The bar to entry for reading is short: So long as you’ve got your text and a good source of light, you can dive into a made-up land, catch up on the latest news, or learn about a new topic that’s been itching at your brain in no time. The Kindle, with its days-long battery life and pleasantly-lit display, grants you the ability to stuff a library’s worth of books into your bag while weighing less than a paperback novel.
There’s no shortage of options when it comes to Amazon’s e-readers, either. With models ranging from the $90 Kindle to the $250 Oasis, book lovers hoping to step up their reading can find the model that best suits their needs. All three models cover the two most important things an e-reader should have: a good light, and solid battery life. So, the differences all lie in the details. For the extra $40, it’s worth grabbing the $130 Paperwhite over the regular Kindle for the added waterproofing and overall better display.
For passionate readers, though, it can be tough to decide between the Paperwhite and the Oasis. The Oasis’s extra features, which do make a noticeable difference in practice, may not justify the significantly higher price. If you’re on the fence, I’ve spent hours reading on both the Kindle Paperwhite and the Oasis—here’s everything you should know before hitting that buy button.
The Kindle Most People Should Buy: Kindle Paperwhite
If you’re looking for the best on-the-go reading experience that won’t chew up your wallet, you should get the Kindle Paperwhite. Its 8GB of storage is plenty to store all the books you’d need to get through weeks of travel, and its battery life can span up to six weeks depending on your usage.
The Paperwhite’s 6” display (with a resolution of 167 PPI) is bright and dense enough to see text clearly even in poorly lit rooms, and it rests flush with the rest of the device’s face, unlike the cheaper Kindle.
There’s nothing fancy or mind-blowingly cool about the Paperwhite, but that’s sort of its best selling point: it’s dead-set on giving you a convenient way to tap into all your favorite books without having to stress about lighting or staying near an outlet. Amazon nailed that formula years ago, so the question of whether to drop the extra cash on the Oasis boils down to whether you’re interested in simply reading, or reading in luxury. The Paperwhite may not boast the same 7” display or handy grip as the Oasis, nor can you turn the page via admittedly nifty physical buttons, but at $130, it’s hard to say the Kindle doesn’t pay for itself in utility.
It’s also worth asking yourself where you plan on reading the most. Though the displays only differ in size by about an inch, that actually matters a lot in practice. While the Paperwhite easily drops into all of my bags, even my favorite fanny packs, the Oasis isn’t able to squeeze into smaller bags, and its footprint is noticeably larger. If you’re looking for an on-the-go reading companion, the Paperwhite’s smaller body will ensure that you’ll never have to make too much room in your bag.
For Those Who Like Reading in Style: Kindle Oasis
Those looking for the absolute best reading experience possible, budget be damned, should get the Kindle Oasis. Though its hefty price tag is $120 higher than the Paperwhite, Amazon’s made enough pleasant tweaks to the hardware and software that, so long as you’re not dipping too far into savings for it, make the extra price worthwhile.
First, the larger display does actually make reading more enjoyable, in my experience. The more text you’re able to see on screen, the less time you have to spend turning the page, waiting for ink to refresh, and fidgeting your hands around. Those buttons make fidgeting less necessary, though, and the grip on the back of the device makes it easier to hold onto if you do need to shift around. If you’re particular about your reading conditions, you can even set the display to adjust its warmth and brightness based on the lighting around you.
There are two caveats worth noting about the Oasis: Its larger footprint makes it less travel-friendly, and its battery life isn’t nearly as long. As I noted above, the Oasis’s noticeably larger body makes it tougher to fit into small bags such as fanny packs and small purses. That may not matter for some, but it’s worth considering if you’re looking for a travel-friendly reader. Second, the Oasis won’t require more than once charge per week in most cases—that’s weeks behind what the Paperwhite offers.
For most people, the benefits of the Oasis won’t matter enough to make up for the higher cost. Both can download all your favorite books from the Kindle shop or your local library, you can take both along with you on a weekend camping trip or a red-eye (when that’s safe again), and neither one will leave you hanging with a dead battery. Still, the Oasis’s extra perks do sprinkle a little extra joy into the whole experience, which is worth the extra pennies if you’ve got ‘em.