The state of ereaders, end of 2016 edition
December 21, 2016 7:40 PM   Subscribe

As I hope that a 30 minute charge re-sets my wife's sad, half-frozen Kindle with a cracked case , I'm also looking to plan b: a new ereader. What's the best device out there that's just made to read books? Bonus feature: built-in reading light, or a case with light.

We have tablets at home (Kindle Fire 8.9" and a Fire 7" plus an older iPad from her work), but she really likes her old Kindle Reader because it's light and its battery lasts for a really long time, and all she wants is to read books. She has a Kindle ereader case that had a built-in light, but each of our boys has killed one, and it seems they're not made anymore. But that might be a moot point if this Kindle doesn't come back to life.

Which brings me back to the quesiton at hand: what's the best ereader for the money? The basic Kindle reader is currently $80, while Paperwhite is $100, but that's only Amazon. Has anyone come up with another suitable e-reader? Kobo's Glo sounds nice, but it looks like it's only available from 3rd parties, which might not be terrible. B&N's Glowlight Plus is available in stock locally, which is a huge bonus, if it's worth $100 (glow + waterproof sounds good, if it's really that great).
posted by filthy light thief to Technology (23 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
How does your wife get her books? It isn't hard to change ecosystems, but there's no particular reason to do so if you're happy in yours.

Get an ereader with a built in light. I hear that B&N doesn't make great ereaders. I'm happy with Kobo, and really only Kobo and Kindle have a track record.
posted by jeather at 7:50 PM on December 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

Look into the Cybook line. They have a reputation for being great e-ink devices. But for me the Kindles are still the best e-readers, mostly because it's the easiest to get books on them, and they are pretty high quality. The newer ones look much sharper and read better than the generation shown in that picture.
posted by dis_integration at 7:52 PM on December 21, 2016

I have the Nook Simple Touch with Glowlight, which is a couple generations back from the current model. I like it a lot. The light works fine.

The current model's being waterproof seems an improvement, given that I do use mine in the bath (I just, y'know, don't drop it); the downside is that they've gotten rid of the physical page-turning buttons, which make my model easy to use one-handed. But swiping from the edge works well enough, and I don't think anybody else offers physical buttons these days either.

I would imagine there's a model on display at your local B&N, which you can play with and see how you like it.

With that said... where is your wife getting her e-books from? It's possible to transfer books from one ecosystem to another, but it may require breaking DRM, and may be more of a hassle than you'd like?
posted by Shmuel510 at 7:54 PM on December 21, 2016

Response by poster: Porting books isn't an issue (I manage our digital library via Calibre).

Good point on test-driving a model at B&N, and it's also good to know that most have done away with physical page-turn buttons.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:57 PM on December 21, 2016

I have a Kobo H20, which is waterproof so I can read in the pool. You could read in the tub or at the beach, or wherever you want. It has built in light.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 8:00 PM on December 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'm a big fan of the Kindle Paperwhite. I mostly manage my library rentals via Calibre, but the quality of the 3rd generation display and backlight is pretty awesome. I don't remember to recharge it for weeks at a time. I've never hit a low battery alert (or whatever happens.)

Anything more expensive than that is just extra cheese on the cheeseburger.
posted by blob at 8:04 PM on December 21, 2016 [6 favorites]

I've handled the current-model Glowlight and a previous-generation Kindle Paperwhite and they're both really good—the light is a huge benefit relative to earlier models (I had a first-gen Kindle and then the first, pre-front-light Nook Simple Touch). If I weren't stuck in a particular ecosystem I'd probably get the Nook, just because it's waterproof and I fear an Amazon ereader monopoly.
posted by Polycarp at 8:05 PM on December 21, 2016

My kindle paperwhite is fantastic and I don't know what I'd do without it. It has light and it is light and the battery is just fine. I put stuff on it from a variety of sources, thanks to Calibre, so you're definitely not locked in to Amazon. It does have a browser but the experience is so painful you will never use it unless you are stuck in a broken elevator and need help.
posted by rtha at 8:05 PM on December 21, 2016 [5 favorites]

I'm quite happy with my no-frills e-ink Kobo Glo.
posted by nicebookrack at 8:56 PM on December 21, 2016

I have a fairly newish Kindle Paperwhite and it is wonderful. Being able to read in the dark after my husband goes to sleep is amazing, it's bright enough that it doesn't strain my eyes, yet dim enough to not disturb him, and the battery lasts for weeks. And yeah, the built-in browser is absolutely awful but for me, that's a feature, not a bug.
posted by anderjen at 9:01 PM on December 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

I've got a three year old Kobo Glo (managed with Calibre) that I love the heck out of. Though it doesn't have physical buttons I have no trouble using it one handed as it just needs a touch not a swipe. The only thing I don't care for is they pushed a software update about 18 months ago that increased the brightness of the front light at it's minimum setting. With my light sensitivity it is occasionally too bright for me without some other light source in the room. But I'm way out on the edge when it comes to light sensitivity.

I don't know what the dpi of my unit is but it is plenty crisp for words though pdfs can be awkward. And the size is a good compromise on portability and frequency of page turning; I wouldn't see a larger screen as a selling point. I get a good month of battery life with 1-2 hours of lighted use on average per day.

I also like the MicroSD slot. I have a couple different chips that I use to segregate content so I don't have to flip past say all my cook books when I am reading at night. And I can use my phone to download a book via the card in a pinch (I've had my spouse email me a book that I inadvertently didn't load during a trip).

The Aura seems functionally equivalent to the glow besides dpi.
posted by Mitheral at 9:04 PM on December 21, 2016

Paperwhite, Paperwhite, Paperwhite. I am a big Kindle fan, but also convert all of my purchases to non DRM'd formats with Calibre because I refuse to be owned by Amazon. FWIW, I have the 3G model, because I don't want to depend on Wifi to synch between my Kindle and my phone, where I read occasionally.
posted by lhauser at 9:49 PM on December 21, 2016 [4 favorites]

I have a Nook and a Kindle and they are functionally identical. There is no difference in the screens. So I'd buy whatever you already have books for.
posted by fshgrl at 10:21 PM on December 21, 2016

Nthing the Paperwhite.
posted by hapax_legomenon at 10:38 PM on December 21, 2016

Kindle original flavor was great but Paperwhite is perfection, I adore it.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:10 PM on December 21, 2016

I'm fond of my paperwhite. It is a lot like the original kindle, but a lot less flimsy.

(On an unrelated side note, how in the world did she get a kindle keyboard to stay intact??? Mine broke if you sneezed on them!)
posted by Jacen at 12:20 AM on December 22, 2016

I have just acquired a Kobo Aura One as my Kindle Paperwhite seems to be dying and I couldn't be happier. Cons: not cheap, not easy to obtain (at the moment) and you cannot easily download your notes but the display is a big improvement on the Kindle, the backlighting, which can either be automatic or adjusted by you, is brilliant and the whole organisation seems to be easier than the Kindle. As the linked review states, it is definitely an upgrade on previous e-readers.
posted by TheRaven at 1:09 AM on December 22, 2016

I love my Kobo Glo. I had a Nook before but didn't like it as much as my Kobo. It was slower to react and I didn't like how I had to browse my books on the Nook. The Kobo software is simpler and quicker which is what I wanted when reading books. Also, I find the size of the Kobo Glo perfect. It is small enough to put in my coat pocked or my tiny purse.
posted by newsomz at 1:13 AM on December 22, 2016

I have a ~2 year old Paperwhite and adore it. I switched from the First Generation Nook.

I can't believe the battery life, and the display is so crisp.
posted by getawaysticks at 4:20 AM on December 22, 2016

I've got a no frills Kindle - purchased a refurb from Amazon earlier this year for $50 IIRC when my antique Gen 2 Kindle finally died. It still does everything I want in an e-reader.
posted by COD at 6:43 AM on December 22, 2016

I have a Sony e-ink reader; I think it was the last generation they made. It has the touch screen and buttons, both, and a little integrated stylus. It's a workhorse and never far from my side. I love this thing! At the time I bought it, I also bought a Nook and a Kindle, but the Sony became the one I always reach for. I gave the others away.

This thread is timely, though, because my Sony's buttons are starting to get tired. After the holidays I plan to look around for a new device.
posted by elizilla at 7:11 AM on December 22, 2016

I have a four year old Kindle Paperwhite. I loved it when I got it: lightweight, bright crisp screen, long battery life. But lately the touchscreen seems to be losing its sensitivity, it takes forever to turn pages or browse within the Kindle store, and it crashes more frequently. I don't know if that's because the wifi signal is weak or it's just getting old, or what.
posted by Liesl at 7:25 AM on December 22, 2016

Best answer: Thanks for all the replies! My wife was leaning towards the Paperwhite, as she likes her now-dead Kindle, and was comfortable with the interface/ experience.

And Kindle Paperwhite it is, after trying the official Slow or Frozen Kindle E-Reader or Fire Tablet troubleshooting guide, then talking to customer support, who offered us a significant discount for customer loyalty/ retention.

Long story: I held the power slider for 40 seconds to reboot the ereader, and when that didn't work, I plugged it into an outlet for 30 minutes. That didn't help, either, so I asked them to contact me. The incoming call ended after 1 ring, so I called them back on that number and talked to a service rep who wanted me to repeat the first two steps, except just turn it off for 30 minutes instead of charging it. The new, 3rd step was to hold the power slider for 90 seconds, which also didn't change anything.

My wife took over, told the service rep that this final effort didn't work, and the device seemed pretty broken. She said that she had been looking at the Paperwhite, as well as the B&N Nook and Kobo devices. At this point the rep said they'd look into what discounts they could offer us to replace the device, and offered $55 off the already discounted $99.99 price for a Paperwhite. The rep directed my wife put one in our cart, and then the rep added the discount on their end, which looks like it didn't take from reviewing orders through, but the emailed receipt reads $44.99. Also, they didn't want us to send our old device back in.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:29 PM on December 23, 2016 [3 favorites]

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