Finding which of the best Kindles and e-readers is right for you shouldn’t be too tough. But Amazon had to complicate things. It now sells three Paperwhite Kindles and two other models, plus kids versions of the regular Kindle and the Paperwhite. What once was simple as reading a page-turner is now not so easy.
While we just reviewed the latest Kindle alternative, our favorite e-reader and best Kindle overall, though, is the basic Kindle Paperwhite. Truly the ideal model for most, it has a bigger and better display than before, plus USB-C charging and longer battery life. But what if you want physical buttons, or don’t want to spend over $100? Things get complicated.
And right now, Amazon’s making it easier than ever to upgrade with its new trade-in program that nets a gift card based on your Kindle’s worth and a coupon for 20% off a new one.
We’ve even examined competitors trying to take Amazon’s throne (none have made much of a dent). Yes, while Amazon’s Kindles own the market, other do try and compete.
Amazon wasn’t the first company to release an E Ink e-reader (that was Sony, which launched the Librie in 2004), but when the first Kindle was released in 2007, it sold out in five hours. That initial success was likely due to Amazon’s huge library of e-content.
We keep raving to folks looking for a good read to check out Mox, the memoir novel of pro wrestler Jon Moxley. It’s a series of short-burts of writing telling the athlete’s story of going from bring broke to working on the biggest stage in his industry completely out of order, and it somehow works. Also, check out A Certain Hunger, provided you’re adult enough to take on its unique tale of cannibalism. Debut novelist Chelsea G. Summers has wowed readers (and critics) with this fantastic tale of Dorothy Daniels, a food critic whose taste for lovers takes place in the bedroom and the kitchen.
We’ve pulled together the best e-book reader apps for those who want to read on more than just an e-reader (though these screens are easier on your eyes). And for your Kindle? Check out our tips for how to get free ebooks.
What are the best Kindles and e-readers?
The best Kindle overall is the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite, and it’s right for most users, without a doubt. It costs $139, sports a sharp 6.8-inch, 300-ppi backlit display, packs 8GB of storage and can withstand a dunk in the water. It’s basically the Goldilocks pick: it’s not too expensive, and not too sparse with features, and gives you most everything you could ask for in a Kindle, in the design most people like.
We would love the Paperwhite if it were a little more affordable, but it’s plain to see that it’s the optimal device for reading in any condition. No matter if your vacation is in the sun or shade, or if you’re just on a day trip at the beach, or consuming a gripping page-turner in the bath — it’s a great way to devour a new book, or re-read a favorite.
The best Kindle under $100 is the Amazon Kindle (2019), though it’s the only Kindle under $100. This $90 has e-reader has display lighting and a slightly smaller size screen, but half the resolution and half the storage. Read on to find out which is the best Kindle for you.
The best Kindles you can buy today
Small changes lead to great products staying great, and such is the case with the new Kindle Paperwhite (2021). It’s got the same basic look as previous Kindles and Kindle Paperwhite models, a matte black shell and an e-ink screen, but this time it’s larger, with a 6.8-inch panel. The bezels are also smaller, so the device didn’t have to grow too much to accommodate the growth from a 6-inch panel.
While it’s still a super-sharp 300-ppi display, it’s now supported by an array of 17 LED backlights, for incredibly even lighting. And it’s still got a great waterproofing (IPX8-rated) protection.
After the larger display, the big change this year is the move from microUSB charging to USB-C. It’s a welcome change if only for the reversible port. Faster charging doesn’t appear to be on the table, but the microUSB port has been around for way too long, and is often fragile, so we’re happy to see it go.
The Paperwhite costs slightly more than half as much as the $250 Kindle Oasis, coming in at $139 ($10 more than in previous years). That said, it’s gained one of the Oasis’ once unique features: display warmth. Our testing of the Paperwhite 2021’s waterproofing included a 20 minute bath in our sink. It worked just as well as it did before when we took it out.
Read our full Amazon Kindle Paperwhite (2021) review, and stay tuned for our review of the Paperwhite Kids Edition.
Rather spend your money on more books? The cheapest Kindle e-reader is $89, and a new perk makes it more interesting for bookworms on tight budgets. This E Ink device is lightweight and easy to use for hours, and its chassis is no weaker than that of our top pick, the Paperwhite. The regular Kindle also has a touch-screen display, and those ensconced in the Amazon ecosystem can benefit from Goodreads integration and FreeTime Unlimited.
The Kindle’s front-facing lighting finally brings it closer to parity with the Paperwhite. We’re guessing most bookworms also like to read in the dark and may not want to disturb a sleeping partner by turning on a bedroom light. Overall, this is the best Kindle for those on a budget, as well as those voracious readers who would rather spend on books themselves, and not hardware. Now that some folks are moving from physical books, these things don’t grow on trees anymore.
Read our full Amazon Kindle (2019) review.
Amazon’s latest Kindle improves on the $90 Kindle by adding what’s missing and chipping away at the cruft that fills up a regular Kindle. Kids will like it for the colored cases, while parents will love Amazon’s 2-year no-questions-asked warranty. Even better, there are no lock screen ads. In fact, the Kids Edition is so close to our ideal Kindle interface, we wish Amazon would offer it as a mode for adults who just want to read the book, and not dabble in the Goodreads community.
Otherwise, the Kindle Kids Edition is the same tablet as the 2019 Kindle. You get the same 6-inch, 167 ppi display and front lighting, and the display is still inset, not flush with the frame. Oh and it’s even got helpful vocabulary building tools and a free year (a $60 value) of Amazon’s Amazon Kids+ (fka FreeTime Unlimited), which has thousands of titles. The Kindle Kids Edition was so popular that Amazon’s making a Kindle Paperwhite Kids Edition, which we will review soon.
Read our full Amazon Kindle Kids Edition review.
What if you’re tired of small, incremental change? Yes, the Kindle Paperwhite (2021) has lighting warmth and USB-C and a slightly larger screen, but for those who think this update’s a bit slight, Amazon has the Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition. It’s got the same 6.8-inch, 300-ppi panel as the regular Paperwhite, with smaller bezels and fantastically-even backlighting plus IPX8-rated waterproofing protection. But there’s more on top.
The Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition can be charged via Qi-based wireless chargers, plus its backlighting is automatically-adjusting. Plus, 4x as much storage and no on-screen ads. Not all of those features may be huge for everyone, but we’re betting at least one is interesting for all. But at $189, it’s a pretty pricey tablet. It’s sitting right between the normal Paperwhite and the Oasis, and a good option if you have the money.
Read our full Amazon Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition review, and stay tuned for our review of the Paperwhite Kids Edition.
The new Kindle Oasis still offers Amazon’s most luxurious reading experience, with its machined aluminum back, larger screen, physical buttons, automatic lighting adjustments and very well-lit screen (using 25 LEDs) — screams “first class.” Its Oasis moniker is earned from its IPX8-rated water resistance, which allows it to survive hour-long baths. The device also supports Audible’s audiobooks, as long as you’ve got a Bluetooth device handy.
The Oasis’s curved back and physical buttons give you an easier way to get a grip and a way to read your book without tapping the screen. While the Oasis is the best Kindle for those who can splurge, we just wish it didn’t cost nearly twice as much as the Kindle Paperwhite. It’s the Kindle with more effort put into its design, losing the simple and utilitarian aesthetic of the regular Kindle and the Paperwhite.
Read our full Amazon Kindle Oasis (2019) review.
Amazon doesn’t run the whole e-reader world, so we occasionally test competitors’ e-readers. And while the Nook Glowlight 4 isn’t better than any Kindle, it’s got minor tweaks and updates that give us reason to give it some attention here. One of its best features is it’s no-fuss reading interface, which gets out of your way when it’s time to read (Amazon could do this, and we wish it would).
That said, for a $140 e-reader, it’s lacking waterproofing, which the Paperwhite offers. Oh, and loading up library books, proved to be a frustrating process. But for the reader who doesn’t want to use an Amazon-made device? The Glowlight 4 may be the best Kindle alternative for them. We’re looking into testing more competitors to find them a better option.
Read our full Nook GlowLight 4 review.
How to choose the best Kindle for you
Let’s start with your budget, as that’s the easiest way to make this call. If you’re running tight right now, the $90 Kindle is a solid recommendation. Its lighting is good enough for a handful of situations and its battery life is nothing to sneeze at.
If money is no option, then you’re going to be choosing between the Kindle Paperwhite and the Kindle Oasis, and this is sort of tough. If you prefer your devices to be built with a harder plastic, that still feels reliable, then you’ve probably got the Paperwhite in mind. It offers the same water resistance as the Oasis, and is similar in many regards.
But if you’re tired of futzing with menus, and changing brightness, you will probably want the Kindle Oasis. Its display automatically adjusts to ambient lighting situations, maybe its best unique feature overall — as its metallic, not-symmetrical design is a bit divisive in our office.
How we test Kindles and e-readers
In addition to evaluating e-readers’ size, weight, claimed battery life and design choices, we test their brightness using our light meter. The experience of reading on the device also plays a huge role in these reviews. For instance, we look at the intuitiveness of the interface, the size of the available library and how well the special features (such as web browsers or dictionaries) work.
We’ve also tried alternatives to the Kindle, such as the Kobo Nia. While it’s not one of our best picks, its interface is great for those who want to stay focused on books, and isn’t as focused on supplementary content as Amazon’s Kindles are.
We also track how many hours we spent reading on the Kindle, and the percentage of remaining battery life, and compare that against the company’s estimations. And then, naturally, we read and read and read. At home, on the bus, in the park and anywhere else where the lighting changes.
We even drop water-proof Kindles into our makeshift dunk tank, and watch as they survive — the first time it was surprising, and now it’s become something we expect. Lastly, we try and see if Amazon’s changed anything about how Kindles work with public libraries. It’s the one thing we prefer about competitors.