EReaders are the love child of a paperback and a tablet all rolled up into one neat format. In this world of technology, it’s easy to justify not having an eReader at all, especially when you’ve got some perfectly adequate apps that do the job too. But the whole point of sinking into an excellent book is blocking out all of those daily distractions and getting away from your phone.
Still, why an eReader and not just a classic paperback? I hear you ask. Well, the answer, of course, is convenience. An eReader (with eInk technology) has the advantages of a paperback, like being able to read in direct sunlight, they’re also lightweight, durable, and won’t frazzle your sleep patterns with blue light, but an eReader means you can carry your entire library with you.
An eReader is the best of both worlds and is especially useful for commuting and travelling, but I’m guessing you wouldn’t be here if you weren’t already considering getting an eReader in your life. So let’s jump to working out which is the best eReader for you.
In the UK we’re limited to two retailers of eReader. There are some eInk tablets out there that could be an alternative, especially if you also want a digital notebook capability, but these devices are far more expensive and outside the scope of what I’m classing as eReaders, ie a device dedicated to books and reading.
Therefore, the question of which eReader is best for you is actually more a question of which ebook ecosystem is best for you.
First up in blue, we have Amazon, the heavyweight champion of the eBook world leading the charge with Kindle. Amazon has what appears to be an almost limitless library with their KU subscription giving you an enormous variety for just £7.99 a month. However, it’s unlikely that all the books you want are on KU and you’ll probably find yourself paying for extra books on top of your subscription.
I should point out that there is absolutely no obligation to have a Kindle Unlimited subscription when owning a kindle, most books have a ‘buy now’ option outside of KU and if you’re a bit of a deal hunter, you can probably sustain your reading requirements on their freebies and 0.99p daily deals (see my post on how to get books for cheap and free).
Amazon’s ecosystem also has the added benefit of Audible and WhisperSync across all devices which means you can put your book down, your earphones in, and pick up exactly where you left off (so long as you’ve brought the audio companion narrative to your book – something you can do on KU).
The red team on the opposite side of the field is Kobo. A Canadian company that is leading the fight for global access to books and wide distribution. Whereas Amazon likes to funnel you into their ecosystem and refuses to let you read anything that didn’t come from their store (apart from PDFs with some wizardry), kobo is a bit more open in their software. These eReaders are largely supported by the kobo store, but they also support overdrive and any ePub format.
Why is this important? Well, if you’re in the UK, your local library most probably uses Overdrive to let you borrow eBooks by just entering your library card number. This means you can support your local library and have the convenience of not getting off the sofa when you want a new book!
The supportability of ePub format also means you can sideload free eBooks into your reader and add them to your collection. This sounds like enabling piracy, but actually, there are loads of outstanding sites helping the distribution of eBooks that are out of copyright, such as Project Gutenburg and Classicly, so if you ever wanted to read Bram Stoker’s Dracula, or the Agatha Christie collection you can do, completely free.
It’s this decision that has driven many a voracious reader to own both a Kindle and a Kobo, something which is not impossibly expensive, especially if you’re prepared to deal hunt across the discount services and check out second-hand options, such as eBay or Gumtree.
Both ecosystems have completely free apps which you can explore on mobile or tablet devices, and you can check out Overdrive by following the instructions on your local council/ libraries website. This will give you an idea of all the books which you can access and which service is the best for you.
If you’re still not sure of which way to go, then lets look at the overarching tech specs of eReaders.
Screen: Amazon offers screen sizes of 6” and 7” whereas Kobo offers 6”, 7”, and 8”. Their resolutions are comparable and all come with screen lighting technology, however Kobo’s range offers more adjustability and temperature settings. All eReaders across both ranges are touch screen, but Kobo has two readers which offer page-turning buttons as an addition (useful if you’re expecting to read somewhere with wet or gloved hands). Finally, Kobo offers landscape mode for nearly a hundred pound less, if that’s important to you.
Battery and storage: The great advantage of an eReader over a tablet or phone is that the battery lasts for weeks and both brands offer long battery lifed products. Both Kindle and Kobo offer 8GB and 32GB options, which are more than adequate to store all the books you want, especially as both ecosystems offer storage servers that you can just download from.
Ergonomics: The major difference between most of the Kobo range versus the kindle range is the grip bar and page-turner button. That said the Kobo Nia (the cheapest of the Kobo range) looks almost exactly like the Kindle and Kindle Paperwhite. When it comes to choosing between the two styles, consider when and where you’ll be using the device. The Kobo design lends itself to harsher environments where you may need to wear gloves or will have wet hands. The Amazon design is entirely touch screen driven so you might find yourself having to choose between reading and frostbite when stood at a bus stop in midwinter. All the eReaders on the market are comparable in weight. You may want to look at this metric more closely if you have issues with your hands and wrists.
Audio integration: This is where Amazon wins hands down. If you want your eReader to have synchronised audio to reading capability, then the kindle is the only option. If you don’t mind segregating the books you read from the books you listen to then you can purchase and listen to audiobooks through the kobo app on your phone or tablet.
Format supportability: As mentioned above, Amazon supports Amazon (and somewhat reluctantly PDFs too). Kobo supports Kobo, local libraries, free eBooks downloaded in the ePub format, PDFs, and interestingly, DropBox on its most expensive model.
Waterproofing and robustness: eReaders are designed to be robust so you can generally be quite heavy-handed with all the readers on the market. Both Kobo and Kindle have waterproof options, with the Kindle Paperwhite being the cheapest waterproofed eReader on the market.
Aesthetics: Both retailers know people pay for good looks. Quite honestly, I think the extra hundred quid for the Kindle Oasis has literally been slapped on there for the aesthetics (although in the spirit of objectivity, it is also the only kindle that offers landscape mode and its screen lighting has adjustable temperatures.) The Kindles Paperwhite can come in one of 4 colours whilst the Kindle basics are available in black or white. The Kobos are black, black, and black except for the Libra which comes in black or white.
Budget: Overall Kobo comes up more expensive with its cheapest eReader being in the order of £20 more expensive than the basic Kindle and both being less than £100. Kobo offers two eReaders in the midrange, with the key difference being screen size and waterproof capability, versus Amazon’s one midrange eReader, the Paperwhite, all are less than £150. At the top end in the greater than £200 category, Kobo is again £20 more expensive than Amazon but versatility with options like DropBox integration possibly making that extra £20 worth it for a Kobo.
So, which is the best for you? My advice is to start with your requirement. The main differences are ecosystem, ergonomics, and audiobook capability. After that most of the specs are comparable and will only make a huge difference if you have a very particular requirement, like a disability which will make the eReader weight or screen size a far bigger consideration.
I hope that was helpful and that you find your perfect eReader. Don’t forget that you can try out the different ecosystems for free and that there is always scope to hunt down a bargain when it comes to technology, even if you don’t want to go second-hand.
Happy book hunting!
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