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Best Overall: Apple iPad at Amazon
"You can access Apple News’ library of content and other e-magazine accounts all in one convenient place."
Best Value: Amazon Kindle at Amazon
"It was one of the first e-readers and is still one of the most reliable."
Best Waterproof: Amazon Kindle Oasis at Amazon
"The Oasis is waterproof up to two meters and can withstand being wet for up to 60 minutes."
Best for Night Reading: Barnes & Noble NOOK GlowLight Plus at Barnes & Noble
"Its night mode uses technology to evenly disperse the backlighting to suit any condition."
Best Big Screen: Kobo Forma at Walmart
"Despite the generously-sized screen, the Forma is lightweight enough to handle for hours on end."
Best for Kids: Amazon Kindle Fire Kids Edition at Amazon
"Parents will appreciate that they can set education goals and filter content by age."
Best Compact: Kobo Clara HD at Walmart
"Weighs only 166 grams, but can hold up to 6,000 e-books."
Best for Multitasking: Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 at Best Buy
"Travelers can stay connected while on the road with an optimal display and third party reading apps."
Our Top Picks
Best Overall: Apple iPad
The latest in Apple's line of tablets, the new iPad continues to set the standard when it comes to all forms of portable computing power. The newest version includes a larger 10.2-inch retinal display, an updated iPad operating system, and is compatible with Apple’s Smart Keyboard accessory. Unlike dedicated e-readers, the iPad can be a traveler’s godsend due to its reliable data/WiFi that you can use to get directions, research restaurants and hotels, and check-in to your next flight, just for starters.
But of course, it also serves as a stellar e-reader thanks to a huge library of e-reader apps like Amazon’s Kindle, Barnes & Noble’s NOOK, and other third-party apps like FBReader and Wattpad. But—unlike other dedicated e-readers—you can also access Apple News’ library of content, as well as other e-magazine and subscription accounts, all in one convenient place. The only potential drawback? The iPad’s battery life tops out at around 10 hours, competitive when compared to other tablets, but pretty modest when you measure that against dedicated e-readers.
Best Value: Amazon Kindle
One of the first e-readers and still one of the most reliable, the latest Amazon Kindle has been built specifically for reading. It features a 167 ppi glare-free display that reads well even in direct sunlight and has an adjustable front light that promotes hours of comfortable reading at the airport or in transit. The Kindle account syncs with your Amazon credentials, and records your status and overall library across devices, so you can read one chapter on your phone and the next on the Kindle without losing your place.
And—thanks to Amazon’s ownership of Audible—you can also pair the device to Bluetooth headphones or speakers and enjoy audiobooks with a monthly or annual subscription. The Amazon library of books, magazines, and comics is one of the most robust available, and the device can hold literally thousands of titles for offline reading. Upgrade to Prime, and you also get unlimited access to more than a thousand titles (including new releases) for free.
The battery lasts for weeks. Plus, small features like the ability to highlight passages, look up definitions, and adjust the text size adds a touch of customization to the clean and easy user experience.
Best Waterproof: Amazon Kindle Oasis
If your wistful dreams of e-reading include sitting by an infinity pool, in a hot tub, or half-submerged in the gently lapping waters of the South Pacific, you need a device that can handle the elements. Thankfully, the aptly-named Oasis from Kindle is waterproof up to two meters and can withstand being wet for up to 60 minutes. It's available in two colors (gold and graphite) and two storage sizes (eight and 32 GBs). The Oasis boasts a seven-inch 300 ppi flush-front Paperwhite display with an adjustable warm light that shifts the screen from white to amber to allow for hours-long immersion in the written word.
As with all things Amazon, you get instant access to a huge library of books and magazines, and if you upgrade your Amazon account to Prime, you unlock free access to thousands of titles, including new releases. Upgrade again to Audible, and you can stream audiobooks from the device via Bluetooth, syncing your progress to let you jump from reading to listening—both within the Oasis as also on other smart devices that run the Kindle and Audible apps.
Best for Night Reading: Barnes & Noble NOOK GlowLight Plus
Barnes & Noble's GlowLight Plus e-reader mirrors the sun's light progression throughout the day and comes with a proprietary Night Mode that uses technology to evenly disperse the backlighting to suit any condition, from bright, sunny days, to the mellow glow essential for fatigue-free reading at night. Or you can quickly adjust the warmth of the reading light manually via an intuitive user interface. Fonts and point sizes are easy to adjust, and it's 7.8 inch high-resolution screen is glare-, scratch-, and fingerprint-resistant.
The device is 100 percent waterproof, has built-in WiFi, and will run for weeks off a single charge. You'll also have access to the Barnes & Noble podcasts, which opens up behind-the-scenes stories about the books from your favorite authors.
Best Big Screen: Kobo Forma
With a screen that measures in at eight inches, the Kobo Forma e-reader definitely has one of the largest screens of any device dedicated solely to e-reading. Yet despite that generously-sized screen, the Forma is lightweight enough to handle for hours on end in part due to its curved, ergonomic design and the ability to swap between landscape and portrait modes. Kobo’s new page-turn buttons work intuitively whether you’re left- or right-handed, and the adjustable front light gradually reduces the blue-light to provide a mellow reading experience whether you're on a plane, at home, or somewhere in between.
It uses your public library to bolster its inventory of titles, including ones you can "borrow" much like checking out a physical book. There's also a free Kobo app (for both Apple and Andriod) that lets you sync your reading experiences across devices. It's available in eight and 32 GB models and the battery will last for weeks on a single charge.
Best for Kids: Amazon Kindle Fire Kids Edition
The central goal of a kid-friendly e-reader should be to stave off the boredom that happens when families travel by plane, car, or train, which is why the Kindle Fire Kids Edition wins points—because it’s more than just a dedicated e-reader. This fully-featured Amazon Fire HD 8 tablet comes with an eight-inch screen, 32 GBs of storage, and a battery life that tops out at around 10 hours. Purchase includes one year of Amazon’s FaceTime Unlimited, which consists of more than 20,000 kid-friendly apps, games, videos, books, Audible books, Spanish-language content, and educational content from PBS Kids, Nickelodeon, and Disney. So if a kid becomes bored with their current e-book, there are literally thousands of other options to entertain and educate. Parents will appreciate that it’s easy to personalize time limits, set education goals, filter content by age, and control web browsing. The two-year warranty applies even in case of damage, though the padded exterior offers a bit of extra protection against the inevitable drop.
Best Compact: Kobo Clara HD
With a six-inch screen and a weight of only 166 grams, the Clara HD by Kobo makes for one of the more compact e-readers available. But just because it’s tiny doesn’t mean you sacrifice any of the must-have features, including eight GBs of on-board memory (which is enough to hold up to 6,000 e-books). The front light on the screen reduces blue-light exposure for more comfortable nighttime reading, and you can customize the display from an option of 11 different fonts and more than 40 font styles.
It supports all the usual file formats, including JPEG, GIF, and PNGs, and also taps into lending books from public libraries. WiFi connectivity is fast and reliable, and supplemented with a micro USB cable that delivers weeks of battery life on a single charge. It also supports a host of languages, including Japanese and Turkish, and syncs with the Kobo app so you can pick up where you left off if you swap from the reader to your phone or tablet.
Best for Multitasking: Samsung Galaxy Tab S6
The Galaxy Tab S6 from Samsung is much more than an e-reader. This ultra-slim “two-in-one” tablet comes with an S Pen stylus and can be attached to a magnetic keyboard with a trackpad to provide a PC-like experience with the portability of a tablet, a huge win for travelers who want to stay connected while on the road.
Internal memory options include 128 and 256 GBs, and you can also boost storage by using a microSD card of up to 512 GBs. The edge-to-edge Super AMOLED display provides an immersive experience when watching videos or playing games during your flight. This clarity also delivers optimal e-reading.
As with other Android smart devices, you can run a host of third party reading apps like Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble’s Nook, in addition to your favorite magazine and newspaper apps. The battery lasts an impressive 15 hours on a single charge, and voice commands help find what you want, fast and hands-free.