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How we test e-readers

Ease of use, readability and buying ebooks are part of the test for finding the best e-reader.


E-readers traditionally 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 most models now 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. 

Due to member feedback we've added an iPad in the latest e-reader roundup. It's not a dedicated e-reader, but the iPad has become one of the more popular ways to enjoy an ebook and the Mac OS format supports virtually all apps that accommodate ebooks from Kindle, Kobo and a range of other sources. The fact that an iPad can do so much more than an e-reader is not taken into account for this test.

Our expert testers

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 in the past have included 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 and have included the latest and most affordable iPad.

How we test

Readability score

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:

  • Online purchasing and lending 25%
  • Ease of use 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. Models are now arriving with Bluetooth support which means you can listen to audiobooks via wireless headphones or a wireless bluetooth speaker. Ebook readers by default ship with an electronic version of the manual available on the device, and are marked down in the bad point comments section if one isn't included.

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