The e-book reader market is dominated by the biggest bookstore in the US, namely Amazon.
However, stiff competition is chasing their tails with readers from Barns and Noble and Kobo (an anagram of Book) offering niche market specifications.
A frequent question I get, and also a question I had before getting my Kindle was…
Why not a tablet?
All basic ebook readers now use monochrome, E Ink screens to display text. E Ink looks a lot like paper, and it’s easy on your eyes when you want to indulge in long reading marathons. On the least expensive models, the screen is not backlit, so you’ll need light to see the text, just as you would with a printed book. But the E Ink technology is much easier to read in bright sunlight, where the glossier color touch screens on tablets fade and show reflections or glare.
E-readers also tend to have note taking facilities as standard and so make studying multiple texts easier, lighter and less cumbersome.
Extra Note: If you like to read in the bath, by the pool, or on the beach you might want to consider buying a waterproof ebook reader.
Every ebook reader you buy will store more than 1,000 books, with some offering room for thousands more. Major vendors also offer cloud storage, letting you download books to your device whenever you need them.
So yeah… it’s literally…
…A Portable Library!
For example, Google offers over a million free books in the popular, open ePub format, which many public libraries now use for lending books. However, Kindles don’t support ePub. Amazon launched its own public library lending tie-in, but this differs on a branch-to-branch basis. Amazon also has the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, which lets you borrow a book a month from a selection of over one million titles, but only if you pay $99 a year for the Amazon Prime service.
Also, the ebook stores themselves aren’t all the same. Book selection, size, and pricing vary from store to store. You might want to spend a little time browsing ebook stores before you commit to a device.
The Almighty Amazon: Luxury and High Specs
Amazon Kindle Oasis
Admittedly, it is an expensive device but it is the most luxurious ebook reader available. It has 12 built-in LED lights for clear glare-free reading, an ambient light sensor, and page turn buttons if you prefer that to use the touchscreen. Battery life is roughly the same as an Amazon Voyage (now discontinued) or Paperwhite. Three models are available, with the most expensive featuring 3G connectivity and more storage.
Who is it for? For the high-flying, speed-reading adventurer who wants to read every book in the world and is damned well prepared to try. Also for the clumsy; if you drop in it the hot tub or the pool, it’ll keep right on going.
Amazon Kindle Paperwhite
Though it’s only a mid-range Amazon device, it offers far more than the standard Kindle – which doesn’t even have a backlight – and is certainly worth the additional $. In fact, it’s almost up to the standard of the 2017 Kindle Oasis and much cheaper.
Who is it for? The city breaker. Got a room in a decent hotel with good wifi? Need to take a long flight or train journey to get there? Moving around a lot and don’t want to fuss with paperbacks? This E-reader is your new best travel companion.
Amazon 8th Generation Kindle
The classic. The standard. The Amazon Kindle remains a stalwart of the ebook reader market and an excellent choice for anybody buying their very first ebook reader. The Kindle has been upgraded time and time again since its initial launch back in November 2007 with better memory, longer battery life, and now it has a touchscreen as well.
The low price means you have to compromise. There’s no LED lighting, so you’ll need to rely on external light sources to read in the dark and with 4GB of storage, it has half the capacity of the newer Kindles.
Who is it for? The casual travelers who want the cheapest trip possible and don’t particularly care for the frills. Take it on your year out, ski season or camping trip — just don’t forget a torch.
King Kobo: A Multitude of File Formats
The comparison point, given the quality of the specs and design, should be the Kindle Oasis rather than the bog-standard Kindles. The Forma is almost square: a roughly book-shaped 8-inch screen, with a nice chunky grip, grafted onto one side.
You can hold the device with the grip on left or right and it will auto-rotate, and swap the function of the buttons, to compensate. It seems to be standard among even quite premium e-readers, the materials do not imply luxury — they suggest the device won’t break if you drop it, which is actually quite reassuring.
We love the lightness of the Forma, which is 30g lighter than the Aura One despite having a slightly larger screen, and roughly the same weight as the current Kindle Oasis which has only a 7-inch screen.
It’s easy to hold in one hand and the Forma retains the IPX8 water resistance of the Aura. The Forma’s crowning glory is its mono E Ink 8-inch display, which is bigger than that of any current Kindle (the standard and Paperwhite models are 6-inch, while the Oasis is a 7-inch) and even fractionally bigger than the iPad mini 4. It’s sharp, too, at 1440 × 1920 and 300ppi, although 300ppi is now standard among premium and even mid-market e-readers.
Who is it for? The globetrotting business person who wants to consume lots of different types of media — which the larger screen is great for — including newspapers and magazines, informative books and even comics as well as standard literature.
Kobo Aura One
Its display has the same resolution as the Oasis. It’s stunning, sharp and easy on the eyes… and it even has a blue light filter, especially helpful for improving sleep if you’re a late-night reader.
Then we got the drawbacks: it smudges easily, feels cheaper than the flagship Kindle ebook readers, it’s heavier than any Kindle at 230g, it’s way thicker, and with a larger screen of 7.8-inches it can be difficult to wield in one hand. One final drawback is the limited storage. Without a microSD slot, you have no choice but to make do with the limited 8GB capacity.
Who is it for? For the folks who like relaxing getaways: Spa dwellers, cozy lakeside B&B-ers, or anyone traveling with extra baggage allowance. With the added weight comes the size, so this e-reader is for anyone who likes to read in bed or the bath. Or someone who will appreciate the added words per page. Also, those who want no restrictions when it comes to their choice of ebooks — The Kobo Aura One supports a huge range of file types, so you can read pretty much anything from anywhere.
Pound for pound, though, it matches the Paperwhite’s screen and storage specifications and it also has more customization options.
Users can change the way books look on screen in many more ways than on a Kindle. As with all Kobos, the interface isn’t quite as slick and the store isn’t as good as Amazon’s, but you do get the chance to buy and borrow from multiple sources.
Who is it great for? The off-the-beaten-track traveler or student on a semester abroad. Or anyone who wants an indie bookstore experience with the freedom to buy their digital books and magazines from anywhere rather than being locked into Amazon.
Brilliant Barnes and Noble: All in for tablet functionality
The Nook Glowlight 3
Both devices offer a 6-inch, 300-dpi anti-glare display and 8GB of physical storage. And like the Kobo Aura One, it offers orange backlight for late night readers. But unlike some of the e-readers we’ve reviewed here, the GlowLight 3 isn’t waterproof.
The Nook Book Store trails far behind what’s on offer to users of Kobo or Amazon. While there was no shortage of bestsellers and popular periodicals, GlowLight 3 users have less access to older and more obscure titles that can be had in the Kindle or Kobo online stores.
Who is it great for? If you’re one to pursue sunny destinations with a backpack, take breaks between swims to catch up on the latest summer read. Tan, read, swim, repeat.
The Nook Tablet 10.1
You’ll buy it to read books. It comes with instant access to Barnes & Noble’s library of ebooks, including a large section for kids, plus magazine and newspaper subscriptions. The tablet runs Android and comes with Google Play, ready to install as many other apps as you want.
The tablet’s body has a soft-touch finish to make it comfortable to hold, and a keyboard dock is available in case you want to bash out a book of your own. The tablet has 32GB of storage space as well as front and rear cameras, a headphone jack, Bluetooth, and pogo pins that can connect the tablet to a charging dock.
Who is it for? I’d say freelancers on the move who don’t like too much luggage and need a lightweight book to take on their short travels. Why work in an office block and live in an expensive city when you can move to Bali for half the price and still earn the same?
You Can Go Rogue, Too!
Fire HD 8 Kids Edition Tablet
Who is it great for? People traveling with small children in tow, or those who have limited storage space for kids books but still want to encourage reading in their young-uns.
An App for your Smart Phone!
Now you can simply read your favorite book on your smartphone or tablet by downloading apps on your Android device.
Several of the eBook apps even provide hundreds of free books. With these apps, you can quickly search for a book of your choice and start reading them right away. You no longer have to visit physical stores to buy books or buy a Kindle for that matter.
Here are just some of the ebook reader apps for Android: Amazon Kindle, Aldiko Books, Cool Reader, FBReader, Moon+ Reader, Nook, Bluefire Reader, Mantano Reader, Wattpad, and Kobo.
Well, who are apps great for? The spontaneous traveler — a person ready to hop on a flight at a moments notice, a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants-no-time-to-grab-an-extra-device type of traveler who wants to see the world without restriction.
And this begs the question… what kind of traveler are you? Do you own an ebook reader? If so, what is your favorite one? I own an 8th Generation Kindle… you know, like the cheap bastard-o I am, aha. But hey, I love my Kindle.