e-reader, remember that screen size is measured diagonally from the top left corner to the bottom right corner rather than horizontally or vertically.

How Much Should You Pay for an E-Reader?

Here's what you should expect to pay for an e-reader.

  • $50 to $70: Basic e-ink or LCD e-readers fall within this price range. You might not get the best display quality, and there may be a smaller amount of internal storage than you'd get from a pricier e-reader.
  • $70 to $100: You can get some great mid-level e-readers in this price range, but you're unlikely to find a front-lit option.
  • $100 to $150: High-end front-lit e-readers are found in this pricing tier. These e-readers have the best screen technology, plenty of storage space, and a crisp display.

If you have the budget for it, we recommend spending the money to get a front-lit e-reader. These e-readers offer many benefits and few drawbacks, though they do tend to cost more.

E-Reader FAQ

Q. How do I load e-books onto my e-reader?
A. To get e-books onto your e-reader, you must first download them from an external source, such as a store or library. The process for doing so varies from model to model, so it's best to check your instruction manual before attempting it. You'll need to either be connected to Wi-Fi or have a 3G model with a data plan in place.

Q. Are all books available in e-book format?
A. Due to the current popularity of e-books, almost every new book published is available as an e-book. Likewise, most classic novels and popular or cult literary works have an e-book version available. But not every book is published in e-book format. For example, if you're searching for your favorite DIY manual from 1986 in e-book format, you're unlikely to find it.

Q. Are there any free e-books available?
A. Yes, you might be surprised by how many e-books you can find for free. Copyright laws can get a bit confusing, but as a rule, novels enter the public domain after a set length of time. This used to be 75 years after the date of publication, but it is now 95 years. After 95 years, a book can be reproduced without paying royalties to the author or his/her estate.

Websites like Project Gutenberg offer free e-books of novels that are in the public domain. You can also occasionally find free e-books from authors who have voluntarily offered their books for no charge. Look to your favorite e-book store and you should find a good selection.

Some e-readers offer features beyond simple book display, such as music playback and internet browsing.
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