Hitting the books
Electronic readers (e-readers) have come a long way since we first started testing them, back when some thought they might just be a flash in the pan. E-readers use an e-ink display to simulate the appearance of a paper book and, unlike other electronic viewing devices such as laptops and tablets, they don't require a backlight (although recent models do include a light within the screen if needed). This means less strain on the eyes after prolonged viewing and good readability even in direct sunlight. E-readers last weeks on a single charge, and most can hold thousands of ebooks either on the device or on a removable storage card.
Our hands-on testing of ebook readers focuses on design and ease of use, and includes an ease of use assessment by our expert testers as well as an assessment of the online purchasing environment, with scores based on how easy it is to buy, transfer and share ebooks.
How we choose what we test
Every test will include a range of Amazon Kindle e-readers and Kobo e-readers at various price points. After several years with a wide variety, these two brands have come out on top. Our tests may also include the top selling Android and Apple tablets as we know many users of these devices read e-books and want to know how they compare against a dedicated e-ink based e-reading device.
How we test
Our readability score is based on an assessment of the feel of each newly tested model when reading an ebook, compared with reading a paper-based novel.
The tester spends time during the day and at night with each ebook reader so it can be used under three different types of lighting: normal indoor lighting, normal outdoor lighting and normal bedroom night-time lighting.
Ease of use
Our tester looks at how easy it is to turn on the e-reader and access a title as well as the overall ergonomics of the e-reader compared to a paper-based book. Other aspects our tester looks at include page turning and general navigation within an ebook, and finally ease of holding the e-reader while reading a book.
The overall score is made up of:
- Ease of use 25%
- Online purchasing 20%
- Readability 50% (indoor lighting/outdoor lighting/bedroom night lighting)
- Ease of holding 5%
All readily available models we tested have Wi-Fi support and all available e-readers have a touchscreen. All ebook readers by default ship with an electronic version of the manual available on the device.
Ready to buy?
Check out our latest review of e-book readers.