If you’ve ever studied from a textbook, you know how incredibly bulky and heavy they can be. The best e-readers for textbooks are a compact and portable alternative, and enable you to bring your textbooks on the go, with the added benefit of shortcuts like keyword search and bookmarking. There’s a lot to consider when shopping for an e-reader that works for your needs and lifestyle, so here are some pointers to get you started.
Before buying, current students should find out if and where their school’s textbooks are available as a digital download to rent or buy. While every option on this list allows you to upload textbook files that you can then read, if your textbooks are available on a third-party app (as opposed to Amazon's Kindle store, which can be accessed on all of the devices below), you'll want to ensure that app is compatible with the device you choose.
Next, consider design. While it may be tempting to use an e-reader that you might read novels or literature on, if your textbooks include diagrams, imagery, or color-coded information, a classic e-reader might not be the best choice. Instead, you'd be better off with a full-color tablet. However, because tablets offer all of the best in entertainment (read: distractions), you might be better off with a basic black and white e-reader if your textbooks are, well, mostly text. You'll want to factor in your specific needs as well as your learning style when making this choice.
Battery life, durability, and screen size are also things to consider. Scroll on from the best e-readers for textbooks, below.
1. The Overall Best E-Reader & Tablet For Textbooks
You may know the Fire HD tablet from Amazon as a handy device for streaming and gaming, but its large screen and seamless integration with the Kindle app make it an excellent option for reading textbooks digitally, too. The 10.1-inch display is larger than most e-readers (including the original Kindle), and since the Fire has a full-color display and an HD screen, you get the full experience when reading textbooks with imagery, graphs, and diagrams. Whether you choose the 32-gigabyte or 64-gigabyte model, you’ll have plenty of storage for multiple textbooks.
As one reviewer on Amazon shared: “I got this to read some of my ebook textbooks for school (mostly PDFs) while in bed. Works great! I love the bigger size of the tablet so it's a bit easier to actually read things compared to my phone.” One note: None of Amazon's devices are compatible with EPUB files, though you can convert EPUB files to MOBI files and use them on this tablet. The Fire HD comes with a form-fitting, protective case with a built-in stand, so you can comfortably view the screen without holding it. In addition, the tablet’s battery can last for 12 hours on a single charge, and recharges quickly via a USB-C cable.
Helpful review: "Love this tablet! Love that I can go from watching Netflix or Hulu to studying from a textbook I have downloaded onto my tablet!"
2. The Best For Text-Only Textbooks
Some people find the multitude of apps and connectivity that tablets provide to be distracting, which makes studying that much more of a challenge. If your textbooks are text-dense and you want the simplicity of an e-reader without the added distractions of a tablet, Amazon’s Kindle Oasis is a great option. The straight-forward, 7-inch black and white screen uses e-ink technology, so it is glare-free and reads like real paper. You can adjust the screen’s warmth to your preferences to reduce strain on your eyes, even if you’re studying into the wee hours.
The Oasis is also waterproof, unlike the other tablets on this list, and features two page-turning buttons so you can advance easily from page to page. Since the Oasis is an Amazon product, it offers easy integration with the Kindle app for downloading books in a single click, but unlike some other e-readers, the Oasis can also upload common textbook files MOBI, PDF, and TXT files. The Oasis can be purchased with 8- or 32-gigabyte capacities, both of which offer plenty of storage for novels and textbooks.
One important note: Like the other Amazon tablet on this list, the Kindle Oasis is not compatible with EPUB files. You'll have to convert your EPUB files to MOBI files in order to read them on this device. If that's a deal breaker for you, opt for the Apple iPad below.
Helpful Review: "Very nice display, easy for reading with no strain or fatigue. I think this is the best Kindle reader of all, worth the upgrade only for the warm light. I read textbooks with a lot of detail in the figures, and they come out easy. Also better contrast for pdf’s."
3. The Splurge
Like the Kindle Fire, this iPad is much more than an e-reader, but its advanced functionality can let you do much more with the textbooks you download (like using the compatible Apple Pencil to easily annotate). The iPad is the largest tablet and e-reader featured here (by a hair), with a 10.2-inch display for easy viewing of full-color textbooks and other reading materials, as well as any videos or games for between studying sessions. If you want to get a closer view of what you’re reading, simply double-tap your iPad’s screen with two fingers to zoom in and back out, or hold to copy and paste a selection into a document for note-taking.
With the Kindle app installed, you get full access to Amazon’s library of textbooks and other reading materials, and since this iPad has built-in Wi-Fi and cellular, you can transfer PDF and EPUB files to the device wherever you are. It also has 32 gigabytes of storage for plenty of textbooks, or you can also upgrade to the 128-gigabyte version if you know you'll want to store music or videos on it, too. On a full charge, the iPad’s battery will last up to 10 hours, and recharges quickly using a Lightning connector. Though the lightweight, slim design of the iPad gives it a sleek look, it’s a little more fragile than other e-readers or tablets on this list, so it’s a good idea to invest in a protective case.
Helpful review: "I love this tablet! This is my first year as a university student, and I also love to draw, so this was perfect (as soon as I got the apps I bought for notes and drawing). I can’t wait to use it for my second semester, but I was able to use this for two of my finals... and IT HELPED!"