There’s no genuine replacement for the feel and experience of reading a physical book, but sometimes it can be frustrating or inconvenient to carry one with you. This can be especially so when it comes to art books, which can range from heavy catalogs to massive monographs to dense how-to guides. Whether you’re a student, an educator, a researcher, or someone who just loves to read, an e-reader is a great tool to have to keep those texts in one highly portable format. E-readers are also perfect for those who are addicted to PDFs of critical theory. Find the best for your needs among our favorites below, which range from readers with monochrome screens to high-functioning tablets with exceptional graphics.
1. Kobo Clara HD Touchscreen E-Reader
Kobo’s e-reader has many pros, from its lightweight build—at just under 6 ounces—to its seamless interface. But what makes it a real winner is its independence from any one ecosystem of books. Unlike competing brands, Kobo makes the default source of books the library, offering easy access to your local branch’s collections. As long as you have internet access, you can browse catalogs directly from the device and download available books. The reader accepts more file formats than most others, including EPUBs, MOBIs, TXTs, and PDFs; if you’re a fan of the Pocket reader app, you can sync those from your computer to the Kobo, too. Note that purchases from the Kindle Store and Nook, however, will require conversions. In terms of performance, the Kobo has a clear, 6-inch black-and-white display with a uniform and adjustable backlight that makes reading comfortable whether in direct sunlight or at night. The touch screen is responsive whether you are swiping through pages or dragging and dropping files. You can also choose among different fonts, font sizes, and spacing.
2. Amazon Kindle Paperwhite
Libraries are awesome, but sometimes you have to wait quite a while for your book to become available. If you prefer the instant satisfaction of buying and downloading that best-seller, consider getting a Kindle, which offers seamless integration with Amazon’s bookstore. The Paperwhite can’t handle as many file formats as the Kobo Clara (compatible ones include MOBI, PDF, and AZW, but not EPUBS, which makes borrowing from libraries a less straightforward process), but it does best the competition in the battery wars. No other e-reader can last as long as the Paperwhite on a single charge—it can last up to six weeks if you read for 30 minutes a day with Wi-Fi off—making this a great choice for avid readers. Slightly larger and heavier than the Kobo, the Paperwhite also features a 6-inch black-and-white screen that is completely glare free for comfortable reading on sunny days; the lighting is also adjustable. This screen is also one of the most responsive in its class, with glitch-free flipping designed to replicate (though not quite replace) the satisfaction of turning a physical page. Readers can choose from a wide variety of fonts and more than a dozen font sizes. Oh, and it’s waterproof, so feel free to bring this device with you to the bathtub.
3. Apple iPad, 8th Generation
When it comes to graphics, the Apple iPad provides the best reading experience. Built with a 10.2-inch Retina display, this tablet boasts extremely crisp text and images and can reach impressive brightness levels. Pictures in art books look stunning on this screen, and you can easily zoom in and out by pinching the screen. Navigating through apps is also smooth, fast, and intuitive. You’ll be able to quickly make in-app purchases, whether e-books or audiobooks, with Apple Books or the Kindle Store. Or download library-friendly apps such as Libby. As a bonus for artists who enjoy illustrating, the iPad is compatible with the Apple Pencil, which can be used to create digital art and feels almost like an extension of the hand.
4. Barnes & Noble Nook GlowLight Plus eReader
Produced by Barnes & Noble, the Nook hooks users up to—you guessed it—Barnes & Noble’s ecosystem. Purchase and download books directly from the bookseller’s online Nook store, which also offers access to magazines and newspapers, or load files from other sources. The Nook is compatible with files including PDFs and EPUBs, so you can transfer books you’ve downloaded from a library via another device. Like other e-readers, this one has a black-and-white screen; at 7.8 inches, it’s larger than both the Kobo and the Paperwhite. The Nook features physical buttons to trigger a page turn, which some readers might prefer to touching the screen. Other features include a night mode that turns on a warm backlight and waterproof hardware for poolside or bathtub reading.
5. Amazon Fire HD10 Tablet
The Fire HD 10 is a great pick for those who want an e-reader that also provides access to email, internet browsing, and apps. It is a relatively affordable tablet built with a 10.1-inch, 1080p display, which means that you’ll see everything in color. Whether you’re reading using the Kindle app or perusing newspapers and magazines, all graphics appear vibrant and crisp. The interface is highly intuitive and even more streamlined than the Paperwhite, but note that the screen, although scratch-resistant, is not glare-free. You won’t get the same kind of battery life as you would with more basic e-readers (perhaps a few days on a single charge), but this is an exceptional multimedia device that upgrades the reading experience.