Best ebook reader to buy in 2018: Kindle and Kobo battle it out

For several years the Amazon Kindle has achieved near total domination of the ebook reader market. The only other company to even come close is Kobo (it’s an anagram of “book”), the Canadian underdog that released its first ebook reader in 2010.

Between the two of them, they’ve not left much room for other companies to elbow their way into the market but that’s not necessarily a bad thing and, in Kobo, Amazon does at least have some competition worthy of the name.

In this article, we’ll assess the six best ebook readers available in 2018 and, hopefully, help you make a decision about which one is right for you. First, though, a little explanation about the services they offer.

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All Amazon’s ebook reader devices have exclusive access to Amazon’s ridiculously large library of ebooks and magazines, which are largely reasonably priced and many of which are free. The downside is that the Amazon Kindle won’t read certain file types, as it’s only programmed to work with files purchased through Amazon’s Kindle library. If Amazon doesn’t have what you want (which is unlikely) you’ll have to go without.

Other boons of siding with Amazon include family ebook sharing and the perks of the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library and Prime Reading service for Prime subscribers. The former allows Amazon Prime subscribers with a Kindle device to borrow one book per month at no cost, with no due dates, from a choice of 600,000 books. Prime Reading gives Prime members free access to a smaller library of 1,000 titles – including books, magazines, and comics – which they can download and keep.

Meanwhile, Kobo users can buy or borrow ebooks from pretty much anywhere – apart from Amazon. The Kobo Library, the local library Overdrive system and certain Amazon Kindle file types work, too. You can even buy through indie bookstores to support physical businesses that have partnered with Kobo. Kobo ebook readers are also compatible with a wider range of file types than Kindle and Kobo’s own library of ebooks is actually pretty comprehensive these days. It’s now rare to find a hot new best-seller that is on Amazon but not on Kobo.

Now, without further ado, let’s take a look at the best ebook readers you can buy right now, starting with Amazon’s flagship digital library device, the Kindle Oasis.

Best ebook readers in 2018 from £60

1. Amazon Kindle Oasis

Price: £230-£320  | Buy now from Amazon

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: this is the best ebook reader ever made. Amazon’s Kindle Oasis doesn’t come cheap but if you’re already into ereading and fancy an upgrade then this is what you’ll want. Weighing just 194g, it’s lighter and thinner than the Kindle Paperwhite, it comes with up to 32GB of storage, and cleaner, crisper lighting on a 7in touch screen. Not only that, but the newest edition of the Oasis has Audible integration, Bluetooth connectivity and is waterproof up to two metres.

Admittedly, it is an expensive device. It’s twice the price of the mid-range Kindles and a lot more expensive than the Kobo Aura One but it is the most luxurious ebook reader available. It has 12 built-in LED lights for clear glare-free reading, an ambient light sensor, and page turn buttons if you prefer that to using the touchscreen. Battery life is roughly the same as an Amazon Voyage or Paperwhite. Three models are available, with the most expensive featuring 3G connectivity and more storage.

Amazon Kindle Oasis: Who is it for?

The high-flying, speed-reading adventurer who wants to read every book in the world and is damned well prepared to try. Also for the clumsy; if you drop in it the hot tub or the pool, it’ll keep right on ticking.

Read our full review of the Amazon Kindle Oasis

2. Kobo Aura One

Price: £190 | Buy now from Amazon

Kobo’s newest ebook reader has been designed to directly compete with Kindle Oasis. It’s cheaper, has front lighting and an ambient light sensor, and it is waterproof, too, and will take being submerged in up to two metres of water for 60 minutes.

Its display has the same resolution as the Oasis. It’s stunning and sharp and easy on the eyes since and it even has a blue light filter, especially helpful for improving sleep if you’re a late-night reader.

Then there are the drawbacks: it smudges easily, feels cheaper than the flagship Kindle ebook readers,  it’s heavier than any Kindle at 230g, it’s way thicker, and with a larger screen of 7.8in it can be difficult to wield in one hand. This makes it less desirable for commuters, but anyone who likes to read in bed or the bath will appreciate the added size and words per page. One final drawback is the limited storage. Without a microSD slot, you have no choice but to make do with the limited 8GB capacity.

Kobo Aura One: Who is it for?

At-home readers and night-time readers. Also, those who want no restrictions when it comes to their choice of ebooks. The Kobo Aura One supports a huge range of file types, so you can read pretty much anything from anywhere.

Read our full review of the Kobo Aura One

3. Amazon Kindle

Price: £60-£70 | Buy now from Amazon

The classic. The standard. The OG. Whatever you want to call it, the Amazon Kindle remains a stalwart of the ebook reader market and an excellent choice for anybody buying their very first ebook reader. The Kindle has been upgraded time and again since its initial launch back in November 2007 with better memory, longer battery life, and now it has a touchscreen as well.

The low price means compromise. There’s no LED lighting, so you’ll need to rely on external sources and with 4GB of storage, it has half the capacity of the cheapest Oasis.

Amazon Kindle: Who is it for?

Casual readers who want the cheapest Kindle device possible, don’t particularly care for the frills of its pricier upgraded models and are planning to use it in well lit indoor environments.

Read our full review of the Amazon Kindle

4. Amazon Kindle Paperwhite

Price: £110-£180 | Buy now from Amazon

The Paperwhite represents the middle ground of the Kindle range. But it’s quite a hike on the standard Kindle; even the non-3G version costs almost double that of the Kindle original. What it does have over its cheaper sibling, however, is LED lighting and a 300ppi screen, plus battery life of up to six weeks if used for half an hour per day.

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite: Who is it for?

Standard Kindle users seeking an upgrade with more features. Although it is considerably more expensive than the basic Kindle, it is worth it.

Read our full review of the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite

5. Kobo Glo

Price: £100 | Buy now from Amazon

This is Kobo’s slightly cheaper, albeit slightly inferior, answer to the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite. Despite being more satisfying to say out loud, the Glo is Kobo’s second best model after the Aura One. Key features include built-in lighting for reading in dark or dim conditions and a dedicated button for switching off the light entirely to help you save battery life. That light, though, is less even than on the Kindle Paperwhite.

Pound for pound, though, it matches the Paperwhite’s screen and storage specifications and it also has more customisation options. Users can change the way books look on screen in many more ways than on a Kindle. As with all Kobos, the interface isn’t quite as slick and the store isn’t as good as Amazon’s, but you do get the chance to buy and borrow from multiple sources.

Kobo Glo: Who is it for?

Those who want a well-priced ebook reader and the freedom to buy their digital books and magazines from anywhere rather than being locked into Amazon.

Read our full review of the Kobo Glo

6. Amazon Kindle Voyage

Price: £170-£230 | Buy now from Amazon

The Voyage is a great all-rounder and makes an excellent travelling ebook reader. In particular, its ambient light sensor, which adjusts brightness according to the ambient conditions, makes it wonderful for 24/7 use. Whether you’re in bright sunlight or reading under the covers the light brightens and dims automatically, so you don’t need to fiddle with the settings yourself.

There are some limitations to the device, especially in the wake of the Oasis’ arrival. It only has 4GB of storage, which is the same as the standard £60 Kindle and if you want 3G connectivity it will set you back a whopping £230; that’s only £40 less than buying the vastly superior Kindle Oasis.  

Amazon Kindle Voyage: Who is it for?

Anyone looking for a premium ebook reader but isn’t quite prepared to go all the way for an Oasis.

Read our full review of the Amazon Kindle Oasis

Want something cheaper? Try an app instead

Maybe you’re sick of losing books on the Tube, paying overdue library fees, or getting to the end of crime thriller purchased in a charity shop only to discover that some psychopath has carefully torn out the final ten pages. Perhaps you’re still not convinced by our ebook reader spiel. In that case, you could always try out a smartphone app first to test out the concept without laying out £60 or more or your hard-earned cash.

The accompanying apps from Kobo and Amazon, both of which are free, allow you to read on your tablet or smartphone without having to buy an ebook reader first and there are other free apps available, too. Google Play Books, for example, allows you to choose from an extensive library containing millions of digital books and magazines, which can be previewed for free and purchased via the app. It also has a lovely collection of classics like Frankenstein, Sherlock Holmes, and Moby Dick, which can be downloaded and kept for free.

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