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The 8 Best E-readers for Travel – Includes Kindle Alternatives [2023]

Amar Hussain's image
Amar Hussain
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Amar Hussain

Senior Content Contributor

769 Published Articles

Countries Visited: 63U.S. States Visited: 9

Amar is an avid traveler and tester of products. He has spent the last 13 years traveling all 7 continents and has put the products to the test on each of them. He has contributed to publications incl...
Edited by: Keri Stooksbury
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Keri Stooksbury

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With years of experience in corporate marketing and as the Executive Director of the American Chamber of Commerce in Qatar, Keri is now Editor-in-Chief at UP, overseeing daily content operations and r...

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In today’s digital world, you may find yourself wanting to simplify what you carry — all thanks to technology. An e-reader 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 2 major players in the e-reader market and each has its pros and cons. This buyer’s 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

E-reader
Kindle is one of the most popular brands of e-reader. Image Credit: Amar Hussain

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 of the box.

Kobo’s biggest selling point is its price. Consistently priced between $20 to $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 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 2 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.

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

E-reader Connectivity
An e-reader should have access to the internet to download titles. Image Credit: Amar Hussain

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 touch screens 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

E-reader screen
An e-reader should have a sharp, crisp screen. Image Credit: Amar Hussain

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 physical 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 e-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 has 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 an 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 audiobooks 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 8 Best E-readers

1. A Firm Favorite That Continues To Slay the Competition

Amazon’s Kindle with a Built-in Front Light

With a crystal clear 6-inch display with built-in light and weighing in at just 5.5 ounces, this lightweight, compact, yet incredibly clear e-reader from Amazon is everything you need to enjoy your digital library on the go.

The 16 GB memory can hold thousands of your favorite books, while the battery can last up to 6 weeks based on regular daily usage and can be fully recharged in just 2 hours.

This is the 11th 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 the VoiceView screen reader that converts text-to-speech, and the ability to adjust the 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.

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.

What We Like

  • A good e-reader for the price

What We Don’t Like

  • Not waterproof

2. Read and Listen With Total Clarity

Check on Best Buy

Kindle Paperwhite

With a 6.8-inch 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 in fresh water and up to 0.25 meters for up to 3 minutes in saltwater. Say goodbye to worries of the rogue splash at the beach or poolside.

Upgraded to include a 300 PPI glare-free Paperwhite screen, this model has superior visual qualities. There’s also an adjustable warm light for reading day or night. 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 10 weeks of charge-free enjoyment, based on 30 minutes of reading a day, and there is the usual free cloud storage for all Amazon content.

Using the same wireless signals that cell phones 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.

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.

What We Like

  • Easy to read in bright sunlight

What We Don’t Like

  • Has a thin frame to hold

3. 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-inch electronic ink pearl display offers 1024×758 screen resolution at 211 PPI, giving clear visuals, while the built-in LEDs make it perfect for reading at night or in low-light conditions. The touch screen 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.

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.

What We Like

  • Supports both ePUB and MOBI files

What We Don’t Like

  • Kobo store reading recommendations aren’t as good as Amazon’s

4. 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-inch, 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.

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

What We Like

  • Clear bookmarking for chapter and book progress

What We Don’t Like

  • Touchscreen responsiveness isn’t the best

5. Great E-reader for All Reading Environments

Barnes and Noble Nook
Image Credit: Barnes & Noble

Barnes & Noble Nook GlowLight 4e

With its crisp, clear 212 PPI, glare-free display, the GlowLight 4e is just as good as the Kindle Paperwhite. Offering GlowLight technology, the Nook disperses screen light evenly, so you can read in comfort whether that’s in the dark or in bright sunshine.

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 sideload other formats, including ePUB books.

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

All in all, though the GlowLight 4e 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.

What We Like

  • Has a paper-like display

What We Don’t Like

  • No compatible with audiobooks

6. Bigger Screen, Same Great Features

Check on Best Buy

Kindle Oasis E-reader

With a 7-inch 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 6.5 ounces, making it as portable and lightweight as any of the smaller models on the market.

Available with either 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 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.

With an adaptive front light that automatically adjusts the brightness of the display, cellular connectivity, a 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.

What We Like

  • Has handy side page-turning buttons

What We Don’t Like

  • Quite pricey for an e-reader

7. Waterproof and Well-built: A Nice Alternative to the Kindle

Check on Walmart

Kobo Libra 2

With a larger than average 7-inch screen 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. With its ComfortLight PRO feature, this e-reader automatically adjusts the screen’s brightness depending on the time of the day, reducing your blue light exposure.

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 up to 2 meters of water.

Weighing in at just 6.77 ounces, 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 32 GB of storage, you will be able to take as many books away with you as would like.

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.

What We Like

  • ComfortLight PRO for optimal screen brightness

What We Don’t Like

  • Quite large to hold

8. Sleek Alternative to Kindle That’s Great for Reading and Writing

Kobo Elipsa

Designed to give Amazon a run for its money, the Kobo Elipsa is pretty darn impressive. With Kobo’s largest 10.3-inch screen and a chunky side grip, the Elipsa has been designed to be held for hours on end and offers auto-rotate in addition to a wealth of other cool features.

Weighing almost double that of the Kindle Oasis, it’s not the most lightweight e-reader, but it is durable and features both reading and writing functionality. It comes with the Kobo Stylus for making notes directly on the screen, so it’s a great e-reader for annotating books and marking assignments.

The Elipsa comes with 32 GB memory for holding tens of thousands of standard e-books and is also compatible with Kobo audiobooks. The included sleep cover can be used as a handy reading stand, but also puts your Kobo into sleep mode by simply shutting the cover.

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 from a Kindle.

What We Like

  • Has built-in OverDrive for library book borrowing

What We Don’t Like

  • There’s a bit of latency when using the Stylus

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.


Interested in more travel products to make your life better? Check out some of our other similar reviews:

Frequently Asked Questions

What are all the different types of Kindles?

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

  • Kindle — 6-inches
  • Kindle Paperwhite — 6.8-inches
  • Kindle Oasis — 7-inches

The basic Kindle has 300 ppi, 16 GB storage, and isn’t waterproof. The Paperweight and Oasis come with larger storage options, 300 ppi, and are waterproof up to 2 meters.

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.

Are e-readers worth it?

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.

What should I look for with an e-reader?

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

  • Connectivity
  • Touch screen
  • Memory
  • Screen size and clarity
  • Battery life
  • Weight

Amar Hussain's image

About Amar Hussain

Amar is an avid traveler and tester of products. He has spent the last 13 years traveling all 7 continents and has put the products to the test on each of them. He has contributed to publications including Forbes, the Huffington Post, and more.

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