The pros and cons of Kindles are discussed at great lengths among bibliophiles. The conveniences of a light device and a vast digital library are great, but many readers prefer the physical feeling of reading an open book and turning its pages.
Amazon could meet readers somewhere in the middle with a future product.
Amazon released the first Kindle over a decade ago. The $399 device was thick and heavy with a physical keyboard – and sold out in under six hours. By 2010, e-readers were expected to kill off the sale of physical books, a shift quickly compared to the growing music streaming industry.
Today, print books are more popular than e-books, according to Statista, a recovery that many owe to the physicality of hardcovers that Kindles have yet to effectively replicate. By 2025, the global e-reader market is expected to shrink by $300 million.
“I’m a sucker for paperbacks,” Erika Semprem, a 23-year-old book influencer known as @theazereads told Insider. “But I do love that Kindles are more convenient. Instead of driving 25 minutes to the bookstore, I can purchase whatever book I’m in the mood for right away.”
Ten generations of Kindles later, Amazon says the latest Kindle Oasis “reads like real paper” with e-ink technology and fast page turns. As of 2019, over 90 million Americans own an e-reader, with the Kindle listed as the most widely-owned device.
If internal talks to make a foldable Kindle solidify, this could be the e-reader book lovers have been waiting for.
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The Amazon Kindle is a great entry-level e-reader for people who don’t want to spend more than $100 on a reading device.
It can hold thousands of ebooks, has a sharp screen with front lights for reading at night, and includes most of the same features as more expensive Kindles.
I’ve been reading on it for the past year, and think it’s the best e-reader for people on a budget.
Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky
If you’ve been unsure about ebooks but want to give them a try, Amazon’s basic, entry-level Kindle is a solid option. It’s relatively inexpensive, often goes on sale, and is super easy to use. Now that it has a front light for reading at night and Amazon’s nifty new Bluetooth Audible audiobook feature, it’s a much better e-reader.
Although I still recommend the top-of-the-line Oasis and the mid-range Paperwhite, most people simply do not need the extra features like water resistance, page-turning buttons, or adjustable screen color gradients that block blue light. So long as none of those features I just mentioned jump out at you as must-haves, the basic Kindle is likely a smart choice for you.
As a tech journalist, I’ve tested just about every new Kindle and Kobo e-reader that’s launched since 2014. I’ve been testing the basic Kindle for a year now, and I’ve been perfectly happy with it. I typically read on the much more expensive Oasis, and I only miss three things: the page-turning buttons, the water resistance, and the screen’s better lighting options.
Design, setup, and interface
The setup process for the Kindle is quite easy: You simply charge it, start it up, connect to your Wi-Fi, log into your Amazon account (or make one if you somehow don’t have one yet), and start buying and downloading ebooks. Adding ebooks from your local library or other free ebook sites, like Project Gutenberg, require more steps, but it’s also quite simple. We have tips on how to use your Kindle and get free ebooks on it here.
Once you’ve finished downloading what you want to read, you can turn off the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to preserve the battery – I usually put my Kindle in Airplane mode for that reason. If you want to listen to Audible audiobooks by pairing your Kindle to some wireless headphones, you’ll need Bluetooth turned on, though.
After that’s done, you can happily read your ebooks for about four weeks before you need to charge it again. Of course, if you have the brightness on higher than 13, your battery life will run out sooner. I rarely need to amp up the brightness past 13, though, and you likely won’t either. Using the Bluetooth Audible feature also knocks the battery life down by a couple weeks, depending on how often you use it.
What it’s like to read on Kindle
One of the best things about the Kindle is just how comfortable it is to hold while reading. Its soft, grippy plastic body is just the right size, and its bezels give my thumbs a space to rest on between page turns. I have smaller hands, so I prefer to hold it with two hands or hold it one-handed while it’s propped up on a cozy pillow, tabletop, or what have you.
You can get a case for it to protect it from scratches and to ensure that the screen doesn’t accidentally get turned on while it’s in your bag, but it isn’t totally necessary. The main downside of the basic Kindle versus the Paperwhite and Oasis is that it isn’t water resistant, so water will damage it. However, so long as you don’t drop it in the pool or bath, it should be fine.
Although I personally prefer the page-turning buttons on the Kindle Oasis to having to swipe to turn the page, swiping is easy and effective. The Kindle’s screen is very responsive, so a light swipe or tap easily registers, and the page turns seamlessly.
One of my favorite Kindle features is the ability to highlight quotations and share them on Goodreads, a social media site for avid readers. It’s also easy to look up the definition of words you don’t know, which is a helpful tool for kids who are learning to read – not to mention adults who are expanding their vocabulary.
I really appreciate that the entry-level Kindle also has the Bluetooth connection for Audible just like the more expensive models. It’s a welcome feature for those who like to use both audiobooks and ebooks. I was able to connect my wireless headphones to the Kindle in just a few minutes and get listening.
Front lights are great for reading at night
In the past, entry-level Kindles didn’t have built-in lighting, so it was harder to read in low light or at night. The new front light on the basic Kindle is a game-changer. I can read easily in total darkness or in the dim evening light. That said, I can definitively say that it is not as gentle or uniform a light as the Paperwhite’s or the Oasis’, but it’ll do.
The light is less precise on the basic Kindle because it only has 4 LED lights versus the 5 on the Paperwhite and the 25 on the Oasis. The lights are also located inside the chunky bezel instead of built in behind the screen like they are on the Paperwhite and Oasis, so the cast of the light is different. It’s more like using an attachable book light. Because of the location of the lights, if you read a lot at night, you may want to consider the Paperwhite instead.
The screen is a little more than half the resolution of the Paperwhite and Oasis, so it isn’t quite as crisp, but you’re unlikely to notice unless you’re looking very, very closely at the devices next to each other. The basic Kindle also comes with half the storage, so you may run out of space if you download thousands upon thousands of ebooks, but it seems unlikely. And, even if you do, you can simply delete older digital tomes in favor of new ebooks and redownload them any time you want because they live in the cloud.
Should you buy it?
Yes, if you want to save money and get the most affordable Amazon Kindle. The new front light makes it worth buying because it’s easier to read at night or in low light. However, if you do have more money to spend, we don’t think you’d regret getting the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite instead.
Which model should you get?
If you really hate ads on your lockscreen, you may want to pay extra for the ad-free version, but it’s not necessary, as the ads aren’t really intrusive.
What are your alternatives?
The other, more expensive Kindles are also excellent. The Amazon Kindle Paperwhite is a fantastic upgrade with its water-resistance and back-lit screen that’s easier on the eyes at night. Although the Amazon Kindle Oasis is my personal favorite, we know that most people won’t want to spend that much on an e-reader. If you don’t want to get an Amazon-based ebook reader, we recommend the Kobo Clara HD. Kobo is Amazon’s main competitor, and it supports more ebook formats, including EPUB files.
The bottom line
The entry-level Kindle is a fine choice for people who are looking to save some money and those who are trying ebooks for the first time. It’s a joy to read on the Kindle, and it’s very easy to use. After a year of testing, it’s still in great shape and works just as well as it did when it first arrived in the mail.
Pros: Affordable – especially when on sale, access to tons of ebooks, the front light makes reading at night easy, supports many ebook formats, easy to use, comfortable to hold, long battery life, Audible for ebooks
While Amazon’s Kindle allows owners to purchase or rent ebooks from the company itself, some people may not know that access to your latest favorites on your e-reader is only a library card away. Those with a membership at their local library can access electronic books for free, thanks to Amazon’s partnership with OverDrive.
It should be noted that not all libraries support the OverDrive lending system, so you’ll need to verify that yours does before proceeding. Additionally, some Kindle Books such as picture books, read-alongs, and graphic novels will not be supported by the Kindle app or some devices.
When checking out a book, whether through your library or the OverDrive site, you’ll want to find a “Device restrictions” link, or something similar, under the “Available formats” section to confirm compatibility. You can also read the book, once borrowed, within the OverDrive app if you don’t have your Kindle handy.
Once all of that is in place, you’re ready to get started. Here’s how to read library books on your Kindle.
What you need to read library ebooks on your Kindle
Checking out ebooks through OverDrive is a relatively straightforward process, but you will need a few things in addition to your library membership before proceeding.
A Kindle device, the Kindle Cloud Reader, or the Kindle app, which is available for iOS and Android devices.
An access pin to the OverDrive catalog, which can be obtained from your library.
A Wi-Fi connection or a computer and USB cord through which to load your borrowed books onto your Kindle device
How to check out library books on a Kindle through your library’s website
1. Visit the website of your local library and log into your account.
2. Use the library website’s search tool to find eBooks or Kindle books.
3. Follow the website’s instructions for checking them out. This will usually involve going to a title’s details page and hitting the “Borrow” link.
4. During checkout, there should be an option to sign in to your Amazon account with your username and password. Follow the process, including selecting the Kindle device you would like your book(s) to be sent to.
5. Check that your Kindle is connected to WiFi.
6. Finally, download the library book via the device’s Archived Items or Cloud section, both of which can be accessed through your Kindle’s settings.
How to check out library books for your Kindle through the OverDrive website
3. Search for and find the book you want to borrow using the site’s advanced search, format filter, or by visiting an ebook’s details page and verifying that Kindle is an available format.
4. Titles will appear in two different formats. One will feature only an image of the book cover with the title and author. The other will feature the book cover, title, and author, with a designation that it’s an “Ebook” and a link to “Borrow” it.
5. If the format you see has the “Borrow” link, click it.
6. If prompted, sign in to your library account.
7. If a lending period is available, select it now.
8. Choose “Borrow” again.
9. If the format only features the cover, author and title, click or tap the “More” option to be redirected to the ebook’s details page.
10. Select “Borrow” before signing in to your library account, if prompted.
11. Go to your Account dashboard and access the Checkouts page.
12. The process for both formats should now be the same, and you should see the option to “Read now with Kindle.” Click that link.
13. You’ll be redirected to Amazon’s site. If you aren’t signed in, do so.
14. Choose “Get Library Book” and verify that the “Deliver to:” device is your Kindle if prompted.