Best e-reader for 2020: CNET

While you can read a book on any phone or tablet if you have an app like Apple Books, Kobo, Kindle, or Nook installed, a much more enjoyable and much less annoying reading experience awaits you with a dedicated e-reader. Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, the bookshop and local library are no longer places to linger while reading. But with ebooks, any category of books can be accessed with a quick download, whether you’re looking for classic literature or the latest guilty pleasure thriller.

Dedicated e-readers have no social media, email, internet or other entertainment options to get you away from your book, and they have exceptional battery life to boot. Unlike tablets and smartphones, which can be washed out in direct sunlight, many ebook readers use E Ink technology and are water resistant, so they’re perfect for reading by the pool or beach without straining your eyes. Your local library may offer free ebook downloads for its members, and free ebooks abound online.

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Are you looking for a better way to read all those digital books in your e-library? It’s time to update your e-reader. While many people are still attached to their dead tree books, e-readers offer a wide range of benefits. You can change the font size, you can search and highlight passages with a touch screen, and you’re never out of luck if you don’t have a reading light because all the best e-readers on the market have self-illuminated screens.

This list, which we update periodically, is dominated by Amazon Kindle models, including Kindle Paperwhite, Kindle Oasis, and the classic Amazon Kindle, because we think it’s still the best digital “ecosystem” for reading. It also offers many budget and subscription options. And while Barnes & Noble still makes its Nook reader, we suggest anyone who wants to steer clear of Amazon instead of opting for a Kobo model.

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

Sarah Tew / CNET

If you’re looking for someone looking for the latest Kindle e-reader, this is the Goldilocks in the Amazon line and our current CNET Editors’ Choice Award winner in the category. Here are some things we love about the Kindle Paperwhite:

  • It is 10% thinner and lighter than the previous version.
  • It has a “flush front” design with a back made of a softer, more adherent material instead of hard plastic.
  • It’s a fully waterproof Kindle, like the high-end Kindle Oasis, and has a plastic screen that Amazon claims is resistant to bumps and scratches.
  • It has built-in Bluetooth, so you can download Amazon Audible audiobooks and listen to them with wireless headphones.

While the waterproof Kindle Paperwhite costs $ 130, it is regularly discounted at $ 90 (and sometimes even $ 85), which is when you should buy it. It’s likely Amazon will update the Kindle Paperwhite in 2020, but it’s unclear when or how much of an update will be. For example, USB-C charging could be added and perhaps the lighting scheme could be updated, but we wouldn’t expect any dramatic updates.

Read our Amazon Kindle Paperwhite (2018) review.

Sarah Tew / CNET

Amazon’s top-of-the-line E Ink e-reader was slightly updated in 2019, but this Kindle e-reader device is basically identical to the previous Kindle Oasis except for one key difference: it has a new color-adjustable built-in light that lets you allows you to customize the color tone from cold to warm, depending on whether you are reading by day or by night. You can also schedule automatic screen heating to update at sunrise and sunset, not unlike Night Shift mode on Apple devices.

At $ 250, the Oasis is expensive for an e-reader. Most people will be satisfied with the most affordable Paperwhite for Kindle ebook reading and basic Kindle needs, but if you want the best of the best with an anti-glare screen for your reading experience, it doesn’t matter – L’Oasis is undoubtedly the right one. The Kobo Forma, which also sells for $ 250, has an 8-inch screen that’s bigger than the Oasis’ 7-inches.

Read our Amazon Kindle Oasis (2019) review.

Sarah Tew / CNET

The latest version of Amazon’s entry-level ebook reader, which Amazon simply calls the Kindle, now has a self-illuminated screen and an updated design. At $ 90 this ebook reader costs $ 10 more than the previous model, the 2016 Kindle, but this Kindle device is regularly on sale for as little as $ 60. We prefer the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite, which has the high-resolution display. (text and images appear a little sharper), it’s waterproof, and has a slightly better lighting pattern. 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 cheap.

Read our Amazon Kindle (2019) review.


Rakuten creates a line of Kobo e-readers that are not only powered by the Kobo store, but also natively support 14 file and ebook formats (EPUB, EPUB3, PDF, MOBI, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP, TIFF, TXT , HTML, RTF, CBZ and CBR). In other words, if you grab your ebooks – or any other digital document – from anywhere besides Amazon, this device will likely read them. The Kobo has its own ebook shop with thousands of books and has built-in support for checking ebooks from local libraries via the OverDrive service. (You can get library books on Kindle through OverDrive’s Libby app, but it’s not such an easy process.)

The Kobo Libra H20, which retails for $ 170, sits in the middle of the line and, as the name suggests, is completely waterproof. It has a 7-inch E Ink HD display (1,680 × 1,264 pixel resolution), a built-in light, and no ads (you have to pay $ 20 to remove them from Kindle devices).

Available in black and white, you can use Kobo Libra in portrait or landscape mode. Other Kobo devices include the extension Kobo Clara HD ($ 120) and the flagship Kobo e-reader, the Kobo Forma ($ 250), which has a larger 8-inch high-resolution screen.

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