E-Readers are very popular with seniors for a myriad of reasons. Screen sizes have increased over the years and it is quite easy to increase the font size, so more text fits on the screen. This not only applies to ebooks, but also digital magazines and newspapers. I know lots of seniors that go to the bookstore and buy large print books, these often are double the price of the traditional hardware and paperback novels, and not every book gets the large print treatment. Instead of using a magnifying glass to read the small text in a newspaper, many e-reader companies turn newspapers into pure text, so they look more like an ebook, without many of the drawbacks of the print edition.
What are the best e-readers for seniors? Primarily there are a few criteria that this list adheres to. We look at e-readers that have bookstores incorporated onto the device, since it is easy to buy content from an official store. Additionally, most seniors these days have a smartphone or tablet in their lives and prefer using apps to read, so a few devices on our list might not have an expansive bookstore, but does have Google Play.
What is it better to go with an e-reader, instead of just buying print? Digital ebooks are often cheaper than their print counterparts, and you can buy them, at any time. E-Readers use E INK e-paper, which are easy on the eyes and do not have any back-light, so seniors will not any eyestrain, like would on a computer or smartphone. E-paper is as close as you can get to reading read paper. Battery life is also a tremendous benefit, the typical e-readers lasts weeks, sometimes months, before needing a recharge, whereas a phone, you are lucky to get a day.
The Amazon Kindle is the most popular e-reader brand in the world, everyone has heard of it, even if they have never seen one in person before. The 11th Generation Kindle Paperwhite 5 came out in in 2021 and is still very relevant today. There are a few major selling points. It is using a brand new E INK Carta 1200 display, which has increased page turn speed by over 20% and the overall performance of navigating around, is 50% faster than the previous generation. The large 6.8 display provides ample screen real estate for more text and manga looks really really good. Amazon has also introduced a new page turn animation system, which seamlessly blends the text. Dark mode inverts the colours, so the background is black and text white, which helps with people who have contrast issues.
The Paperwhite, 11th generation, supports books purchased from the bookstore, but also sideloaded books too. You can read ebooks in Kindle Format 8 (AZW3), Kindle (AZW), TXT, PDF, unprotected MOBI, PRC natively; HTML DOC, DOCX, JPEG, GIF, PNG, PMP through conversion; Audible audio format (AAX). This model has 32GB of storage, but you only have access to 28GB, this is because the OS and all of the software takes up space.
There is a profile section of the reading app, where you can save your settings. This includes lines spacing, margins font size, font type. You can share the Kindle with multiple family members and each one can have their custom settings. One of the features I dig about the e-reading experience is the ability to shut off things like time remaining in a chapter or what page you are on. Eliminating the status bar, or just giving the option to shut it off completely is truly excellent. You can configure this in the Aa menu. One of the best new features is the new page turn animation system. You can seamlessly blend pages, when flipping the page to another. This is a nice transitionary process, that is quite different than the Kindle app for Android or IOS, which have peak and turn animations. Speaking of page turns, this model has increased the speed by 20%, so they are even faster than the previous generation Paperwhite.
When reading a book, you can simply pinch and zoom to increase the size of the font. This is useful since you no longer must do this exclusively on the Aa menu. There are some options you can do while reading, such as long-pressing on a specific word or body of text. This will provide options, such as making a note, highlights, or annotations. You can lookup words in the built-in dictionary and checkout what Wikipedia says. The Kindle also uses Bing Translations on all their e-readers, so you can translate a specific word or a body of text from one language to another. If you highlight a block of text or a single word, instead of looking them up you can share them via Facebook, Twitter, GoodReads or Email.
This model has a new page turn animation system. It is an option you can turn on, in the Aa menu. It seamlessly transitions each page into the next. It is very interesting way to go about this on an E INK screen. It blends everything really well, and is quite different from the Kindle app on your smartphone or tablet, which has a page curl effect, where you can peak on what’s on the next page.
All Kindle models have a system called X-Ray. If you have never used it before, it basically breaks down people, places, and things. It will tell you all of the major and minor characters in the book and let you know on what page they were referenced and give a quick character biography. The Paperwhite 5 has an option in X-Ray called “Images” which will show you all of the images in a book you are reading. Most books just have cover art, but there are many genres such as autobiographies that have dozens.
The PDF experience is the best out of all the Paperwhites released in the past. When you load PDF files on the device it handles them like a champ. A small mini map with a screenshot of whatever page is displayed will be on the bottom right-hand corner. This will help orientate and display the exact positioning. Page turn speeds are noticeably diminished compared to an ebook, but Kindles really weren’t built to support the format in a meaningful way. Overall, there are a few notable features with PDF support. You can pinch and zoom to a piece of text, and you can highlight it, select specific words or a body of text. There is options to translate it to a foreign language or just lookup the definition from the dictionary. A slider bar will help lighten or darken the document, depending on if it a scanned PDF that might not have the right color correction.
Amazon has one of the most expansive bookstores in the world. They all of titles and bestsellers you would see on the New York Times Bestseller List or other lists all over the world. Digital books are on par, or cheaper than print. Amazon also sells textbooks, newspapers and magazines. Kindle Unlimited is a big draw, it is an subscription service that gives you access to over a million titles for around $9.99 per month. It is also very affordable. The regular price is $139 USD and $149 in Canada, although every couple of months, Amazon provides discounts, so you can get one for cheaper, for those on a budget.
Barnes and Noble has a new premium e-reader that has a well-thought-out design. It has a large 7.8-inch e-paper display with 300 PPI and a matte screen protector installed at the factory to reduce glare. It is waterproof and has audiobook functionality and page turn buttons to make ebook reading enjoyable.
The Nook primarily supports two formats for delivering books purchased from the bookstore or sideloaded onto your reader – EPUB and PDF. The bookseller provides books, magazines, manga and newspapers in EPUB, which has some great features to make reading great.
Regarding reading ebooks, this device has several preloaded fonts to choose from. They are Mundo Sans, Baskerville, Georgia, Ascender Sans, Malabar and Joanna Sans. You can also select Publisher Default, which displays the font set by the publisher, but not all publishers have a recommended font in their metadata. Line Spacing has three different selections; Single, 1.5 and Double Spacing. The margins also have three options – Narrow, Medium and Wide. There is a font selection system with -A and +A, and it happens live on the screen whenever you make the font smaller or larger. Tapping the top right corner of any book you read will bookmark it. There are three dots in any open book; you can create additional bookmarks, jump to a page, find in the book and view book details, such as a description.
When reading a book, the best way to turn pages is with the manual page turn buttons. This device is great for right and left-handed users since the buttons are on each side. Whether you swipe, tap or use the buttons, the page turn speed is lightning fast with no whole page refreshes. There isn’t any ghosting, or text superimposed on each other the more you turn pages. If you hold down the page turn button, you will rapidly turn pages.
Long press on a specific keyword a popup will appear on the bottom of the screen, defining the word with the built-in dictionary. There are also options to highlight, copy and search for text. There is only an English and Spanish dictionary; there are no optional downloads for other languages, such as French.
Reading magazines on the Nook Glowlight 4 Plus is good. Barnes and Noble do something exciting with their entire magazine selection. They break all the text down, like reading an ebook instead of a replica PDF file. The first screen is a picture with some text outlining what the article is about, and the following few pages are just pure text, which you can augment to make larger or smaller. They are basically stripping away all of the CSS elements and just giving you images and pure text.
Manga purchased from Barnes and Noble is also delivered in EPUB and is excellent to read. The panels take up the whole screen, so there is little need to pinch and zoom. This is due to the company optimizing the files for the screen size. You can use the buttons to turn pages. I would not recommend side load in manga files that are in the PDF format since there will be optimization issues. It will leave lots of negative space all over the manga and be centred on the screen, making text and images hard to see and read.
Barnes & Noble has been flip-flopping for quite some time regarding device body construction, never quite landing on any design that was a home run. This one’s different. This one is new, fresh, and unique. All newly redesigned page turn buttons, a 300 PPI flush screen and bezel, the nook logo button at the bottom, is software-driven home button control. Nice and lightweight, with rewarding button presses for the page turn keys that can be key-mapped to reverse directions. This e-reader is sold out and more are available at the end of May 2024, you can purchase it for $199.99 from the Good e-Reader Store.
The Rakuten Kobo Elipsa 2e is their second shot at a large-screen e-paper display that is primarily geared towards taking notes, freehand drawing, annotating PDF files and editing ebooks. There have been a few massive improvements to this model, that the first-generation Elipsa did not have. The front-lit display has been upgraded from a Comrtfortlight to Comfortlight Pro, providing better illumination for warm and cool colours. The Kobo Pen has been redesigned, it is 25% lighter, making it easier to hold for long writing sessions, a dedicated eraser at the top, is a great way to remove errant mistakes. There is a new processor architecture, providing a huge increase in single-core speed and increasing power efficiency. Although this device is billed as a note-taker, you can just use it as an e-book reader, and the 10.3-inch screen is great for fitting lots of text on the screen at once.
The Kobo Elipsa 2e was designed to excel at reading the two most popular electronic book formats, PDF and EPUB. They also have support for manga, graphic novels and comic books with CBR and CBZ, so users will be able to download them from the internet and easily load them on their reader. When it comes right down to it, it reads EPUB, EPUB3, PDF, MOBI, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP, TIFF, TXT, HTML, RFT.
The Elipsa 2e has a rapid page-turn engine. You can turn this feature on by going to the reading settings menu and choosing to turn pages by tapping or swiping, or by swiping only. This new system is great, it allows you to tap your finger rapidly on the screen or gesture and it will change the pages very quickly. You can also hold your finger down on the screen and it will also turn the pages. The text is basically unreadable when the pages are being rapidly turned, will have to release your finger from the screen in order for everything to be fully rendered. The rapid page turn engine works with KEPUB eBooks, which are books you have purchased directly from Kobo. It does not support CBR/CBZ or classic EPUB support. It is also incompatible with sideloaded EPUB books.
One of the big advantages of the Elipsa, is it has Overdrive available. They are the largest companies involved in powering the public libraries digital collections. If you have a library card ,you can enter it into the settings menu and then can pursue your local library branches collection. Borrow, read and return right on the Elipsa. This device retails for $399 USD on the Kobo website.
Are you looking for a digital note-taking device with a coloured E INK screen to read A5 documents? The brand new Onyx Boox Note Air 3C might be just what the doctor ordered. It has some significant selling points; it is the first 10.3-inch e-note that has a black-and-white resolution of 300 PPI, so pure text and internet browsing will be razor sharp. The device employs an E INK Kaleido 3 colour e-paper, displaying over 4,096 colours when viewing PDF files and drawing in full colour. The Carta 1200 panel increases the overall performance of the entire software experience. You can also download millions of free and paid apps via Google Play.
The Note Air 3C makes a perfect e-reader to consume books, comics, manga PDF files and other digital content. This is because it has a 10.3-inch and tons of real estate for all text to fit evenly across the screen. Flipping pages is ultra-fast and even faster if you engage in any speed modes from the E INK Control Centre. The image quality is very pronounced, so if you are looking for a multipurpose tablet to read, this one’s for you.
The e-reading experience starts with the stock app Neoreader, where you can side-load all your content with many options for font sizes, font type, alignment, line spacing and margins. It supports PRC, RTF, Doc, Text, DJVU, PDF, Mobi, FB2, EPUB, CBR and CBZ. CBZ and CBR support is excellent for sideloading Manga files since this is the most popular online format. However, Amazon delivers manga in AZW3 and Kobo/Google via EPUB. You don’t need to worry about forms if you install apps such as VIZ or manga apps.
This device excels art reading PDF files, whether replicas from a Newspaper, Dungeons and Dragons source material or even reading office documents are tremendous. You can quickly sign your tax returns or contracts documents with a flourish of the stylus or use your fingers for handwriting. You can quickly fill in boxes and write in fields. Manga is also excellent. However, your mileage might vary depending on whether you use a dedicated app or side-load your content.
The Note Air 3C shines when you access Google Play and download your favourite apps. This gives you tremendous flexibility and freedom to use whatever reading or news apps you usually use on your smartphone or tablet. I know many people always install Libby to read eBooks or listen to audiobooks borrowed from the public library. The Kindle reading app is the most popular since it was initially developed for smartphones and tablets. The page turn animation always looks nice and pretty, but it struggles on E INK devices due to the refresh issue. This is why Onyx made enhancements to the app on a system level to eliminate animated page turns, so it is seamless and robust when you turn a page. Over the years, they have optimized many other apps but tend to focus on the writing experience on their extensive line of e-notes. The company has also made enhancements to a number of productivity apps.
Due to the color e-paper screen, this is quite expensive,retailing for for $499.99 from the Good e-Reader Store.
The Bigme Galy features an 8-inch Gallery 3 color e-paper display. It will have 300 PPI color resolution, which is achieved through a four particle ink system: cyan, magenta, yellow and white, which allows a full color gamut at each pixel. It can display over 50,000 different colors, so magazines, manga and Android apps will all look really good.
There is a front-lit display and color temperature system, this will allow you to read in the dark with white and amber LED lights and there are 36 total lights. The overall build quality is the same as the Good e-Reader X Bigme InkNote Color. It is very slender and the tablet is crafted with a combination of aluminum alloy and glass back panel to achieve a slim profile and luxurious texture.
Underneath the hood is a A53 2.3 GHZ octa-core processor, 6GB of RAM and 128 GB of internal storage. If this mind boggling storage is not suitable for your needs, it has have an SD port that is capable of handling an additional 128GB of storage. It has WIFI for connecting to the internet, browsing the web or installing and using Android apps. Bluetooth 5.1 will ensure you can pair wireless headphones or earbuds to listen to audiobooks, music, podcasts and anything else your heart desires. If you don’t feel like using headphones, it does have dual stereo speakers. The USB-C port will allow you to charge Galy on your computer or a wall outlet. There is an 8MP rear camera, and a 5MP front-facing camera. You can take advantage of the fingerprint sensor to unlock your device and set a passcode for more security. 4 noise cancelling mics will handle audio dictation, voice recognition or various voice communication apps. The battery is 4,000 mAh, which should be good for a couple of weeks.
The Bigme Galy is running Google Android 11 and ships with Google Play preinstalled. This will give users the ability to download and purchase millions of apps. This means you won’t have to worry about all of the complications of sideloading in apps. There are four different speed modes which give you increased performance to take advantage steaming audio, video, coding, looking at high quality pictures or just wanting to scroll very fast while browsing the web. It retails for $679.99 from the Good e-Reader Store.
Michael Kozlowski is the editor-in-chief at Good e-Reader and has written about audiobooks and e-readers for the past fifteen years. Newspapers and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times have picked up his articles. He Lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.