We read and review a lot of books each year at Five Books and often get queries from friends and family about the best Kindle to get, or indeed whether it's worth getting a Kindle at all. On balance, if you like reading, it probably is worth getting a Kindle. For one thing, eBooks tend to be cheaper, and many older books that are already out of copyright are available as free eBooks in easy to read formats. Reading a print book is still a more satisfying experience (in our view), but there are circumstances when having a Kindle is extremely helpful. These include:
1. When you want to sample a book before buying it. Amazon offers free Kindle samples for every ebook, in most cases more than long enough for you to either get hooked on a book or decide it's not for you.
2. When you want to read at night, and the person you share a room with is asleep and objects to having the light on.
3. When you're travelling, and don't want to take a large pile of books with you.
3. When you're travelling, you did take a very large pile of books with you, but you finished them and the local bookshop sells only a very limited selection of books.
4. When you are reading a book that is so long it hurts your wrists to hold the print version (this came up recently while reading Robert Galbraith's—aka JK Rowling—Troubled Blood.)
5. When you want or need to read a new book instantly, and can't wait to get to a bookshop or for an Amazon delivery.
6. When you're learning to read in a foreign language, and want to look up words you don't know.
Below, we've listed the latest versions of the main types of Kindle e-reader that Amazon sells in 2022. One overall piece of advice: if you have an older Kindle, there is no need to upgrade. While we'll outline the features of some of the newer Kindles below, the old ones get the job done just as well.
Out on November 30th, 2022, Amazon is introducing a Kindle Scribe. The screen is enormous compared to other Kindles (10.2 inches), but its main new feature is that it can be used for writing as well as reading: it comes with a pen. The idea is that you can write lists and notes, including sticky notes in the books you're reading on your Kindle. It's pricey: over $300 even for the cheapest Kindle Scribe, which comes with 16GB of storage and a 'basic' (rather than 'premium') pen. It could be worth it if you do all your reading on your Kindle and want one place to keep not only your books but also all your notes about them. Otherwise, a basic Kindle with a separate reading journal is a cheaper option!
The Amazon Kindle is the basic, plain-vanilla version of a Kindle, available in black or, as of 2022, denim blue. It’s the lightest and smallest of the Kindles Amazon sells. The 2022 version (11th generation) has a sharper screen and an even longer battery life. It’s extremely sturdy, though not waterproof, which might be an issue if you like reading in the bath. In addition to reading, this Kindle allows you to listen to audiobooks via Audible, if you have bluetooth headphones. Price-wise this is the best Kindle to get, though the 2022 model is pricier, only coming in at just under $100 if you buy it ‘with ads.’ If you find ads when your screen is locked annoying, you’ll need to pay extra for the Kindle ‘without ads’ option.
The Kindle Paperwhite is Amazon’s mid-range Kindle e-reader, updated in October 2021. With a screen that’s flush, it looks a bit fancier than the basic Kindle and has an adjustable light. A more substantial difference with the basic version of the Kindle is that it’s waterproof, an important feature if you like reading in the bath.
If you look up the Kindle Paperwhite on Amazon, you’ll notice you now have the option to choose between three types of Kindle Paperwhite: the standard model, the ‘Signature Edition’ and a kids’ version. The standard model has 8GB of storage, which is plenty unless you’re storing a lot of audiobooks on your device. It also has the option to have ads, which reduces the price. The Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition has 32GB of storage and is ad-free and has a thinner border (though the screen size is the same). In terms of additional features, it boasts an auto-adjusting front light and wireless charging.
The Kindle Paperwhite, especially the Signature Edition, is a pricier purchase than the basic Kindle, and perhaps one to get if you’re going to be using your Kindle a lot, or are getting it for someone as a gift.
The Kindle Oasis is the Rolls Royce of the Kindle world, with comforting features like “an adjustable warm light” (the e-reader equivalent of heated seats?) and a bigger screen than the other two types of Kindle. What’s very nice about the Kindle Oasis is the way you can change page by pressing a button that sits easily under your thumb, which is not possible with the other two Kindles. Having a Kindle Oasis is a luxurious experience, though because it is fancier, it doesn’t exude the indestructible quality of the basic Kindle.
The Kindle Oasis comes in two colours: gold and graphite and you can choose between 32GB and 8GB of storage. It’s not clear exactly why the 32GB of storage is needed (unless you plan to store a lot of audiobooks on your Kindle), but in several countries the 32GB option comes with free 4G access, so you can download books even if there is no Wi-Fi around.
If you take good care of your devices, read e-books obsessively, or money is no object, the Kindle Oasis is the e-reader to request as a special birthday present, or to buy yourself as an indulgence (you can always persuade yourself that you’ll save money in the long-term because so many e-books that are out of copyright are free).
Kindle Kids Edition
We’re including the Kindle Kids Edition on this list because you might have seen it and wondered what it is. It’s the basic version of the Kindle, which we’ve found pretty indestructible anyway, but comes with a two-year guarantee if your child does, in fact, manage to break it. It also comes with a colourful cover (green, blue or pink), and a free year of Amazon Kids+, which offers “unlimited access to 1000s of kid-friendly books.” This includes (currently) the Harry Potter series, the Geek Girls series and a few other popular kids’ books. If your kids are voracious readers, are happy to be led by titles that are put in front of them, it’s probably worth it—though a basic Kindle with a Kids+ subscription and your own choice of cover might come in at a similar price.
There is also a kids’ edition of the pricier Kindle Paperwhite. In addition to the features of the basic kids’ edition, it looks slightly nicer with a flush-front design. More importantly, it’s waterproof, in the likely event that it is dropped in water. While based on our experience the basic Kindle can survive being dropped in a shallow river for a few minutes, it’s not designed to do so, and a device “tested to withstand immersion in 2 metres of freshwater for 60 minutes” might be a safer option. The Kindle Paperwhite for kids comes with three options of cover: black, emerald forest and robot dreams.
A note from our Children’s Editor: ‘There are other e-readers on the market. I haven’t tested widely, but the Kobo Clara works well. Kobo also has a waterproof model: the Libra H2O. The situation with libraries varies. In several places, provided you have a library card, you can borrow ebooks from the public library and read them on a Kobo.