The 9 Best E-Readers for Travel – Includes Kindle Alternatives [2019]

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In today’s digital world, you may find your self wanting to simplify what you carry all thanks to technology. E-readers can be such a space saver that allows you to have your favorite books with you at the touch of a button. There’s no doubt that an e-reader is a travel essential for book lovers but knowing which one to buy can be tricky.

When it comes to e-readers you may also think that Kindles are the only option. Kobo and Nook are the other two major players in the e-reader market and each have their pros and cons. This buyer guide will walk you through the key decisions to purchasing an e-reader.

Why Buy an E-Reader?

E-readers allow you to carry hundreds of titles around with you at any one time, all safely tucked away behind an easy to read screen, and in a light and compact electronic format. Sure, you may initially miss the feel of a book or the smell of the paper, but once you realize just how much of a game changer an e-reader can be, you won’t regret switching over to the dark side for a single minute.

Bottom Line: Store, read, and share on the go, anywhere in the world. Take entire collections away with you without breaking the scales or your back carrying all those books. However and wherever you choose to use your e-reader, you will grow to love it.

Comparing: Kindle, Kobo, and Nook

When it comes to choosing the right e-reader for you, there are 3 major players in the marketplace, all of which offer models that will deliver pretty much everything your heart desires when it comes to reading, except for that ever elusive smell of old paper.

Kindle

The original, and quite possibly still the best, Amazon’s Kindle e-reader dominated the market for many years following its first release.

With a range of versions to choose from, nearly all models are slightly more expensive than their competitors, but Kindle users love the lightweight, yet high quality feel of the devices, the competitively priced or free books on Amazon, and clever little touches like faster page turning times and automatic light adjustment.

Bottom Line: With instant access to Amazon’s huge online library of titles, the Kindle is still the most popular e-reader in the world today.

Kobo

As one of the only other e-readers to come close to the Kindle in terms of sales and popularity, the Kobo is a slightly cheaper, but equally as efficient, alternative that works well.

Even with its slightly smaller storage capacity across all models, you can easily store a variety of titles, all accessed via the Kobo store, on this device.  Most Kobo models also come preloaded with a range of classic literature, meaning you can get reading as soon as you take it out the box.

Kobo’s biggest selling point is its price. Consistently priced between $20-30 cheaper than the Kindle, you will still get a beautiful looking, easy to use e-reader, that offers instant access to an entire world of titles, just without the Amazon logo attached to it. It also has a much more user-friendly keyboard and navigation layout compared to the Kindle, making it super easy to use.

Bottom Line: Kobo, which is an anagram of “book”, is a worthy competitor for the Kindle and one that should never be excluded even while the overall price is less than the Kindle comparisons.

Nook

Finally, the underdog in this list is the Nook. The e-reader from the literary giant, Barnes & Noble, that is running up against the likes of Kindle and Kobo for a place in the heart of electronic readers worldwide.

With cheaper purchase prices, Nook e-readers offer a value-for-money alternative to the two major players.

Bottom Line: While offering lower prices on the device, the biggest downside is that the Nook online book store is nowhere near as comprehensive or affordable as Amazon, or even the Kobo store, meaning you will have to pay more for a smaller selection of titles.

Quick Picks

In a hurry? Here are the top picks for e-readers:

Things to Consider With an E-Book Reader

E-reader specifications can vary dramatically. Before you commit, make sure to take into consideration all of the following:

Connectivity

To download a new title to read on your beloved e-reader, you will need to have access to the internet. Depending on the make and model that you buy, you should be able to get online using 4G mobile data or Wi-Fi.

Deciding on whether you are prepared to spend money to remain online on the move, or whether you are happy to download your titles at home before you go, connectivity will dictate where and when you get new titles downloaded to your device. Make sure your device will allow you to download titles when and where you choose.

Touch screen

While touchscreens seem to add value across every other part of the electronics sector, e-book readers are not always so quick to value this type of technology. With all the major manufacturers now offering touchscreen models, Amazon was one of the last to do so, stating that customers felt this made e-readers feel more like tablets than electronic books; a distinction that true e-reader aficionados are religious about.

Do you want a touch screen? Do you think that having a touch screen takes away from the e-reader feel? Those answers can help you find the device best suited for your style.

Memory

The average e-reader offers between 4 GB and 8 GB of memory, which is similar to the amount of memory you would find on an entry level smartphone. Although that may not sound like a lot, 8 GB is more than enough to hold around 500 books, assuming these 500 books aren’t all “War and Peace” length.

Screen

While screen sizes do appear to have become smaller in recent years, the standard size for most e-readers seems to have settled around either 5, 6 or 9.7 inches (12.7, 15.2, or 24.6 centimeters). Much more important than the psychical size, however, is the display capabilities that it offers.

The text and images on the virtual page must be incredibly clear and sharp. For e-readers, image resolution is measured by pixels per inch, also known as PPI. Higher numbers matter and images with high PPI, 300 or more, will be clearer than those with low PPI.

Some e-readers offer LCD screen technology that is better able to display a wide variety of colors and interfaces just like your tablet or smartphone can. Since most readers cherish that real book feeling, electronic ink screens look more similar to paper than LCD screens do.

Formats 

Your digital literature is available in a wide variety of formats, not all of which will suit every reader. However, different formats will give you the same look and readability. The most widely available formats include:

  • ePUB (.epub) – the most widely-used format and one that is usually found everywhere outside of Amazon
  • TXT (.txt) – a simple text format where images and graphs are not supported. Very useful for text-heavy documents like research reports or reference books.
  • AZW (.azw) – also known as “Kindle files,” these files can store complex content, but can only be read on Kindle devices or the Kindle application.
  • MOBI (.mobi) – support for these files have been discontinued in favor of the above, but this format is worth a mention as you can still find them in use for devices with low bandwidth.

Audio

If you choose a e-reader and not a tablet hybrid like the Kindle Fire, one of the things you may lose out on is a decent amount of audio capability. While it is true that many e-readers will offer to read the words out to you in much the same way that an audiobook on CD would do, the voice can be very mechanical and have a disjointed feel to it.

Bottom Line: If audio books are your preference, download an audio reader application to your phone or tablet instead of purchasing an e-reader.

Battery

If you are used to having to charge your iPad daily, you may be delighted to know that most e-readers can go between 2 and 4 weeks of regular use without the need to be recharged. This is because electronic ink screens use very little power, and most e-readers are only used for around 30 minutes per day without wireless. Of course, if you use it all day, every day, your device will need to be charged more often.

Weight

One of the most remarkable elements of your e-reader is the fact that it can contain entire libraries worth of literature, yet weigh less than a single paperback book. With most of the major players weighing between 6  and 7 ounces (170 and 198 grams), which is half as light as even an iPad Pro, their weight makes these devices perfect for travel, commuting, and even reading in bed.

The Best E-Readers

6” E-Readers

A Firm Favorite That Continues to Slay the Competition – Amazon’s All-new Kindle with a Built-in Front Light

With a crystal clear 6” display with built-in light and weighing in at just 6.1 ounces, this lightweight, compact yet incredibly clear e-reader from Amazon is everything you need to enjoy your digital library on the go.

The 4 GB memory can hold thousands of your favorite books, while the battery can last up to 4 weeks based on regular daily usage and can be fully recharged in just 4 hours.

This is the 10th Generation of the ever-popular Kindle. As well-loved as ever, it offers the same quality and durability you would expect from a brand leader like Amazon, as well as plenty of useful added extras including VoiceView screen reader that converts text-to-speech, and the ability to adjust font size, font style, line spacing, and margins.

For downloading new titles, you can easily connect to the internet using public and private Wi-Fi networks, and the Kindle offers free cloud storage for all Amazon content.

Bottom Line: Easy to navigate, easy to read, decent battery life, and durable; it is easy to see why the Kindle remains the best e-reader in the business.

Read and Listen With Total Clarity – Kindle Paperwhite

With a 6” screen that offers Amazon’s patented Paperwhite display technology, this is one of the sharpest e-reader displays on the market. It is also the lightest Kindle offered, and waterproof up to 2 meters. Say goodbye to worries of the rogue splash at the beach or poolside.

Upgraded to include a 300 PPI resolution and a LED backlight, this model has superior visual qualities. With the choice of either 8 GB or 32 GB storage options, you will never be without a good book wherever you may be.

The extended battery life now offers up to 6 weeks of charge-free enjoyment, based on 30 minutes reading a day, and there is the usual free cloud storage for all Amazon content.

One of the most exciting additions to this version is the introduction of free cellular connectivity. Using the same wireless signals that cellphones do, you can download new titles even without regular Wi-Fi, making this an excellent choice for adventurers heading away from the usual tourist routes. You can also switch seamlessly to audio reading, meaning you can carry on enjoying your book and listen as your story unfolds.

Bottom Line: As well-made, durable, and easy to use as ever, the Paperwhite from Kindle offers a vastly superior reading experience with a brilliant new screen and incredible audio reading capabilities.

A Basic, but Brilliant Little E-Reader – Kobo Aura 

This basic, but still brilliant e-reader from Kobo is a hit with those who simply want to read on the move without having to carry a ton of heavy books around with them.

The 6″ Electronic Ink Pearl Display offers 1024×758 Screen Resolution at 211 PPI, giving clear visuals, while the built-in LEDs makes it perfect for reading at night or in low light conditions. The touchscreen is easy to navigate, and the instructions are simple.

With 4GB of internal memory, and a MicroSD card slot that supports cards up to 32GB, there is plenty of space to store all of your favorite titles as you build up your digital library. With a battery life of up to 2 months, this little e-reader is an excellent choice to carry with you on your next adventure.

Bottom Line: With a lightweight, yet sturdy feel about it, this baseline e-reader from Kobo is an excellent choice for readers who want a fuss-free, but incredibly user-friendly, e-reader. It offers personalized reading options including fonts sizes, line spaces, light and contrast, and reading statistics and suggestions.

An Updated Kobo for the Modern Day reader – Kobo Clara HD

The Kobo Clara is a robust, entry-level e-reader that offers some nice features for a reasonably priced device. With a compact, but crystal clear 6″, 300 PPI screen, it easily matches the visual reading qualities of some of the more expensive models on the market.

The front-lit display means you can read perfectly whatever the outside lighting conditions, while the patented Comfort Light PRO technology adjusts the lighting based on your location and time zone. With an impressive 8 GB of memory, you will have plenty of space to download almost an entire library worth of your favorite titles.

Navigating your way around from the home screen is easy, and the library menu is intuitive and straightforward. Many different preset options will allow you to customize the display, and easy to use sliders offer much higher levels of flexibility when it comes to your fonts, margins, and line spaces than many other more expensive models.

Bottom Line: With a battery life of 2 to 4 weeks, a the Kobo Clara offers an impressive electronic ink display, great memory, and reading personalizations without the high price tag. 

Great E-Reader Let Down by the Platform – Barnes & Noble Nook GlowLight 3

The GlowLight 3 is the lowest price e-reader in the selection, and possibly one of the most underrated too.

The crisp, clear 300 PPI, Carta electronic ink display, the GlowLight 3 is just as good as the Kindle Paperwhite. Offering GlowLight technology, the Nook can automatically change the backlighting changing from white to orange depending on the time of day. This reduces eye strain and makes reading in low light easier on your eyes.

With 8 GB of storage, you can easily hold up to 6,000 standard books on this little device, while the Nook also offers the capability to side load other formats including ePUB books, which is not a standard feature in many of the other makes on the market today.

Perhaps the only downsides to the Nook over some of its competitors is the underwhelming collection of books available on the Nook store, as well as the lack of audiobook capability. This may make it unattractive option to extensive readers or to those who like to listen as well as read.

Bottom Line: All in all, though the GlowLight 3 is a basic e-reader, it will undoubtedly keep you entertained on your next adventure; just be aware of the title limitations you may hit when wanting to find that newly released title.

6” Plus E-Readers

Bigger Screen, Same Great Features – Kindle Oasis E-reader

With a 7″ 300 PPI display, the Oasis is the largest Kindle currently available, and offers a crisp display that can be read without glare even in bright sunlight. Despite its larger screen size, it still only weighs around 6 ounces making it as portable and lightweight as any of the smaller models on the market.

Available with either a 8 GB or 32 GB memory, you can easily carry your entire digital library with you and never be caught without a good book. The larger size screen has also been designed for one-handed reading. Ergonomics is at the forefront of the design as it shifts the center of gravity to your palm.

As with all of the other Kindles in the range, it is incredibly easy to use and is built to last. This new model offers more options than ever including font sizes, additional boldness levels, and left-aligned text, all designed to help you fully customize your display to suit your reading preferences.

Bottom Line: With an adaptive front light that automatically adjusts the brightness of the display, cellular connectivity, built in Audible reader, and the ability to remain waterproof up to 2 meters, the Kindle Oasis is an incredible e-reader that can go anywhere with you.

Waterproof and Well-Built: A Nice Alternative to the Kindle – Kobo Aura H2O Comfort Light

With a larger than average 6.8″ screen, an adjustable front light color, and bolder fonts that can be found on some of the big brand competitors, this Kobo is a great alternative to the Kindle and one that is sure to impress.

The biggest upside is the IPX8 rated waterproofing. You can read worry free in the pool or the bath. The IPX8 rating means it will continue to work for up to 60 minutes in 6 feet (2 meters) of water.

Weighing in at just 7.3 ounces (207 grams), it is incredibly lightweight, yet still durable enough to carry with you anywhere you go. It is incredibly easy to navigate your way around the home screen, and with 8 GB of storage, you will be able to take as many books away with you as would like.

Bottom Line: Offering more font and layout settings than many other e-readers, library sorting, and a popular full-screen mode, this is an excellent e-reader if you fancy a change from the ever popular Kindle. A basic, but brilliant buy.

Sleek Alternative to Kindle That is Giving Amazon a Run for its Money – Kobo Forma

Designed to give Amazon a run for its money, the all-new Forma from Kobo is pretty darn impressive. With a book-shaped 8″ screen and a chunky side grip, the Forma has been designed to be held for hours on end and offers auto-rotate in additional to a wealth of other cool features.

Weighing in at roughly the same as the Kindle Oasis, this is a lightweight but durable e-reader that you can take anywhere with you. The large 8″ screen offers an incredibly crisp 300 PPI display and the front light is made up of white and red LEDs so you can easy adjust the lighting to suit where you’re reading.

The Forma comes with a choice of either a 8 GB or 32 GB memory, but the latter may be a case of overkill as 6 GB is enough to hold over 6,000 standard e-books.

Bottom Line: Good looking, user-friendly, and a wealth of features designed to customize the display; this is an excellent option for those who want to try something different to a Kindle.

Final Thoughts

If you can fall in love with a regular book, you will eventually be just as crazy about using an e-reader. With the ability to carry an entire library with you anywhere you go, excellent battery life, and a ton of customizable options, there are few downsides to moving away from paper books.

Whether you choose from a Kindle, a Kobo, or even a Nook, you will find enough books to keep you reading even on the longest of journeys.

 

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FAQ

What are all the different types of Kindles?

Amazon have 3 different types of e-readers on the market:

  • Kindle – 6″
  • Kindle Paperweight – 6″
  • Kindle Oasis – 7″

The basic Kindle has 167 ppi, 4 GB storage, and only has Wi-Fi connectivity. The Paperweight and Oasis come with larger storage options, 300 ppi, and also allow for cellular connectivity.

Can you read a Kindle in the dark?

All 3 Kindle models come with adjustable lights. This means that Kindles can be read in the dark or at night without a light.

Is a Kindle or Kobo better?

While there may not be too much difference in the technical specifications of the comparable Kindle and Kobo models, Kobo edges Kindle in price. However, the service and book availability on Kindle outranks Kobo so Kindle gets the vote if you’re willing to pay that little bit extra on the device itself.

Amar Hussain

About Amar Hussain

Amar was born and raised in England, UK, embarked on an 11 country round the world gap year after graduation and then became well and truly hooked. The first gap year inspired a second which ended up being a 23 country down-the-world trip from Canada to Antarctica. Since then Amar has endeavored to turn his gap year into a ‘gap life’ and has spent the last 10 years traveling the 7 continents.

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