The best e-reader for 2021

While you can read a book on any phone or tablet if you have an app like Apple Books, Kobo, Kindle, or Nook, a dedicated e-reader promises a less distracting and more enjoyable reading experience. You can access any e-book category with a quick download, whether you’re looking for classic literature or the latest thriller.

Dedicated e-readers don’t have the internet, email, social media, or other entertainment options to lure you away from your book, and they have great battery life to boot. Unlike phones and tablets, which can be washed in direct sunlight, many e-readers use E Ink technology and are water-resistant, so they’re great for reading at the beach or poolside without causing eye strain. is yours Your local library may offer free downloads of e-books For its members, free e-books are also widely available online.

Looking for a better way to read all those digital books in your e-library? It’s time to upgrade your e-reader. While many people are still attached to their dead books, e-readers offer a wealth of advantages. You can search for and highlight clips using the touch screen and change the font size. And you’ll never be so lucky if you don’t have a reading light because the best e-readers on the market have self-lit screens.

This list, which I update periodically, is dominated by Amazon Kindle models, including the Kindle Paperwhite, Kindle Oasis, and the classic Amazon Kindle, because I think it’s still the best digital “ecosystem” for reading. Amazon offers plenty of budget and subscription options as well. And while Barnes & Noble still makes their own Nook reader, if you want to steer clear of Amazon, I’d suggest opting for the Kobo model instead.

So, are you ready to start reading? Whether you’re into biographies or graphic novels, you’ll find the best e-reader for your digital book needs on this list.

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One of the problems with having a really high-end e-reader like the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite is that it can be very difficult to improve it. The same can be said of Apple’s iPhones and many others. But with an e-reader, you’re dealing with a limited feature set and core technology, the E Ink, which seems pretty much stuck in neutral.

It’s no surprise, then, that the new 11th-generation Kindle Paperwhite (2021) ($140) isn’t a huge upgrade over the 2018 Kindle Paperwhite, although we can give Amazon credit for improving it with new features — a larger 6.8-inch screen with an upgraded lighting system and shipping USB-C — which offers just enough improvements to tempt you to buy one, whether or not you’re the current Paperwhite owner. It’s a CNET Editors’ Choice Award winner in the e-reader category.

Note that the new version costs $10 more than the previous Paperwhite. And a step-up model, the Paperwhite Signature Edition, adds wireless charging and additional storage — 32GB instead of 8GB — plus an auto-adjusting light sensor for $190. A children’s version is also available. As with previous Kindle models, expect the new Paperwhite to go on sale sporadically throughout the year. It should cost about $100 while on sale.

Read our Kindle Paperwhite (2021) review.

Sarah Teo / CNET

Amazon’s top-of-the-line E Ink e-reader has been slightly updated in 2019 — but this Kindle e-reader is essentially identical to the previous Kindle Oasis except for one major difference: It has a new built-in color-adjustable light that lets you customize the tone From cool to warm, depending on whether you read during the day or at night. You can also schedule the screen temperature to update automatically with sunrise and sunset — unlike Night Shift mode on Apple devices.

At $250, Oasis is pricey for an e-reader. Most people will be happy with the less expensive Paperwhite for reading a Kindle e-book, but if you want the best with an anti-glare screen for your reading experience — and don’t mind paying a premium for it — Oasis is arguably a first. The Kobo Forma, which also sells for $250, has an 8-inch screen, larger than the 7-inch Oasis.

Read our Amazon Kindle Oasis (2019) review.

Sarah Teo / CNET

The latest version of Amazon’s entry-level e-book reader, which Amazon simply calls the Kindle, now has a self-lit screen and a revamped design. At $90, this e-book reader costs $10 more than the previous model, the 2016 Kindle, but this Kindle regularly sells for less than $60. I prefer the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite, which has a higher resolution screen (text and images appear a bit sharper), is water-resistant and has a better lighting scheme. But if you don’t want to spend a lot on an e-reader, the standard Kindle is a good option, especially when it’s discounted. It will likely be updated in 2021.

Read our Amazon Kindle (2019) review.


Rakuten makes a range of Kobo e-readers that are not only powered by Kobo Store but also support 14 file and e-book formats (EPUB, EPUB3, PDF, MOBI, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP, TIFF, TXT, HTML, RTF and CBZ and CBR). In other words, if you get your e-books – or any other digital documents – from anywhere Next to Amazon, this device is a Kindle alternative that you’ll likely read. Kobo has its own e-book store with thousands of books, and it also has built-in support for checking e-books from local libraries via OverDrive. (You can get library books on Kindles via the Libby app from OverDrive, but it’s not a smooth process.)

The Kobo Libra H20, which retails for $150, is mid-line and, as its name suggests, is completely waterproof. It has a 7-inch HD E Ink screen (1680 x 1,264 pixels), built-in light, and no ads (you’ll have to pay $20 to remove it from Kindle devices).

Available in black or white, you can use the Kobo Libra in portrait or landscape mode. Other Kobo e-readers include the entry-level Kobo Nia ($100), the Kobo Clara HD ($118) and Kobo’s flagship e-reader, the Kobo Forma ($250), which has an 8-inch HD screen.

David Carnoy/CNET

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 “tablets” the size of the iPad, but they are often very expensive. Kobo is now trying to fill this huge e-reader niche with the 10.3-inch Elipsa, which is sold as the “Elipsa Pack” and includes a SleepCover and stylus. The screen is very sharp and easy to read with an E Ink Carta 1200 touchscreen display with a resolution of 1404 x 1872 (227 pixels per inch) and a dark mode.

Despite having a 1.8GHz quad-core processor with 32GB of storage, an E Ink like this still feels relatively slow compared to the iPad (using the Apple Pencil). But 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.

Elipsa supports 15 file formats (EPUB, EPUB3, FlePub, PDF, MOBI, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP, TIFF, TXT, HTML, RTF, CBZ, CBR) and weighs 13.5 oz (383 g), plus the cover adds additional weight , which makes it a very heavy e-reader. However, you can use the case to support your e-reader so you don’t have to carry it around while reading, taking notes, or reviewing and coding documents.

Large e-readers are not for everyone, but if you want to see a lot of words on a page or increase the font size, this Kobo e-reader is an attractive option. It’s also good for looking at PDF files.

The LifeBook P10 is an alternative for a little less, but CNET has yet to review this model.

David Carnoy/CNET

If you don’t want to pay a premium for Kobo’s larger e-readers, the Clara HD is a good $120 alternative. It’s a direct e-reader that has Kobo’s ComfortLight Pro built-in illumination, a 300ppi (1,072×1,448 resolution) “HD” screen, 8GB of storage, and a 1GHz processor.

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