When you buy through our links, Insider may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more.
Amazon’s Kindle lineup has led the e-reading space for years, and for good reason: Kindles are some of the best e-readers available. In terms of design, performance, and convenience, they’re nearly unrivaled.
Buyers can choose between four main Kindle models in the current lineup, each with a different draw for users. While all Kindles let you read ebooks from Amazon’s Kindle Store, some models offer extra perks like a waterproof design or note-taking support. But spending more on a Kindle doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get a better experience. Depending on your needs, a cheaper model may get the job done just fine.
To help you figure out which Kindle is right for you, I put Amazon’s e-reader lineup to the test to find the best Kindle for most readers. After dozens of hours of reading, page-flipping, and book browsing, here’s how all the Kindle models stack up, and why certain ones are best for specific buyers.
Our top picks for the best Kindle
Best overall: Kindle Paperwhite – See at AmazonThe Paperwhite delivers the perfect balance between premium Kindle features, value, and simplicity.
Best budget: Kindle (11th Generation) – See at AmazonThough it’s missing some extra features like a waterproof design, Amazon’s standard Kindle is an excellent e-reader at an affordable price.
Best premium: Kindle Oasis – See at AmazonThe Kindle Oasis is Amazon’s premium e-reader with tons of extra features and convenient perks, but it’s starting to show its age.
Best for notetakers: Kindle Scribe – See at AmazonKindle’s foray into a tablet-like e-reader lets you take notes right on its screen, but it’s a bit too pricey to justify for the average reader.
Best overall: Kindle Paperwhite
Pros: Waterproof, snappy performance, tons of functionality in a simple design, adjustable light temperature, frequently on sale, available in different colorways
Cons: No automatic page orientation or auto-adjusting light, lacks page turn buttons
The Kindle Paperwhite offers everything a reader could want out of a book replacement, with just the right balance between simplicity, capability, performance, and price.
The Paperwhite is designed with all of the Kindle essentials, including a beautiful paper-like display with adjustable lighting, font size settings, and a dark mode. It’s also got a sharp screen with 300 pixels per inch (PPI) and Bluetooth support for Audible listening. But, you can expect as much from any of the picks in this guide.
What sets the Paperwhite apart from the rest of the Kindle lineup is its perfect set of features for the money. Waterproof with a flush-front design and USB-C charging, the Paperwhite already looks and feels modern from its exterior. After unlocking the device, you’ll find the snappiest performance of all the Kindles with little to no ghosting (after images left on the screen). Its lighting temperature is also adjustable and it has a larger 6.8-inch screen versus the standard Kindle’s 6-inch display.
Starting at $140, it’s reasonably priced, and it’s the cheapest waterproof Kindle available. Even better, it’s often on sale for as low as $100 — which is the regular starting price of our budget pick. Regardless of whether it’s discounted or not, the Paperwhite delivers the best Kindle value for most people.
If you’re up to paying a little bit more, however, you may want to consider the Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition. It offers all of the same pros of the Paperwhite, with the addition of an auto-adjusting light. It’s also the only Kindle that you can charge wirelessly.
Check out our Kindle Paperwhite review.
Best budget: Kindle (11th Generation)
Pros: The latest Kindle UI, affordable, delightfully simple, comfortably sized
Cons: Not waterproof, no adjustable light temperature, lacks auto features, slightly slower performance than other Kindles
Amazon’s base Kindle got an upgrade in 2022, making this model one of the newest of the bunch. That means, despite being the cheapest option, the 11th-generation Kindle now has the benefit of a modern user interface with a 300 ppi resolution.
This model forgoes a lot of extra features in exchange for a lower price point, but it still comes with a glare-free display, adjustable backlight, and customizable settings. With a 6-inch screen it’s the smallest Kindle in the lineup, but feels great in hand. Ideal for a user who just wants to read, this device is unhindered by all of the bells and whistles of its pricier siblings.
However, if a waterproof design is important to you, you’ll have to pay more for a Paperwhite. You can’t read in the rain or the tub with a regular Kindle, and that’s its main drawback. It also lacks a few other extra features you might be willing to pay more for on another model, like lighting temperature settings, automatic adjustments, and page turn buttons.
In the end my advice is this: if the Paperwhite is on sale for the same price, opt for that, but when the regular Kindle is less money, it’s an excellent budget e-reader.
Check out our Kindle review.
Best premium: Kindle Oasis
Pros: Waterproof, high quality metal build, page-turn buttons, ergonomic design, automatic features
Cons: The oldest of the current lineup, micro-USB charging, screen ghosting
Released back in 2019, the Kindle Oasis is the oldest device in the Kindle lineup. Regardless, it’s still an incredible e-reader. It comes with the same paper-like display all Kindles are known for, along with adjustable brightness, dark mode, and customizable settings. The Oasis is also designed with a slightly larger 7-inch display than the Paperwhite, and a larger, more ergonomic body, including a ledge to rest your fingers on.
All of the Oasis’ features make it feel more premium, including its metallic exterior with page-turn buttons. When you unlock the device, you’ll get speedy performance with handy automatic features to adjust brightness and page orientation. And of course, it’s also waterproof.
The Oasis’ only negative is how old it is. Its age shows in a couple of ways, like its micro-USB charging port and the minor ghosting that’s noticeable between pages. The device is likely due for an update, so buyers may want to hold out to see if a new version gets announced this year. If you’d like to spend your money on a newer device with some of the Oasis’ extra perks, I also suggest looking into the Paperwhite Signature Edition.
However, for the most feature-packed of all Kindles available right now, the Oasis is still what you’re looking for. Despite its shortcomings, its siblings can’t match its capabilities and physical design, making it a solid high-end option if you’re willing to pay more.
Check out our Kindle Oasis review.
Best for notetakers: Kindle Scribe
Pros: Writable surface, large screen, handwritten annotations, premium e-reader capabilities, intuitive organization
Cons: Not waterproof, too large for casual reading, not a replacement for a tablet or laptop, very thin build, high price
Most readers don’t need the new Kindle Scribe, an e-reader you can write on, but it is a very nice device. Starting from $340, it offers an incredible sketching and note-taking experience on the same device you can read all of your books on.
The Scribe comes with the usual Kindle glare-free display, adjustable brightness, and customizable settings, with the added bonus of automatic page orientation flips and lighting adjustment. With its paper-like feel and responsive e-ink display, writing on this device is a joy that feels leaps and bounds better than writing with an iPad with an Apple Pencil. It’s also well organized with notebooks you can choose the format of and file away into folders.
For an extra $30, you can upgrade the included stylus to the Premium Pen. After testing it, I found it to be a nice improvement over the Basic Pen — it adds a dedicated eraser and a shortcut button to the base design. Both can attach magnetically to the Scribe.
But despite just how fun it is to use, it’s tough to justify the Scribe’s high price. It’s uncomfortably thin, making a case a necessary investment for commuters and students to prevent any potential bending. One of the Scribe’s main selling points is its annotation functionality, but you can’t even write on pages without using a clunky sticky note feature, nor can you use the highlighter directly on text. Did I mention it isn’t waterproof?
If you have $340 to spare, the Scribe really is a fun device, but if you fall into the category of “most readers,” we recommend opting for a cheaper Kindle model.
Check out our Kindle Scribe review.
How we test Kindles
I used several key evaluation points to judge each of the Kindles in Amazon’s e-reader lineup in order to arrive at their final ranking, including display, responsiveness/speed, price, and lighting customization. Here’s how those aspects were taken into account during testing.
Display: Though all Kindles share the same 300 ppi resolution, every model has a different size that makes a big difference when in use. In testing, I found the Kindle (11th Generation) could be too small for some readers, and the Scribe too large for others. Luckily the sharp resolution was easy on the eyes across all of the models, even during long reading sessions.
Responsiveness/speed: You don’t need to be a speed reader to notice when an e-reader is slow. Page turns will take a second to stutter into view, previous screens will leave an after image, and images will load in slowly. I evaluated this by loading each device with 100 titles out of my ebook library before testing. The fastest model is clearly the Kindle Paperwhite, with the Oasis being the slowest — but this difference is truly negligible.
Price: Of course price plays a big part in judging a Kindle’s value, and that’s part of what brings the Paperwhite above the rest. I compared pricing not only between Kindle models, but also between comparable e-readers from Kobo and Nook to see what the industry is like overall. None of the Kindles are a waste of money per se, but the Scribe is definitely the least cost-efficient.
Lighting customization: You won’t always be reading in the same room, under the same conditions, every time, and that’s where lighting customization comes in. The ability to toggle the brightness based on your current environment is a godsend for eye comfort, especially when it comes to long reads. All of the Kindles offer adjustable brightness, but the base Kindle doesn’t offer temperature adjustment, and only the Oasis and Scribe offer automatic lighting changes.
What to look for in a Kindle
Every reader is different, but there are a handful of features that all buyers should look for when it comes to committing to a Kindle.
If you ever plan to read in the bathtub or in the rain, waterproofing is a must — that eliminates the 11th Generation Kindle and the Scribe from the running. Readers who like to get in a few chapters before bed can also benefit from lighting temperature adjustment to warm the screen and ease your eyes into bedtime, which is something the base Kindle doesn’t offer. Personally, as someone who likes to read while laying down, I love the automatic orientation adjustment and page turn buttons of the Oasis, since it can accommodate whichever way I flop around.
Ultimately, the best Kindle for you is whichever one covers your needs the most without breaking the bank. That’s why we recommend the Paperwhite, because it manages to balance both of those things for most people.
Are Kindle books free?
E-books typically cost money just like physical books do, but you can score titles for free in a handful of ways.
- Join Kindle Unlimited: The Kindle Subscription service comes with over four million digital titles at no extra charge when you sign up for $12 a month
- Become an Amazon Prime member: If you’re a Prime member, you have unlimited access to thousands of titles as an added benefit of your subscription.
- Check out a book from your Public Library: E-reader users can still take advantage of borrowing books for free from their local public library’s website.
What is Kindle Unlimited?
Kindle Unlimited is Amazon’s e-reading subscription service. For $12 a month, it includes access to over four million books, thousands of audiobooks, magazine subscriptions, and Kindle Books you can borrow.
Can the Kindle read to me?
Your Kindle can read most content to you by using Text-to-Speech, an option available in your Kindle’s menu. If you prefer a human voice reading to you, you can also buy and download Audible Audiobooks of your favorite titles to have a narrator read to you from your e-reader.
Do I need a case for my Kindle?
While most Kindles are designed with a solid build, a case is still a good idea for protecting your device from drops or scratches. The Kindle Scribe, in particular, has a very thin design, which makes it feel flimsy without a case. You should also consider buying a case if you bring your Kindle with you outside your home during trips and commutes.
Cases can also help by providing a better grip on these otherwise flat devices. For less bulk, you may even want to consider attaching an adhesive phone grip, like a popsocket, to your e-reader.
For recommendations, check our picks for the best Kindle Paperwhite case.
The post The best Kindle for every type of reader appeared first on Business Insider.