Finding the best Kindle for you isn't as easy as it sounds. Amazon's got two e-readers that are similarly priced that will have you scratching your head wondering which is best. So, we've tested them all, looking at price, screen quality, portability and durability, all to pick the best Kindles.
We've even examined competitors trying to take Amazon's throne (none have made much of a dent). Yes, while Amazon's Kindles own the market, other do try and compete. The best Kindle overall is the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite. It's got a sharp 6-inch, 300-ppi backlit display, 8GB of storage, and can withstand a dunk in the water. It may cost a little more than the basic Kindle, but it's worth it.
Amazon wasn't the first company to release an E Ink e-reader (that was Sony, which launched the Librie in 2004), but when the first Kindle was released in 2007, it sold out in five hours. That initial success was likely due to Amazon's huge library of e-content.
My big recommendation for a ponderous read that fits with this chaotic modern moment, though, is Jenny Odell's How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy (Melville House, 2019). It's a far more complicated book than its title suggests, but it's a must read if you're having trouble keeping your focus these days.
In terms of new releases, we're eager to get our hands on Lauren Beukes' Afterland (Mulholland Books, 2020). It's a post-pandemic adventure tale about a world nearly completely without men, minus one young child, whose mother will do anything to protect him.
We've pulled together the best e-book reader apps, but since your phone or tablet's screen is probably harsher on your eyes than an e-ink-based e-reader is, you'll probably want to check out these picks.
Black Friday 2020 deals
In the market for a new Kindle? The good news is that Black Friday deals are already here. Yes, after Best Buy started its Black Friday deals early, other retailers followed.
What are the best Kindles and e-readers?
The best Kindle overall is the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite, and it's right for most users, without a doubt. It costs $130, sports a sharp 6-inch, 300-ppi backlit display, packs 8GB of storage and can withstand a dunk in the water.
We would love the Paperwhite if it were a little more affordable, but it's plain to see that it's the optimal device for reading in any condition. No matter if your vacation is in the sun or shade, or if you're just on a day trip at the beach, or consuming a gripping page-turner in the bath.
The best Kindle under $100 is the Amazon Kindle (2019), which at $90 has display lighting and the same size screen, but half the resolution and half the storage. That being said, its design is nothing to scoff at, as it's easy to use whilst perusing the Amazon store. Read on to find out which is the best Kindle for you.
The best Kindles you can buy today
In terms of bang for your buck, the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite reigns supreme as the flat-out best Kindle. Not only is its display still a crisp 300-ppi panel supported by solid backlighting, but it also offers waterproof (IPX8-rated) protection and 8GB of storage.
Its 6-inch screen is pretty much the standard for the industry, and we appreciated its even backlighting, an improvement over previous models which don't look as fully lit when you're reading a book at night. Another design change we appreciate is how its screen is set flush with the bezel, ditching the awkward design that looks even chunkier.
The device costs a little more than half as much as the $250 Kindle Oasis, coming in at $129. It's also thinner and lighter than the third-gen Paperwhite, and its display is more flush to its body. While the Paperwhite is not the best Kindle ever (that's still the Oasis), you get more for your money with this model.
Our testing of the Paperwhite included a 20 minute bath in our dunk-tank, and it worked perfectly fine the second it came out. It's rated to last another 40 minutes, but who leaves a Kindle underwater for a whole hour?
Read our full Amazon Kindle Paperwhite (2018) review.
Rather spend your money on more books? The cheapest Kindle e-reader is $89, and a new perk makes it more interesting for bookworms on tight budgets. This E Ink device is lightweight and easy to use for hours, and its chassis is no weaker than that of our top pick, the Paperwhite. The regular Kindle also has a touch-screen display, and those ensconced in the Amazon ecosystem can benefit from Goodreads integration and FreeTime Unlimited.
The Kindle's front-facing lighting finally brings it closer to parity with the Paperwhite. We're guessing most bookworms also like to read in the dark and may not want to disturb a sleeping partner by turning on a bedroom light. Overall, this is the best Kindle for those on a budget, as well as those voracious readers who would rather spend on books themselves, and not hardware. Now that some folks are moving from physical books, these things don't grow on trees anymore.
Read our full Amazon Kindle (2019) review.
Amazon's latest Kindle improves on the $90 Kindle by adding what's missing and chipping away at the cruft that fills up a regular Kindle. Kids will like it for the colored cases, while parents will love Amazon's 2-year no-questions-asked warranty. Even better, there are no lock screen ads. In fact, the Kids Edition is so close to our ideal Kindle interface, we wish Amazon would offer it as a mode for adults who just want to read the book, and not dabble in the Goodreads community.
Otherwise, the Kindle Kids Edition is the same tablet as the 2019 Kindle. You get the same 6-inch, 167 ppi display and front lighting, and the display is still inset, not flush with the frame. Oh and it's even got helpful vocabulary building tools and a free year (a $60 value) of Amazon's FreeTime Unlimited, which has thousands of titles.
Read our full Amazon Kindle Kids Edition review.
The new Kindle Oasis still offers Amazon's most luxurious reading experience, with its machined aluminum back, larger screen, physical buttons, automatic lighting adjustments and very well-lit screen (using 25 LEDs) — screams "first class." Its Oasis moniker is earned from its IPX8-rated water resistance, which allows it to survive hour-long baths. The device also supports Audible's audiobooks, as long as you've got a Bluetooth device handy.
The Oasis's curved back and physical buttons give you an easier way to get a grip and a way to read your book without tapping the screen. While the Oasis is the best Kindle for those who can splurge, we just wish it didn't cost nearly twice as much as the Kindle Paperwhite. It's the Kindle with more effort put into its design, losing the simple and utilitarian aesthetic of the regular Kindle and the Paperwhite.
Read our full Amazon Kindle Oasis (2019) review.
How to choose the best Kindle for you
Let's start with your budget, as that's the easiest way to make this call. If you're running tight right now, the $90 Kindle is a solid recommendation. Its lighting is good enough for a handful of situations and its battery life is nothing to sneeze at.
If money is no option, then you're going to be choosing between the Kindle Paperwhite and the Kindle Oasis, and this is sort of tough. If you prefer your devices to be built with a harder plastic, that still feels reliable, then you've probably got the Paperwhite in mind. It offers the same water resistance as the Oasis, and is similar in many regards.
But if you're tired of futzing with menus, and changing brightness, you will probably want the Kindle Oasis. Its display automatically adjusts to ambient lighting situations, maybe its best unique feature overall — as its metallic, not-symmetrical design is a bit divisive in our office.
How we test Kindles and e-readers
In addition to evaluating e-readers' size, weight, claimed battery life and design choices, we test their brightness using our light meter. The experience of reading on the device also plays a huge role in these reviews. For instance, we look at the intuitiveness of the interface, the size of the available library and how well the special features (such as web browsers or dictionaries) work.
As an example, I'm currently testing a competing e-reader, the Kobo Nia. I love how its interface is just focused on the books and what you're reading, and it's a solid competitor for those who want an e-reader that isn't all about Amazon.
We also track how many hours we spent reading on the Kindle, and the percentage of remaining battery life, and compare that against the company's estimations. And then, naturally, we read and read and read. At home, on the bus, in the park and anywhere else where the lighting changes.
We even drop water-proof Kindles into our makeshift dunk tank, and watch as they survive — the first time it was surprising, and now it's become something we expect. Lastly, we try and see if Amazon's changed anything about how Kindles work with public libraries. It's the one thing we prefer about competitors.