Summary List Placement
- 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
Cons: No backlight, not water resistant