As consumers have gotten used to using digital products daily, the number of eReader users in the UK has rocketed from a modest 1.8 million in 2010 to become a familiar and much-loved device in many households (eReader usage rose from 30% to 34% in the first half of 2020 (opens in new tab)). As demand has grown, so has expectation for someone to create the best eReader yet. We want more from our devices than we ever have before, and it’s a lucrative market for any company that can break through and offer something new and exciting.
While Kindle and Kobo continue to dominate the market in the UK, they are not the only brands offering innovative and competitively priced eReaders. Over in the US, where it is estimated that 93 million people own a digital reading device, there has been a huge influx of new products in recent years, while China continues to push developmental boundaries in a bid to secure a larger audience.
Of course, there is a good reason why Kindle and Kobo are sitting proud at the very top of the UK eReader market – both offer devices that are user-friendly and not too taxing on the bank balance – but that shouldn’t deter you from having a look at what else is out there. To make it easier for you, here are three eReader brands that you may not have heard of and the types of product they are offering. (Just be sure to check out the best books of 2021, best non-fiction books, best romance books, and more.)
Founded in the Ukraine with company headquarters in Switzerland, PocketBook International has been in the electronic book business since 2007 and claims to be the third largest eReader manufacturer in the world. It is a status that’s easy to believe when you take into account that earlier this year they became the first to launch a mainstream colour eReader. Compared to the best Kindles, The PocketBook Color boasts a 6-inch E-Ink Kaleido™ 300dpi screen, which can display 4,096 colors. It has extended battery life, fully adjustable brightness, contrast, saturation and light levels, six audio formats, Bluetooth, text-to-speech and 16GB of built-in storage. It’s also small and light, allowing you to slip it easily into a bag or coat pocket, and retails at around £200.
For those of you who are looking for something a few rungs lower on the price scale, the PocketBook Touch Lux 5 shares many features with its more colorful cousin, but has a month-long battery life and weighs less, too, tipping the scales at just 155g. In the same way as you would with a tablet, you can download the Kindle, Kobo and other reading apps onto all PocketBook devices in order to buy, store and read your ebooks as normal. The Touch Lux 5 retails at around £150, while the previous model, the Touch Lux 4, costs from around £110.
Hailed as the most powerful eReader in the world, Chinese company Boyue’s LikeBook Mars will allow you to read ebooks, listen to audiobooks or simply play around with your Android apps. It has a high-resolution 7.8-inch touchscreen, fully adjustable front-lit display with warm light to protect your eyes and 16GB of built-in storage with room for an SD card, which could increase that to 128GB. There are numerous filters for keeping your ebook libraries in order, while the navigation is straightforward.
One downside of this device is that there is only one font available (most Kindles and Kobos have multiple options), although you can change the size of the text and the ratio of the images, the latter of which is a new addition to this type of product. With its large screen, speedy loading time and intelligent PDF display capabilities, it’s a good choice for anyone wanting to use their eReader for work and play. The RRP is £239, but it is currently available from Amazon for £199.
Chinese company Onyx International Inc is on a mission to build innovative eye-friendly electronics to protect its consumers from the dreaded digital eye strain. So, if you choose one of their BOOX eReaders, you will be comforted by the knowledge that your sight is in safe hands. They are also the first company in the world to apply Android 9.0 OS to their eReaders, allowing users the freedom to download more of their favourite reading apps.
The Onyx BOOX Poke 2 is the smallest and lightest device of its kind in the market and impresses with its 32GB built-in memory, multiple fonts, adjustable displays and Bluetooth. Unusually for an eReader, it will allow you to link up to extra devices such as portable keyboards, Bluetooth headphones and microphones without needing to faff around installing supporting software, and it has fingertip recognition for added security.
With all these bells and whistles, it’s definitely an eReader for the more tech-savvy customer. However, it is clear from the Onyx BOOX Poke 2 that this is the direction the market is heading; if you’re thinking of an upgrade, choosing one of these could be a savvy way to get ahead of the crowd.
NB: Due to the current Coronavirus pandemic, you will need to order directly from BOOX.com. The BOOX Poke 2 retails at $189 (£143); shipping costs are extra.
Isabelle Broom is the author of eight escapist fiction novels. She won the Romantic Novelist’s Association Best Contemporary Romance Novel award in 2019 and The Great British Write Off short story competition in 2015, with her winning entry, The Wedding Speech, later being adapted into a short film.
As well as heading off on adventures abroad—a pastime she now gets to call ‘research’—Isabelle is lucky enough to write book reviews and travel features on a freelance basis.
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