Updated 9 March 2022
Want an entire library in your pocket but don’t like reading on your phone? If so, an e-book reader could be the ideal choice for you. They offer a good battery life and they’re kinder on the eyes. We’ve tested several popular models and name the Kobo Clara HD as our best in test for its many features and fast system for a reasonable price tag.
E-book readers look rather like tablets. However, they’re actually a totally different thing just in a very similar format. Let's get this clear before we do anything else.
Tablet: For example, an iPad. These fall somewhere between your phone and a computer. They can run a variety of apps, play films, music and much more (and they can also be used to read books). The screen is constantly lit while it’s on, which is also the main reason why the battery only lasts a couple of hours.
E-book reader: Dedicated reading device where the screen uses e-ink technology (more on this later). The screen technology means a battery life of around a month is not uncommon. In some cases, e-book readers also offer extra functions such as listening to audiobooks or music, or internet browsing. However, that isn’t their main function.
Hopefully that makes it a bit clearer? If you want to know more, you can read a longer explanation at the bottom of the page. But the point is that e-book readers are focused on just reading normal text-based digital books and (usually) nothing else.
Our tests are independently conducted and reflect the test editor's honest and objective opinions. Selection of products and test results are in no way influenced by manufacturers, retailers or other internal or external parties.
We tested some of the market's most popular models of e-book reader to see what they offer and which one’s best. During our test period, we have, among other things, taken into account the following criteria:
Reading experience: Of course this is the most important thing of all. Is the text sharp and easy to read in all situations? In other words, both with different fonts and text sizes, and with or without any backlight.
Ergonomics: Does the e-book reader feel well-built and comfortable to hold? How does it feel after reading for a long time?
Range and supported formats: Most e-book readers have their own bookstore built-in, but the books on offer vary. Can you download books onto the e-book reader and what formats does it support? Does the device support borrowing books from the library?
Extra functions: What bonus functions does it have? Support for audiobooks, for example.
Check out more e-book readers and compare prices here
Gives you most of what you need
Price class: Budget Screen size: 6 inch Screen resolution: 1072 x 1448 pixels, 300 DPI Screen type: Grayscale Screen lighting: Yes, adjustable & automatic Controls: Power button, touchscreen RAM: 8 GB Memory card slot: No Dimensions: 159.6 x 110 x 8.35 mm Weight: 166g Supported formats: CBR, CBZ, EPUB, EPUB3, GIF, HTML, JPEG, MOBI, PDF, PNG, RTF, TIFF, TXT Support for Adobe DRM: Yes Audiobook support: No Connections: Wi-Fi, Micro USB Battery life: ca. 1 month Miscellaneous: Built-in browser
The ** Kobo Clara HD ** is the entry-level model among Kobo's e-book readers and is among the cheaper ones on the market overall. This is especially noticeable when you first hold the e-book reader, which feels a bit plasticky with wide frames and a screen that’s recessed instead of being flush with the frame. However, that initial slightly negative impression quickly disappears.
Reading in general doesn’t cause any problems at all, and you swipe or point in the direction you want to scroll, or press in the middle of the screen to bring up the menu. Overall, a pretty straightforward experience.
The text is razor sharp and on a slightly greyish background, but it's not unpleasantly grey.
The plasticky feel we mentioned earlier came to mind again several times during our test, but in a positive way. Because it makes the Kobo Clara HD very lightweight, which also means it’s comfortable to hold even during longer reads, as well as easy to carry with you. However, the design is never going to win any awards.
Even when it comes to the menu, most things feel quite uncomplicated, although again not particularly attractively designed. It’s easy to find your books and all the settings. Kobo's bookstore is easily accessible without being too obtrusive.
However, the e-book reader may have problems with bigger files. An educational book, with lots of pictures, took two attempts and a few minutes before it actually opened. Once started, however, it was no problem to scroll through, although most of the images were perhaps a bit dark.
Another problem is the backlight. If you activate it with a recessed screen, you get a slightly 3D effect on the screen that we would have preferred to avoid. There’s also an automatic brightness mode depending on the ambient light, but this function is really sluggish and it takes a couple of minutes to settle down on the right level. And in truth this e-book reader works best without using lighting.
When it comes to extra functions, it’s no problem to borrow books digitally from a library. However, there’s no support for audiobooks. There is also a laughably bad browser built in, in case you need to look something up quickly.
The Kobo Clara HD feels cheap, but still performs slightly above its price class. It’s easy to use and supports a number of formats plus copy protection. If you just want to read books, this is a really good buy.
Kobo Clara HD eReader, 6 Illuminated Touch Screen, Wi-Fi, Black
Kobo Clara HD E-Reader - Black
Kobo Clara HD | eReader | 6” Glare Free Touchscreen | Adjustable Brightness & Colour Temperature | eBooks | WIFI | 8GB of Storage | Carta E Ink Technology | Black
Far too much advertising
Price class: Medium Screen size 6 inch Screen resolution: 1080x1440 pixels, 300 dpi Screen type: Grayscale Screen lighting: Yes Controls: Power button, touchscreen RAM: 8/32 GB Memory card slot: No Dimensions: 168 x 117 x 8 mm Weight: 191 g Supported formats: AZW, AZW3, DOC, DOCX, GIF, HTML, JPEG, MOBI, PDF, PNG, TXT Support for Adobe DRM: No Audiobook support: Yes (Audible) Connections: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, micro USB Battery life: Approx. 1 month Miscellaneous:
The Amazon Paperwhite 4 shows both the strengths and weaknesses of Amazon's giant bookstore. And, actually, the name is also quite misleading. If you’re already deeply tied into the Amazon ecosystem, this e-book reader offers you a well-built medium class device with lots of functions. But if you’re not, then the question is whether this is really the right choice for you.
Paperwhite is the name of the series because the screen is supposed to mimic the white of paper instead of the usual electronic sort of light grey. But in all honesty, that feels like overly ambitious marketing, and we’d rather call it “a bit less grey than the competition” rather than “paper white”.
On the other hand, the e-book reader itself is quite well built and has a rubber-like surface to sit in your hand more comfortably. The screen is flush with the frame and the lighting is pleasant, albeit a bit basic. As a bonus, this e-book reader can also withstand a little moisture – in other words, you can read in the bath with damp fingers.
The text is sharp and clear. Scrolling is straightforward, but it can be a bit tricky to bring up the menu to change settings or jump out of the book. It also takes an unexpectedly long time to go out into the menu.
And starting up from sleep mode is even worse. While other e-book readers need a couple of seconds to wake up, the Paperwhite takes a full five seconds. This then takes you to a lock screen instead of directly into the e-book reader, a process which adds still more seconds. This slow start-up is clearly pretty annoying.
In addition to the bookstore, you also have access to Audible, Amazon's subscription audiobook service. Headphones are connected via Bluetooth – there's no standard headphone jack.
The Kindle can be bought in two variants. A cheaper one with advertising and a slightly more expensive one without. The cheaper variant can be “upgraded” to remove adverts, but this is a process that will shorten your life considerably before you’ll get it to work properly.
At the same time, ad-free doesn’t actually make much difference, because it’s still clear that Amazon wants to push its bookstore first and let you read your own choice of books as a distant second. Being locked to Amazon also means you can forget about borrowing books from the library.
Overall the interface is reminiscent of early browsers, and it constantly feels like it’s one click fewer to access the bookstore than to do what you actually want.
The Amazon Kindle Paperwhite 4 is an attractive, well-built e-book reader, but it’s unreasonably slow and with an interface that makes us want to go elsewhere. Whether with or without adverts, there’s just too much advertising going on for it to ever feel worth using.
Light but sluggish e-book reader
Price class: Budget Screen size: 6 inch Screen resolution: 600x800 pixels, 167 dpi Screen type: Grayscale Screen lighting: Yes Controls: Power button, touchscreen RAM: 4 GB Memory card slot: No Dimensions: 160x113x8.7 mm Weight: 174 g Supported formats: Mobi, PDF, AZW, AZW3, DOC, DOCX, GIF, JPEG, PNG, TXT Support for Adobe DRM: No Audiobook support: Yes (Audible) Connections: Wi-Fi, micro USB, Bluetooth Battery life: Approx. 1 month
The Amazon Kindle 10 is the entry-level model in Amazon's world of digital books. This model has no "paperwhite screen” – the name Amazon uses for screens with a slightly whiter background – and the water resistance isn’t on a par with more expensive models, but it does support both books and audiobooks.
You can download audiobooks via Audible. Sound is connected via Bluetooth – there's no standard headphone jack.
The e-book reader itself is small and light, which makes it very easy to carry and comfortable to use even for long periods. It doesn’t have the same rubberised back for better grip as its more expensive siblings, but it’s light enough that this shouldn’t be a problem.
The screen produces sharp text and really good readability, although images look pretty dull even for grayscale (something that probably has to do with the much lower resolution).
The backlight is of the simpler kind with a control, but it does its job. The screen is recessed into the frame, not flush like on the slightly more expensive e-book readers, making them look more exclusive.
One really annoying aspect is start-up, where it’s obvious that Amazon has cut some corners. From pressing the wake-up button, it takes 10-15 seconds before the e-book reader actually starts, which is really poor even allowing for the fact that this is a cheap e-book reader.
The user interface isn’t particularly inviting either, and looks more like a Netscape browser from the turn of the millennium. It’s generally logical, although even then many functions can be a bit difficult to find. Nor is this e-book reader very fast.
However, it’s not all bad news. It’s really easy to mark a word or phrase you don’t understand and then look it up directly on the screen.
Something that’s always easy to access is Amazon's digital bookstore, because just like on other Kindles, Amazon seems to prefer you to buy books than read the ones you already have. And just like all other Kindle e-book readers, the Kindle 10 is completely locked to Amazon's services. But at least the store and Audible are pretty well stocked. However, if you want to borrow books from a library or add your own then you need to look elsewhere, because it’s either impossible or at best very difficult to make anything work if it's outside the Amazon world.
The interface problem also reappears when you read books. Scrolling is fine, but the logic for accessing the menu and going back isn't clear.
The Amazon Kindle 10 both wins and loses by having the Amazon ecosystem behind it. At the same time, the e-book reader is very slow, something that you can improve substantially by moving up a price class or two.
OK but hideously expensive e-book reader
Price class: Budget (plus subscription fee) Screen size: 6 inch Screen resolution: 1024x758 pixels, 212 dpi Screen type: Grayscale Screen lighting: Yes Controls: Home button, scroll button, power button, touch screen RAM: 8 GB Memory card slot: No Dimensions: 170x117x8.7 mm Weight: 195 g Supported formats: Only for Storytel Support for Adobe DRM: No Audiobook support: Yes (Storytel) Connections: Wi-Fi, headphone jack, micro USB Battery life: Approx. 1 month
Storytel are best known for their subscription service for audiobooks, even though they have a reasonably wide range of ebooks within the same service as well. To match their range of ebooks, and to some extent also their audiobooks, you can buy an e-book reader – the Storytel Reader.
The Storytel Reader’s design is unique, to say the least. Or old-fashioned. Depending on how you look at it. The tablet itself is very large, considerably larger and with larger frames than other e-book readers with a six-inch screen. Like other e-book readers in this price class, the resolution is also a little lower. And the screen is also recessed into the frame instead of being on the same level, which looks rather cheap.
Part of the front is taken up by Storytel’s logo, which also acts as a home button. There are also buttons on the side to scroll and turn on the power. You can also scroll through the pages in a book by touching the screen.
Even though it’s rather large, it’s also very light, making it comfortable to use even for longer periods.
And there’s nothing wrong with the reading experience, with crisp and clear text and a pleasant adjustable backlight for times when the ambient light isn’t bright enough.
There's also a headphone jack built in, so you can use the audiobook section of Storytel with your Storytel Reader. Bluetooth for audio isn’t available, so you need to use wired headphones.
One major disadvantage is also the start-up time, which we clock to about 20 seconds from pressing the power button to usable e-book reader, which is about ten times what you get from other e-book readers in the same price class.
Because Storytel are behind the e-book reader, it’s completely locked to that service. It’s similar to Amazon’s lock-in with their Kindle, but with a much more expensive twist.
The e-book reader itself costs about £100. But because you’re entirely locked to Storytel, you have to pay their monthly fee (at the time of writing about £15 a month) in order to even use it. Of course, you can use the service on other devices as well, but the e-book reader itself could have been heavily subsidised with this solution. Of course, locking it also means that you can forget about reading books on it that you’ve bought yourself, and nor can you borrow books from the library.
Storytel's own interface is relatively simple. Because it's a subscription service, you don't have to worry about extra costs for purchases.
Other than a record-breakingly slow start, cheap and bulky design and the phenomenally expensive subscription, there’s nothing actually wrong with the Storytel Reader. But that’s still a lot of major negatives.