Tablets might let you tote a collection of tomes, but backlit pixels aren’t the best for bookworms. Want a portable library without any eye strain? The top e-readers go easy on your peepers by impersonating paper.
With E Ink displays that imitate printed words, e-readers offer a more natural reading experience. Most are lighter than a paperback. Some are waterproof for summer beach reads. And many feature built-in front lights for gentle illumination – so you won’t need a torch if book club runs past bedtime.
Tempted to digitise your reading list? From affordable slates to E Ink tablets which aim to replace your tablet, the round-up below features our pick of the best e-readers you can buy in 2022. Plot twist: they’re not all Kindles.
Amazon Kindle Paperwhite (2021)
With a larger display than previous editions, the updated Paperwhite is the Goldilocks option in Amazon’s range of Kindle e-readers. Slimmer bezels mean the increased screen size doesn’t result in unwieldy dimensions, while the flush frontage gives the whole package a neat feel. Plus it retains the useful IPX8 waterproofing of its 2018 predecessor.
No page-turners here: unlike the Kindle Oasis, the Paperwhite features just a single power button, which resides oddly on the base beside the USB-C port. Interaction relies primarily on the 6.8in touchscreen. While this is less responsive than a smartphone screen, the redesigned user interface makes it a doddle to navigate your library. Battery life depends on your daily story time, but Amazon reckons you’ll get up to 10 weeks per charge.
Reading on the Paperwhite is a gloriously glare-free experience. Text renders cleanly at 300ppi, while page turns and E Ink refreshes feel faster. There’s no automatic brightness, but a manual warm light setting – borrowed from the Kindle Oasis – makes the Paperwhite’s display much easier on the eyes after dark.
Neatly packaged and easy on the eyes, the improved Kindle Paperwhite is the best e-reader for most bookworms
Kobo Libra 2
Adopting a lopsided approach like the Kindle Oasis, Kobo’s second-gen Libra is priced to compete with the Paperwhite above. And it’s a tempting proposition: home to a duo of page-turning buttons, the wider side bezel is shaped for comfortable one-handed holding.
Generous at seven inches, the updated E Ink Carta display is more responsive than the original Libra’s screen. It’s sharp at 300ppi, with improved contrast. A new dark mode can render text white on a black background, while the ComfortLight Pro reduces eyestrain with even, adjustable illumination. The Libra 2 doesn’t have ambient light sensors, but you can set the LEDs to match their temperature to the time of day.
32GB of storage means you can store a library of approximately 24,000 books on-board. Comprehensive file and font support offer welcome flexibility, while the option to listen to Kobo Audiobooks via Bluetooth is a bonus. A USB-C port means speedier recharging, even if the refuelling rate can be erratic. And the whole package is fully waterproof, which you can’t say of an airport paperback.
With an ergonomic design, improved E Ink display and stacks of storage space, the Libra 2 offers a whole lot of book for your buck
Tech spec:Screen: 7in, 300ppi • Battery: Weeks • Storage: 32GB • Light: Yes • Waterproof: IPX8 • Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, USB-C • Dimensions: 144.6×161.6x9mm • Weight: 215g
Amazon Kindle Oasis (2019)
Hardbacks might cost more for sturdier packaging, but the words inside are still the same. It’s a similar story with the Kindle Oasis from 2019. Amazon’s premium e-reader carries a price tag higher than most, in exchange for a few luxury touches – including a full-metal jacket. But the core concept remains the same, as does the Micro USB port from its predecessor.
Unlike most e-readers, the Kindle Oasis isn’t uniformly slim. A third of the slate is notably thicker, rewarding your fingers with a grippable ridge on the rear. Whether this is actually useful depends on the size of your digits. Still, the Oasis is lightweight at 188g, while its aluminium shell is slicker than most. It’s all fully waterproof, too.
Like the Kobo Libra 2, the asymmetrical design is used to accommodate to handy page-turning buttons. And like the Libra 2, the Kindle Oasis features a 7in E Ink display that’s clear at 300ppi. An adjustable warm light is on-board as well, while brightness adapts automatically to ambient conditions.
A premium Kindle for hardback buyers, this metal e-reader won’t revolutionise your reading experience, but it will make you feel fancy
Tech spec:Screen: 7in, 300ppi • Battery: 6 weeks • Storage: 8/32GB • Light: Yes • Waterproof: IPX8 • Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Micro USB • Dimensions: 159x141x8.4mm • Weight: 188g
Kobo Clara HD
A direct rival to Amazon’s Kindle Paperwhite, the spec sheet for Kobo’s Clara HD reads like a carbon copy. It’s fronted by a 6in E Ink display with 300ppi. It benefits from 8GB of storage. And it features integrated lighting with adjustable brightness and colour temperature.
So far, so similar. But a second read reveals that the two e-readers aren’t identical. While both devices are wrapped in matte black plastic, the Clara HD’s display doesn’t sit flush with the bezels, unlike the tidier Kindle. More significantly, Kobo’s slate isn’t waterproof, making the Paperwhite a safer choice for poolside perusal.
In smaller ways, it also seems like a slightly dated device. There’s no Bluetooth connectivity for listening to audiobooks, while the charging port is a Micro USB number. That said, the Kobo Clara HD still delivers a comfortable, convenient reading experience at a fair price. It’s lightweight at 166g and offers the fantastic file format support for which Kobo is known.
An affordable Paperwhite alternative that’s ad-free and accessible – just don’t take it swimming
Tech spec:Screen: 6in, 300ppi • Battery: Weeks • Storage: 8GB • Light: Yes • Waterproof: No • Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Micro USB • Dimensions: 110×159.6×8.35mm • Weight: 166g
Want a simple e-reader which doesn’t annihilate your annual paperback spending allowance? Amazon’s entry-level Kindle is an affordable option which nails the essentials and benefits from a few useful extras, too.
Sticking with the established Kindle screen size, its 6in display strikes a balance between portability and readability. Its 167ppi resolution is significantly lower than the other e-readers in this list, but it remains clear enough for books.
The biggest boon versus previous editions is the adjustable front light. You don’t get the warm white tones or automatic brightness of costlier Kindle models, but the quartet of integrated LEDs at least means you can read the glare-free screen under the covers.
Budget restrictions also mean the cheapest Kindle ships with a Micro USB port and no waterproofing. But you do get Bluetooth connectivity for audiobooks from Audible, plus a battery rated for up to four weeks on a single charge.
An affordable e-reader with a useful front light, this is the best option for bookworms on a budget
Tech spec:Screen: 6in, 167ppi • Battery: 4 weeks • Storage: 8GB • Light: Yes • Waterproof: No • Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Micro USB • Dimensions: 160x113x8.7mm • Weight: 174g
Occupying a distinct niche among E Ink devices, the Remarkable 2 is more tablet alternative than paperback rival. Sure, it can still display downloaded tomes on its 10.3in screen. But the digital notebook is also a winner in the workplace: textured to replicate paper, its 226ppi panel is perfect for scribbling, signing and storyboarding ideas.
Marketed as the world’s thinnest tablet, the slate is seriously slender. At 4.7mm, the canvas is barely thicker than its USB-C port. Yet a metal chassis means it also feels robust. Intended to streamline your productivity by dialling back distractions, the slim build helps the Remarkable 2 to feel as natural as gripping a clipboard, aided by colour-matched bezels.
Shell out for the sold-separately Marker and you’ll get a pressure-sensitive stylus that attaches magnetically to the side. Excellent in the hand, the pen feels intuitive to use and responsive to write with. Bar a couple of cloud integration niggles, the updated software interface is similarly polished, delivering a stripped-back experience that’s broadly stumble-free. All that’s missing is a lighting system.
Premium design meets a pared-back, polished interface for digital note-taking – this is the best E Ink notepad you can buy right now
Tech spec:Screen: 10.3in, 226ppi • Battery: 2 weeks • Storage: 8GB • Light: No • Waterproof: No • Connectivity: Wi-Fi, USB-C • Dimensions: 187x246x4.7mm • Weight: 404g
Onyx Boox Note Air2
Like the Remarkable 2, the Onyx Boox Note Air2 seeks to bridge the gap between e-reader and tablet. And like the Remarkable 2, it features a 10.3in paper-effect panel which allows you to take notes naturally with a stylus. But besides a clunkier name, the Onyx Boox Note Air2 also differs from the Remarkable 2 in several ways.
For starters, it’s more expensive: at its standard price of $500, the Air2 costs $100 more than the Remarkable 2. The extra outlay does net you a pressure-sensitive Wacom pen, Bluetooth keyboard support and an integrated front light with colour temperature adjustment. But it also puts the Air2 close to iPad Air territory.
Slim at 5.8mm, light at 420g and wider on one side, the Air2’s alloy frame is well-built for one-handed use. In contrast to the clutter-free Remarkable 2 interface, the Onyx slate runs Android 11. While that means you can download a wide range of apps from the Google Play store, many won’t actually work on the E Ink screen. Even so, the platform is flexible when it comes to tweaks and file formats. And thanks to an 8-core chip and 4GB of RAM inside, it’s also a nippy one.
It’s not cheap, but this premium E Ink notepad offers useful Android flexibility in a classy alloy chassis – with a front light for good measure
Tech spec:Screen: 10.3in, 227ppi • Battery: 4 weeks • Storage: 64GB • Light: Yes • Waterproof: No • Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, USB-C • Dimensions: 229.4×195.4×5.8mm • Weight: 420g
Keen to ride the tide of tablet alternatives, Kobo’s sized-up from its standard e-readers to produce the 10.3in Elipsa. Equipped with a Carta 1200 touchscreen, it offers a glare-free reading experience on a grander scale. Paired with the pressure-sensitive Kobo Stylus, it also lets you note as you go. And while it doesn’t offer the paper feel of other E Ink tablets, it’s cheaper and lighter.
An e-reader first and foremost, the Elipsa benefits from a straightforward interface and limited app catalogue. Far from a drawback, this bloat-free approach limits distractions, extends battery life and generally results in a seamless user experience. Format support is as broad as you’d expect from Kobo, although you can’t use the stylus to annotate every type of file. Still, documents are rendered clearly on the 227ppi display, while handwriting recognition is reliable, if not rapid.
Integrated ComfortLight LEDs keep things going with a glow, although there’s no warm option to reduce eye strain. For that, you’re better off trying the dark mode, which swaps text to white on black.
Not a true tablet alternative, the Elipsa is worth considering if you want a sizeable e-reader with added stylus smarts
Tech spec:Screen: 10.3in, 227ppi • Battery: Weeks • Storage: 32GB • Light: Yes • Waterproof: No • Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, USB-C • Dimensions: 193×227.5×7.6mm • Weight: 383g