Best E-Readers and Kindle Alternatives of 2021

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Why you should buy a dedicated e-reader

Why should you buy a dedicated e-reader over, or in addition to, a tablet (which you must already have)? There are several reasons.

  • E-reader’s non-reflective e-ink displays give you a better reading experience, much closer to that of reading a physical book. This is especially true if you’re reading outdoors, in beautiful sunshine.
  • E-readers have less distractions than tablets. You won’t be constantly fighting the temptation of games, videos, social media, emails etc.
  • E-readers provide much longer battery life.

Best e-readers from 6″ to 8″ (or 10.3″)

  • Amazon Kindle vs Rakuten Kobo
BrandsAmazon Kindle vs Rakuten Kobo
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is amazon-kindle.jpeg Amazon US has a massive selection of content
Sync with Readwise; Bluetooth connection; Audiobook
Select-and-Translate is very useful if you read in another language
More expensive for similar specs; Charges $20 extra to remove ads
Poor support for other formats
Less flexibility outside Amazon ecosystem / US market
Website: Amazon.com/kindle
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is rakuten-kobo.png Supports all ebook formats; more flexibility, esp. outside US market
Simplicity design, clean and easy to use
More affordable for similar specs
Big sizes available at 8″ Forma and 10.3″ Elipsa
Less features; smaller selection of content in US market; no audiobook
Website: Kobobooks.com/ereaders
  • Best 6″ & all around e-readers
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is kindle-paperwhite.jpgKindle Paperwhite
Waterproof; bluetooth; free cellular; 300dpi display
Amazon’s massive selection of content
Ability to select text and translate
Tied to Amazon ecosystem; no native support for EPUB etc
Costs extra $20 to remove ads
Giant bezel, making it much bigger than 6″ Kobo Clara HD
118,933 Reviews
$129.99 $89.99 at Amazon
Kobo Clara HDKobo Clara HD
Light; fast; smaller; 300 dpi display; no ads
Color changing front light (LED cold / natural warm)
Supports all the common file formats
No audiobooks; not waterproof
No bluetooth; no cellular; no USB-C
525 Reviews
$119.99 $95.72 at Amazon | Also at Kobobooks.com
  • Best 7β€³ premium e-readers
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is kindle-oasis-amazon-1024x1024.jpgKindle Oasis
Aluminum body. Great overall build quality
Dual core processor, very fast
Expensive
Even at this price, still charges $20 extra to remove ads
17,647 Reviews
$249.99 at Amazon
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is kobo-libra-1024x1024.jpgKobo Libra H20
Much more affordable than Kindle Oasis
Clean & simple software and interface; waterproof
Supports all the common file formats
Build quality not as good as Oasis
No audiobook; no bluetooth; no cellular
1,183 Reviews
$169.95 at Amazon | Also at Kobobooks.com
  • Best 6″ budget e-readers
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is amazon-kindle.jpgAmazon Kindle
Bluetooth and audiobook
Amazon’s massive selection of content
Charges $20 to remove ads
Slightly lower resolution at 167 PPI
39,694 Reviews
$89.99 at Amazon

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is kobo-nia.jpeg
Kobo Nia
Slightly higher resolution at 212 PPI
 Supports all the common file formats
 Clean & simple software and interface
No bluetooth, audiobook
9 Reviews
$99.99 at Amazon Also at Kobobooks.com
  • Best 8″ e-reader
Kobo Forma
8″ screen yet light for its size; Waterproof
Vertical and horizontal orientation
Public library & Dropbox integration
Build quality not as good as aluminum framed Kindle Oasis
70 Reviews
$249.99 at Amazon | Also at Kobobooks.com

Amazon Kindle vs Rakuten Kobo

Amazon Kindle and Rakuten Kobo are the top two brands of e-readers. Their designs are very similar, and they both offer entry- to mid-level e-readers at 6″ and 7″, which directly compete with each other. However, if you want a bigger screen, Kobo is the one to go, with a 8″ Forma and 10.3″ Elipsa. Which one to recommend depends on where you are, how you use it and some other small thing, eg:

  • Amazon has a massive selection of content that is second to none, especially in the US markets. However, Kindle is pretty much tied to Amazon ecosystem and does not support as nearly many non-Amazon ebook formats as Kobo does. This could be pros or cons. If you’re not an Amazon fan, especially if you’re in a market outside the US, Kobo offers more flexibility.
  • Amazon does not offer “natural” frontlight on their entry- and mid-level Kindle and Paperwhite; it’s only available in Oasis, their premium model. On the other hand, all Kobo models come with this feature, which is very nice if you read at night — many people find it more comfortable to read than the cold blueish LED light.
  • Software wise, Kobo is simply and easy to use, but Amazon Kindle has more features, eg. syncing with Readwise, select-and-translate function, which is very useful if you read books in another language. All new versions of kindles have built-in bluetooth and you can listen to audiobooks from Audible (you need a bluetooth speaker or earphone), while Kobo does not support bluetooth or audiobooks.
  • For the same size and specs, Kobo is more affordable. Kindles are not just more expensive, they also charge extra $20 to remove ads (except Kindle Kids, which has no ads but sells $20 more than its non-kids Kindle model). Some people are fine with these book ads, while others find it ridiculous to need to pay extra $20 to remove them.

Best overall 6″ e-readers: Kindle Paperwhite & Kobo Clara HD

Kindle PaperwhiteKobo Clara HD
Kindle Paperwhite & Kobo Clara HD

Kindle Paperwhite and Kobo Clara HD are direct competitors. They both have 6″ glare free touch screen, however Kindle Paperwhite has a giant bezel, making it significantly bigger than Kobo Clara HD in body size (6.6″ vs 6.28″). Compare it side by side, see the image above, and you can really see the difference. If portability is your priority, you should keep this in mind when making your decision.

For many, 6″ is a perfect screen size: It’s big enough to read comfortably, but small enough to carry around, which is especially true for Kobo Clara HD. This is also one of the reasons why we think the best 6″ e-readers are also the best overall.

Kindle PaperwhiteKobo Clara HD
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is kindle-paperwhite.jpgKobo Clara HD
118,933 Reviews
$129.99 $89.99 at Amazon
525 Reviews
$119.99 $95.72 at Amazon
Also at Kobo | Walmart
Screen6″ glare-free6″ glare-free
Resolution300 PPI300 PPI
Storage8 GB, 32 GB8 GB
ConnectionWifi, USB
Free cellular
Wifi, Micro USB
Battery lifeWeeksWeeks
Front lightCan’t change color
5 LEDs
Cold / warm color
Size6.6 x 4.6 x 0.3”6.28 x 4.33 x 0.33
Weight6.8 oz / 191 g5.9 oz / 166 g
File formatsPDF, JPEG, GIF, PNG, TXT, HTML
unprotected MOBI
PDF, JPEG, GIF, PNG, TXT, HTML
MOBI
More formatsAZW3, AZW, PRC, DOCX, PMP, AAXEPUB, EPUB3, FlePub, BMP, TIFF, RTF, CBZ, CBR
BluetoothYesNo
AdsCosts $20 to removeNo ads
AudiobookAudibleNo
WaterproofYes, IPX8No
ColorBlack, white, sage, plumBlack
Pros Waterproof; bluetooth; free cellular; 300dpi display
Amazon’s massive selection of content
Ability to select text and translate.
Light, fast, smaller; 300 dpi display; no ads
Color changing front light (LED cold / natural warm)
Supports all the common file formats
Cons Tied to Amazon ecosystem; no native support for EPUB etc
Costs extra $20 to remove ads
Giant bezel, making it much bigger than 6″ Kobo Clara HD
No audiobooks; not waterproof
No bluetooth; no cellular; no USB-C

Best premium 7″ e-readers: Kindle Oasis & Kobo Libra H20

Reasons to buy Kindle Oasis over Kindle Paperwhite

Kindle OasisKindle Paperwhite
Kindle Oasis vs Paperwhite

Kindle Oasis is Amazon’s premium version of its e-reader. Compared with its most popular Paperwhite model, Kindle Oasis comes with these “improvements”:

  1. A larger screen at 7″ (vs 6″ in Paperwhite), though this is not necessarily a good thing for everyone, because 6″ is generally considered to be a good portable size, while 7″ can feel a little large for many to carry around. Interestingly, despite being larger, Oasis weights slightly less (6.6 oz) than Paperwhite (6.8 oz).
  2. Frontlight has 25 LEDs (vs 5 on Paperwhite), which makes it brighter, with better uniformity. Also importantly, the color temperature of frontligh on Oasis is adjustable, similar to its Kobo counterpart; you can enjoy a warmer backlight if you don’t like the cold, blueish light, especially at night.
  3. Better build quality. Notably, Oasis has an aluminum frame (vs plastic on Paperwhite), instantly feeling more premium.

Larger 7″ screen; better build quality.
brighter frontlight, color temperature adjustable; auto-adjusting light sensors.
Auto rotating page orientation; physical page turn buttons.
Oasis ($249.99) costs significantly more than Paperwhite ($89.99).
Glass screen reads better but is prone to damage.

Reasons to buy Kobo Libra H20 over Clara HD

Kobo Libra H20Kobo Clara HD
Kobo Libra H20 vs Clara HD

A larger screen (7″ vs 6″).
Libra H20 is waterproof, IPX8 (hence the name “H20”). Clara HD is not.
Libra H20 has physical buttons.
Libra H20 costs more ($169.95 vs $95.72).
7″ may feel a little large for some to carry around.

Kobo Libra H20 vs Kindle Oasis

Kindle OasisKobo Libra H20
Kindle Oasis vs Kobo Libra H20

Kobo Libra H20 and Kindle Oasis are, again, direct competitors. They look very similar, however are priced very differently — Kindle Oasis is $80 more expensive, and some say it’s worth it, thanks largely to its premium feel of aluminum body (Kobo Libra H20 is plastic) and overall build quality. It’s a shame, though, that even at this price point, Kindle Oasis still charges $20 extra to remove ads.

Kindle OasisKobo Libra H20
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is kindle-oasis-amazon-1024x1024.jpgThis image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is kobo-libra-1024x1024.jpg
17,647 Reviews
$249.99 at Amazon
1,183 Reviews
$169.95 at Amazon
Also at Kobo | Walmart
Screen7″ glare free7″ glare free
Resolution300 PPI300 PPI
Storage8 GB, 32 GB8 GB
ConnectionWifi, USB
Bluetooth, Cellular
Wifi, Micro USB
Battery lifeWeeksWeeks
Front lightCold / warm color
25 LEDs
Cold / warm color
Size6.3” x 5.6” x 0.33” 6.26 x 5.67 x 0.3″
Weight6.6 oz (188g)6.8 oz (192g)
File formatsPDF, JPEG, GIF, PNG, TXT, HTML
unprotected MOBI
PDF, JPEG, GIF, PNG, TXT, HTML
MOBI
More formatsAZW3, AZW, PRC, DOCX, PMP, AAXEPUB, EPUB3, FlePub, BMP, TIFF, RTF, CBZ, CBR
BluetoothYesNo
AdsCosts $20 to removeNo ads
AudiobookAudibleNo
WaterproofYes, IPX8Yes, IPX8
ColorGraphite, Champagne GoldWhite, Black
Pros Aluminum body. Great overall build quality
Dual core processor, very fast
Much more affordable than Kindle Oasis
Clean & simple software and interface
Supports all the common file formats
Cons Expensive
Even at this price, still charges $20 extra to remove ads
Build quality not as good as Oasis
No audiobook; no bluetooth; no cellular

Best budget 6″ e-readers: Amazon Kindle & Kobo Nia

Amazon Kindle and Nobo Nia are both the base model of their families. They look very similar to each other, as well as to Paperwhite and Clara HD.

Amazon Kindle vs Kindle Paperwhite

Kindle PaperwhiteAmazon Kindle
WaterproofYesNo
Resolution300 PPI167 PPI
Storage8 GB, 32 GB8 GB
Frontlight5 LEDs4 LEDs
Size6.6 x 4.6 x 0.3”6.3 x 4.5 x 0.34”
118,933 Reviews
$129.99 $89.99 at Amazon
39,694 Reviews
$89.99 at Amazon

Most of us don’t need 32 GB storage (that’s 8,000 ebooks) anyway, but if you want a higher resolution (crispier reading experience) and / or are worried that your e-reader might get spilled on by coffee or your child, then you should pay the $30 extra to get a Paperwhite. One thing interesting, though, both have 6″ screen, but Paperwhite has a much bigger bezel and is 0.3″ (6 mm) taller than Kindle.

Amazon Kindle Kids

If your kids are big enough to warrant their own e-readers, there’s also a “Kindle Kids Edition,” which is essentially the same Kindle, with a few tweaks. It costs $20 more, but has no ads (the non-kids version charges $20 to remove ads); it comes with a free cover (available in blue, pink, rainbow birds & space station), one year free Amazon Kids+ subscription and 2 year worry free guarantee (the non-kids version is 1 year limited). It’s still not waterproof, though, so it’s probably a good idea to ask your kids not to read while eating and drinking.

Amazon Kindle Kids 
Amazon KindleKindle Kids
Free coverNoYes; 4 styles available
AdsCosts $20 to removeNo ads
Amazon Kids+Starting at $2.99/month1 year free
ColorBlack, WhiteBlack (with cover)
WaterproofNoNo
Warranty1 year limited2 year worry free
39,694 Reviews
$89.99 at Amazon
4,024 Reviews
$109.99 at Amazon

Kobo Nia vs Clara HD

Just like Amazon Kindle is to Kindle Paperwhite, Kobo Nia is a cheaper version of Clara HD. The biggest downgrade is the screen resolution.

Kobo Clara HDKobo Nia
Resolution300 PPI
1072 x 1448
212 PPI
1024 Γ— 758
Processor1 GHz900 MHz
Front lightAdjustable brightness and color temperatureAdjustable brightness only
Dimensions110 x 159.6 x 8.35 mm112.4 x 159.3 x 9.2 mm
Weight166 g / 5.9 oz172 g / 6.1 oz
525 Reviews
$119.99 $95.72 at Amazon
Also at Kobo | Walmart
9 Reviews
$99.99 at Amazon
Also at Kobo

Amazon Kindle vs Kobo Nia

Amazon KindleKobo Nia
Amazon Kindle vs Kobo Nia

Amazon Kindle and Kobo Nia are more similar to each other, than Kindle Paperwhite and Kobo Clara HD are; that’s because they removed some of the “premium” features that differ Paperwhite and Clara HD. For example:

  • Paperwhite has one light color, while Clara HD can adjust color temperate (colder or warmer). This is gone on Kobo Nia, which has cold light only, same with Amazon Kindle.
  • Clara HD lacks Paperwhite’s waterproof ability, which is also gone on Amazon’s entry model. Amazon Kindle is not waterproof, same as Kobo Nia.
Amazon KindleKobo Nia
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is amazon-kindle.jpgThis image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is kobo-nia.jpeg
39,694 Reviews
$89.99 at Amazon
9 Reviews
$99.99 at Amazon
Also at Kobo
Screen6″ glare free6″
Resolution167 PPI212 PPI
Storage8 GB8 GB
ConnectionWifi, USBWifi, Micro USB
Battery lifeWeeksWeeks
Front lifeOne color, 5 LEDsOne color; adjustable brightness
Size6.3 x 4.5 x 0.34”
160 x 113 x 8.7 mm
6.27 x 4.43 x 0.36″
159.3 x 112.4 x 9.2 mm
Weight6.1 oz (174 g)6.07 oz (172 g)
File formatsPDF, JPEG, GIF, PNG, TXT, HTML
unprotected MOBI
PDF, JPEG, GIF, PNG, TXT, HTML
MOBI
More formatsAZW3, AZW, PRC, DOCX, PMP, AAXEPUB, EPUB3, FlePub, BMP, TIFF, RTF, CBZ, CBR
BluetoothYesNo
AdsCosts $20 to removeNo ads
AudiobookAudibleNo
WaterproofNoNo
ColorBlack, whiteBlack
Pros Bluetooth and audiobook
Amazon’s massive selection of content
Slightly higher resolution at 212 PPI
 Supports all the common file formats
 Clean & simple software and interface
Cons Charges $20 to remove ads
Slightly lower resolution at 167 PPI
No bluetooth, audiobook

Best 8″ e-reader: Kobo Forma

70 Reviews
$249.99 at Amazon | Also at Kobobooks.com

8β€³ screen yet light for its size; Waterproof
 Vertical and horizontal orientation
 Public library & Dropbox integration
 Build quality not as good as aluminum framed Kindle Oasis


Screen8.0” HD 300 PPI Mobius E Ink flush touchscreen 1440 Γ— 1920 resolution
Storage8GB or 32GB
ConnectivityWiFi 802.11 b/g/n and Micro USB
BatteryWeeks of battery life
WaterproofIPX8 – up to 60 mins in 2 meters of water
Front LightComfortLight PRO – Adjustable brightness and color temperature
CustomizabilityTypeGenius: 12 different fonts and over 50 font styles
Dimensions160 x 177.7 x 4.2 – 8.5 mm
Weight197g
Supported Formats15 file formats supported natively

If you want an even bigger screen, Kobo has a 10.3″ Elipsa ($399.99 at Amazon; also at kobobooks.com); other great options at this size include Onyx Boox Note Air ($439.99 at Amazon; also at boox.com) and Boox Note 3 (Price not available; also at boox.com).

Kobo ElipsaBoox Air
Kobo Elipsa vs Onyx Boox Note Air

Elipsa, Kobo’s most high-end model, is essentially an ebook reader in a giant size, while Boox Note Air and 3 are more like media tablets with a black and white e-ink display. Running on Android and Google Play, Boox Note Air and 3 can do a lot more — for instance, web surfing, as shown on the image above — than just reading and making notes, which could be a good or a bad thing, depending on your need. If you’re interested in one of these big boys, check out below review videos.

Last update on 2021-10-26. Affiliate links and images from Amazon Product Advertising API.
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