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What’s the best eReader to buy?

By Kobo • April 10, 2024Kobo Products and Features

Whether you’re thinking about buying your first eReader or looking to upgrade to a stylus-compatible or color eReader, we’ve compared available models and current features to help you decide which eReader is the right one for you.

eReaders have come a long way since they went mainstream in 2009. The high-definition E Ink touchscreens of today are as glare-free and easy to read as ink on paper, but with front-lit screens for reading after dark and the ability to enlarge type to make it more comfortable to read, eReaders do what the printed page can’t. But just like a book, eReaders don’t run apps or ping you with notifications.

The newest color eReaders feature displays for reading all kinds of books, but they’re no heavier than a paperback. And with Wi-Fi connectivity, generous built-in storage, and the ability to borrow library books, eReaders ensure that you’ll always have something on hand to read.

All the eReaders reviewed here let you highlight and make notes in your eBooks—and many work with a stylus, allowing you to freely highlight and jot notes all over the “pages” of eBooks. Some eReaders let you create different kinds of notebooks that sync to cloud storage, empowering these eReaders to work as office productivity tools. And increasingly, eReaders are made with environmental considerations, incorporating recycled and ocean-bound plastics in the manufacturing process.

The newest eReaders offer a variety of features to suit every kind of booklover, including color screens

Key features to consider when you’re deciding which eReader to buy:

  • Color or black & white display
  • Screen size
  • Waterproofing
  • How many books can it carry?
  • Bluetooth for audiobooks
  • Stylus-compatibility
  • Library borrowing

There are also some features so widespread you don’t need to worry about them with today’s eReaders:

  • Battery life: while most of us are used to charging a smartphone, tablet, or smartwatch daily, eReaders can go several days (or even weeks) between charges. We didn’t count battery life among key features since most users find that whichever eReader they choose, charging isn't a concern.
  • Buying eBooks: all the eReaders covered here connect over Wi-Fi to Kobo.com, which carries millions of eBooks and audiobooks. If there’s a book on the shelf at your local bookstore, you can almost certainly get it for your eReader.
  • Apps and syncing: all of these eReaders sync automatically with free apps available for iOS, Android, as well as Mac and Windows computers so no matter where you are, you can always pick up reading where you left off.

The best eReaders for casual readers

Kobo Clara Colour and Kobo Clara BW are great eReaders for casual readers or readers who are just trying eBooks for the first time. Clara Colour and Clara BW each feature the same compact, lightweight, IPX8-rated waterproof form factor, which makes them ideal for bringing along on vacation. Clara Colour and Clara BW each have 16 GB of built in storage, which is enough for a few hundred eBooks (possibly more than a thousand, depending on file size) plus several dozen audiobooks or manga.

Kobo Clara Colour makes a great first eReader

Kobo Clara Colour’s 6” screen is—you guessed it—full color, with the saturation and texture of a Sunday newspaper. It also features adjustable ComfortLight PRO illumination that makes it easy to read in dim light. To avoid eye strain and facilitate sleep as bedtime approaches, the light automatically shifts away from blue light to a warm tone.

For times when your eyes or hands are too busy to sit still and read, both Claras can play audiobooks over a Bluetooth connection to a headset or speaker.

Kobo Clara BW is a well-appointed eReader with everything most readers want

For readers who don’t see a need for a color eReader, Kobo Clara BW boasts all the features of Kobo Clara Colour—at a slightly lower price point, with a crisp black & white screen.

The eReader dedicated booklovers should buy

Kobo Libra Colour is built for booklovers already immersed in eBooks, and print-preferring readers ready to plunge into digital. Spoiler alert: as the name implies, the 7” touchscreen offers the same full color paper-like texture of its smaller cousin Clara Colour. And just like its little cousin, this eReader is IPX8-rated waterproof. Libra Colour feels a bit more substantial in the hand, like a high-quality paperback—while still being light enough to hold comfortably for hours at a time. With 32 GB of storage onboard (enough for 1000s of eBooks and 100s of audiobooks, graphic novels, and manga) when you do finally put Libra Colour down it won’t be because you ran out of things to read. And audiobooks can be played via a Bluetooth connection, allowing voracious bookworms to keep on reading hands-free.

Kobo Libra Colour is the eReader for bonafide bookworms

Holding the Libra Colour while making notes and highlighting passages (in 4 colors!) with the Kobo Stylus 2 is made easy by the ergonomically sculpted edge where the page turn buttons are located. We prefer to hold it with the buttons under our left thumb while keeping our right hand free to use the stylus. But you can flip it to however it’s most comfortable for you to hold—and the page turn buttons automatically change orientation when you do. Another smart feature: the stylus attaches to the edge of the eReader with invisible magnets. And it’s great to have the stylus so readily available for marking up eBooks and unlocked PDFs, or creating separate digital notebooks for studying, brainstorming, or writing a to-do list. Libra Colour can convert handwriting (yes, even yours) into tidy, searchable text. Integrations with Dropbox and Google Drive let you load documents onto the eReader, and you can export your notebooks to Dropbox or view them at Kobo.com/notebooks.

Big eReaders that go beyond reading

If you think you’ll spend a lot of time making notes in the margins of eBooks, PDFs, and in notebooks, consider a large-size stylus-compatible eReader. (And if you’re not yet a big handwritten note-taker, you should be.) These eReaders deliver all the convenience of a personal digital library with plenty of space on their flush-mounted screens to highlight and scribble to your heart’s content.

Highlight, annotate, and sync notebooks to Dropbox with Kobo Sage and Kobo Stylus 2

For readers who prioritize screen space over color but still want 32 GB of storage, Bluetooth, stylus compatibility, and cloud-syncing for notebooks and documents, Kobo Sage’s 8” HD E Ink touchscreen and page turn buttons make it a roomy and serious-minded alternative.

Further up the scale is Kobo Elipsa 2E. Its 10.3” stylus-compatible touchscreen makes it the ultimate digital “pen-and-paper” device, designed for deep readers and deep thinkers alike. Here again, 32 GB and cloud syncing provide all the storage you could want.

Capture big ideas on Kobo Elipsa 2E

Kobo Sage and Kobo Elipsa 2E work with Kobo Stylus 2, and both can take your handwritten notes and produce neatly-formatted, searchable documents whether you start with a blank page or a notebook template. Plus, they integrate with Dropbox and Google Drive, so all of your digital documents can sit side by side with your eBooks and audiobooks, with your notebooks backed up automatically to Kobo.com/notebooks.

More features to look for in an eReader

Library borrowing

All of the Kobo eReaders mentioned above feature access to local digital library lending through Libby, the library e-lending app. Libby works with libraries that use a service called OverDrive for lending eBooks. You can find out whether your local library uses OverDrive at overdrive.com/libraries.

If you’re already a Libby user, you can log into your account on a Kobo eReader and sync the eBooks you’ve already borrowed.

Wish list

If you want an eReader to become a big part of how you shop for books, a wish list is a key feature for keeping track of the books you’d like to read later. All the eReaders covered here let you build and buy from a wish list, and it syncs to Kobo apps and the Kobo.com website.

Support for other kinds of reading

If you save online articles to read later using the Pocket app, you can access them on your Kobo eReader as well. And if that’s not something you do yet, having articles ready to read on a single-purpose distraction-free device might be the motivation you need to try it out (then you can finally close all those browser tabs). Signing up for Pocket is free.

eReaders vs. Tablets

Finally, if you’re trying to decide between buying an eReader and reading on an iPad or Android tablet (or smartphone), you should be aware of some significant differences between reading on a tablet or smartphone with an eBook app vs. reading on an eReader:

Booklovers should be aware of significant differences between eReaders and tablets

  • Battery life: after reading on a tablet for a whole day, you’ll probably have to charge it. But with an eReader even the most voracious bookworm will find they can go several days.
  • Weight: the glass screens and large batteries of most tablets make them weigh considerably more than an eReader of the same screen size.
  • Color: the newest eReaders have color screens, so it’s no longer the case that choosing an eReader necessarily means limiting yourself to a world of black & white—though as specialized reading devices eReaders do black & white extremely well. That said, colors displayed on backlit or LED screens of tablets are typically more vibrant than on the paper-like color screens of the latest eReaders.
  • Eye strain: just like paper, the E Ink screens of eReaders are glare-free and visible in the same lighting you’d use to read a book, whether that’s your bedside reading lamp or direct sunlight. Tablets’ screens on the other hand are only visible when shining light into your eyes: the brighter your surroundings the brighter a tablet’s screen needs to be to stay visible, which makes tablets hard to use outdoors. The brightness of an eReader’s screen can be adjusted across a wide range—or turned off entirely. Though many eReader users prefer a low brightness setting that’s imperceptible in a well-lit room, while being just enough to carry on reading after dark.
  • Sleep: eReaders with ComfortLight PRO illumination shift the tone of their screens away from blue light and towards the warmer end of the color spectrum through the day, in a manner similar to most tablets and smartphones, which for many users is easier on their eyes and improves the quality of their sleep.
  • Focus: a tablet full of apps can be incredibly useful, but it can also be distracting. Beyond accessing Pocket and Libby, eReaders don’t really run apps: in that way eReaders are far more conducive to focused reading time.

eReaders are lightweight with long battery life and focused on making reading convenient and comfortable

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