Even for the most ravenous of book lovers, dedicated ebook readers can be a fairly easy idea to dismiss. After all, if you’ve got a modern big-screen smartphone or a tablet, it’s dead simple to just download Amazon’s Kindle app to get your ebook fix.

According to a 2014 report from the Stanford Center for Teaching and Learning, however, the way we read on our smartphones and PCs is different from how we read on paper. Thanks to the internet, we’ve trained our eyes to skim and dart around on screens, constantly hunting for the information we’re after – a non-linear behaviour the Stanford paper calls ‘surface reading’.

When reading from a paper book, by contrast, our brains switch to a more concentrated form of information processing – dubbed ‘deep reading’ – and it’s a mode that actually helps us better absorb and comprehend what’s on the page.

To us, that sounds like a great argument for giving books their own space, away from the distractions of apps and constant notifications on our modern do-all devices.

And while there’s certainly something irreplaceable about curling up with a good hardcover or paperback, nothing beats the convenience of a digital device when it comes to size and browsing for new books – but with a dedicated ebook reader, you can arguably have the advantages of both.

By design, they’re a simpler device made for the singular purpose of reading – and they have advantages too, such as batteries that last weeks rather than hours, and much-clearer legibility in direct sunlight.

Here are the best ebook readers you can buy today:

Kobo Forma

 Just how premium will ebook readers get before people stop buying them? That’s a question that market-leaders Amazon and Kobo have both been testing over the last couple of years, releasing bigger and more full-featured devices at ever-more-expensive price points. The latest (and priciest) to date is this new Kobo Forma, a $429 ereader that’s essentially Kobo’s answer to Amazon’s ‘luxury’ Kindle Oasis (see below), which is now in its second generation. 

Adopting a similar asymmetrical design to the latter, the Forma provides a significantly wider bezel on one side in order to make it more comfortable for prolonged one-handed holding. Where the Forma one-ups the Kindle – and perhaps attempts to justify its $40 price premium over the $389 Oasis – is by adding an extra inch to the display, for an expansive 8-inches in total.  

Despite their size disparity, the two devices have surprisingly similar weights. Compare the two side-by-side and it’s immediately apparent that the Kobo’s build quality isn’t as premium as on its Kindle counterpart. In place of the Oasis’s slick aluminium chassis (which gives it a somewhat iPad-like exterior) the Forma has opted for a more standard soft-touch plastic casing that’s dimpled on the back side. But while the Oasis’ metal exterior certainly feels more durable, it’s also much more slippery. The Forma’s rubbery and textured back, on the other hand, means that despite its bigger size your grip never wavers and its bigger footprint helps keep that weight feel more evenly distributed. 

The Forma’s main power button is slightly mushy, and it’s genuinely difficult to tell that you’ve pressed it much of the time. The page turn buttons likewise aren’t as crisp as on the Oasis – although unlike the power button you can at least feel when you’ve pressed them, and to their credit there’s a nice big empty vertical space between them for nestling your thumb within.

You can hold the Forma in either your left or right hand (or even in landscape) and the display orientation automatically rotates within a couple of seconds of switching. And it’s clear the Forma uses newer and snappier E-Ink tech than Kobo’s previous flagship device, the Aura ONE, with full screen refreshes required less often and a touch more responsiveness when turning pages or using the onscreen keyboard. It’s fast.  

As is common with all Kobo devices from the last few years, the Forma’s backlight also offers colour-temperature adjustment, so you can opt for an orangey-yellow light tone rather than the standard (and potentially sleep-disrupting) blue light. The Oasis has no such option.  

It’s the reading experience that ultimately counts, though, and the Forma undoubtedly shines in that regard: it’s asymmetrical design and large screen do undeniably make it more comfortable to use for long periods, so if you’re an ebook junkie looking for an reader that can keep pace this one’s still got the goods. 

Kindle Oasis

Amazon’s original Kindle Oasis has been around for a while now, a premium ebook reader that dropped jaws with its unconventional design – where one side is considerably thicker than the other – and rather outlandish price; in Australia, the Kindle Oasis launched at a jaw-dropping $449.

Amazon’s second-gen Oasis ups the ante on its forebear in numerous areas and this is a redesign that, by and large, has definitely been worth it. 

With an aluminium body and a matte-finish glass panel to cover its high-res, 7-inch E Ink display (adding an inch over its predecessor), the new Oasis has an almost iPad-like feel that’s both classy and durable. It’s also the first Kindle to include water-proofing, where it beats most flagship smartphones with an IPX8 rating.

And yet despite those improvements, the price is also more palatable in Australia, dropping $60 to a slightly more reasonable $389 for the 8GB model – although opting for the bigger 32GB model will still set you back $529.

The asymmetrical design gives you a nice big holding area on one side of the display and thin bezels everywhere else. Swap from holding the Oasis in your left to right hand (or vice versa) and the screen orientation automatically flips around to accomodate. The two dedicated page-turning buttons have a super-satisfying and reassuringly-stable click when you press them, and that 7-inch, 300dpi display is gorgeous too, rendering text and images with the same sharp and smooth results we saw on the first Oasis.

There’s another neat new trick underneath the Oasis’s hood, too: Audible audio-book support. There’s a big caveat, though, in that you can only output audio via Bluetooth – there are no inbuilt speakers or a 3.5mm headphone jack, so you’ll need to have a wireless speaker or set of headphones to use it. 

Amazon has added a new optional viewing mode, letting you reverse convention and have white text on a black background, which should help reduce the amount of blue light being bounced into your eyes.

You still can’t borrow library ebooks in Australia if you’re a Kindle user. Our libraries use the Overdrive system, which the Kobo range of readers support, but Kindles do not. There’s also no native integration with a read-it-later service, like Kobo has with Pocket, although you can email stories or use a free service like Pocket 2 Kindle to achieve this.