Best E-Reader for 2023: Top Picks for Book Lovers – CNET

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The Kindle Scribe and a stylus on a blue background

Amazon Kindle Scribe

Best jumbo e-reader you can draw on

I like reading physical books, but my Kindle has replaced them for the most part, especially while I’m traveling. Not only are the e-readers lightweight, allowing you to take them just about anywhere, but many models feature built-in lighting so they’re easy to use in low-light conditions. They’re also cost effective: You can find tons of ebooks, articles and even some graphic novels for free online, including from your local library. To help you find the best device for your needs, we’ve rounded up the best e-reader options on the market right now. 

Sure, you could read an ebook on your phone, but that isn’t an ideal experience. Plus, dedicated e-readers don’t have email, the internet, social media or other distracting entertainment options to lure you away from reading. They also have great battery life. And unlike popular phones and tablets, which can get washed out in direct sunlight or boast a mighty and painful glare, many e-readers use E Ink, which produces something of a monochromatic text display.

I love E Ink displays because the suspended layer and nonglossy screen make them resemble printed paper. If you have sensitive vision, that’s probably the best feature, since it’s much kinder on the eyes. The glare-free touchscreens make reading on a device a pleasure. The best e-reader models are water-resistant, so they’re great for reading at the beach or by the pool.

With a digital e-reader, not only do you have the freedom to take as many books with you as you like, you can also search for and highlight passages of text and easily change the font size. A few also come with an accompanying stylus for note-taking. All of the best e-readers on the market have self-illuminated screens, so you don’t have to worry if you don’t have a reading light. 

The list below (which I periodically update) is mostly populated by Amazon Kindle e-reader devices, including the classic Amazon Kindle, the Kindle Paperwhite and the Kindle Oasis, because I believe that it’s still the best digital “ecosystem.” Amazon offers plenty of low-budget and subscription options, as well. And though Barnes & Noble still makes its Nook e-reader, I wouldn’t be in a hurry to recommend it. If you want to steer clear of Amazon products, I’d suggest opting for a Kobo model.

So, are you ready to start reading? Whether you’re big on biographies, freak out for fantasy, get stirred up over sci-fi or go for the grit of a graphic novel, you’ll find the best e-reader 2023 has to offer down below.

A side view of the Kindle 2022 in dark blue, against a green background

Amazon

Amazon has released a new baseline Kindle E Ink e-reader for $100 that no longer seems so entry-level. While its 6-inch screen makes it a smaller and lighter e-reader than the step-up Kindle Paperwhite ($140), its display has the same 300-ppi resolution as the Paperwhite. However, that step-up model adds waterproofing and incorporates a more sophisticated front lighting scheme, with 17 LEDs compared to the Kindle 2022’s four.

In the past, we’ve recommended stepping up to the Paperwhite if you could afford it, mainly because it had a higher resolution display than the entry-level Kindle, which allowed text to appear more crisp. But with both models now featuring similar displays (at least as far as resolution goes), we may have to revise that recommendation.

The Kindle (2022) is available in black or denim blue.

Read our Kindle (2022) review.

kindle-paperwhite-2021-city-backdrop

David Carnoy/CNET

With Amazon upgrading the Kindle 2022’s display resolution to match the Paperwhite’s, it’s become a significantly more appealing entry-level e-reader — the gap between the two models has narrowed. That said, the Paperwhite does feel more premium and durable, and has a handful of key extra features: a bigger screen, waterproofing and a more sophisticated and adjustable lighting scheme. It’s our CNET Editors’ Choice Award winner in the e-reader category. 

Note that the step-up model, the Paperwhite Signature Edition, adds wireless charging and additional storage — 32GB instead of 8GB — as well an auto-adjusting light sensor for $190. A Kids Edition is also available. As with previous Kindle models, expect the Paperwhite to go on sale sporadically throughout the year. It should cost around $100 during sales.

Read our Kindle Paperwhite (2021) review.

The Kindle Scribe and a stylus on a blue background

Amazon/CNET

A handful of competing stylus-equipped touchscreen E Ink e-readers that double as digital notepads are available from other companies, including Kobo and ReMarkable. But the Kindle Scribe is the only front-lit 10.2-inch E Ink e-reader with a high-resolution 300 ppi (pixels per inch) E Ink display.

The Scribe’s size and weight make it more of a burden to carry around, especially when you consider the smaller baseline Kindle can fit into a coat pocket. But in all, the Scribe strikes a very good balance between a large-format e-reader and an E Ink note-taking tablet. Folks will probably have some quibbles about the Scribe’s high price and the robustness of its mark-up and note-taking capabilities, but we do expect to see the device improve in the coming months with software and feature updates.

Read our Amazon Kindle Scribe review.

Amazon Kindle Oasis 2019

Sarah Tew/CNET

Amazon’s top-of-the-line E Ink e-reader was slightly updated in 2019, but this Kindle e-reader device is basically identical to the previous Kindle Oasis except for one key difference: It has a new color-adjustable integrated light that allows you to customize the color tone from cool to warm, depending on whether you’re reading during the day or at night. You can also schedule the screen warmth to update automatically with sunrise and sunset — not unlike Night Shift mode on Apple devices.

At $250 for the basic configuration, the Oasis is expensive for an e-reader. Most people will be happy with the more affordable Paperwhite for their Kindle ebook reading, but if you want the best of the best with an anti-glare screen for your reading experience — and don’t mind paying a premium for it — the Oasis is arguably the one. The Kobo Forma, which also lists for $250, does have an 8-inch screen, bigger than the Oasis’ 7-incher, though it’s currently sold out. 

Read our Amazon Kindle Oasis (2019) review.

kobo-libra-2-black.png

Kobo

Rakuten makes a line of Kobo e-readers that are not only powered by the Kobo store but also support 14 file and ebook formats natively (EPUB, EPUB3, PDF, MOBI, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP, TIFF, TXT, HTML, RTF, CBZ and CBR). In other words, if you get your ebooks — or any other digital documents — from any place besides Amazon, this device is a Kindle alternative that will probably read them. The Kobo device has its own ebook store with thousands of books, and it has built-in support for checking out ebooks from local libraries via the OverDrive service. (You can get library books onto Kindles via OverDrive’s Libby app, but it’s not as smooth a process.)

The Kobo Libra 2, which retails for $190, sits in the middle of the line and, like its predecessor, the Libra H20, is fully waterproof. It has a 7-inch, 1,680×1,264-pixel resolution, E Ink display, a built-in light and no ads (you have to pay $20 to remove them from Kindle devices). 

Available in black or white, you can use the Kobo Libra in portrait or landscape mode. Other Kobo e-reader devices include the entry-level Kobo Nia ($110) and the flagship Kobo e-reader, the Kobo Sage ($270), which has a larger 8-inch high-resolution screen.

Kobo Elipsa

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There was a select group of readers who loved the 9.7-inch Kindle DX, which was discontinued several years ago. Sony and others have made iPad-size E Ink “tablets,” but they tend to be quite expensive. Kobo is now trying to fill that jumbo e-reader niche with its 10.3-inch Elipsa, which is sold as the “Elipsa Pack” and includes a SleepCover and stylus. The screen is pretty sharp and easy to read with an E Ink Carta 1200 touchscreen that has 1,404×1,872 resolution (227 ppi) and a dark mode.

Despite having a quad-core 1.8GHz processor with 32GB of storage, an E Ink device like this still feels relatively sluggish compared to an iPad (using an Apple Pencil). But the performance is decent enough and battery life remains a big strong point for E Ink devices — like other e-readers, the Elipsa’s battery life is rated in weeks rather than hours. The Elipsa supports 15 file formats natively (EPUB, EPUB3, FlePub, PDF, MOBI, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP, TIFF, TXT, HTML, RTF, CBZ, CBR). 

It weighs in at 13.5 ounces, plus the cover adds additional weight, making this a pretty heavy e-reader. However, you can use the case to prop up the e-reader so you don’t have to hold it while reading, taking notes or reviewing and marking up documents. Big e-readers aren’t for everybody, but if you like to see a lot of words on a page or bump up the font size, this Kobo e-reader is an appealing option. They’re also good for looking at PDF files.

Read moreBest E Ink Tablets for 2023

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