The best gifts for readers in 2020: Kindles, Fire tablets, iPads and more

This story is part of Holiday Gift Guide 2020, CNET’s gift picks with expert advice, reviews and recommendations for the latest tech gifts for you and your family.

After spending all day hunkered down in a home office, enduring endless Zoom meetings and email after email, there’s nothing like escaping into a good book.

You know this, which is why you’re here, searching for the perfect gift idea for the book lover in your life. An e-reader is the perfect gift for someone who likes to take their whole digital library wherever they do their book reading. Sure, ebooks require a screen of their own, but some of our favorites use paper-like E Ink screens that are easy on the eyes. Further, they’re backlit, so your favorite reader won’t need to a book light to snuggle into their favorite reading nook and get lost in their favorite book.

Read on to see the best gifts for readers this holiday season. And if you know someone still addicted to dead-tree books, I’ve got a suggestion for them as well (see the bottom item on this list).

One important note: You should never pay full price for an Amazon device, as they get frequent deep discounts throughout the year. We’ve included the Prime Day prices where relevant below — we’d expect them to return by Thanksgiving or Black Friday at the latest.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Yes, Amazon’s top-end Kindle is too expensive for what it is — but that’s what makes it a great gift. It’s an extraordinary upgrade from reading on the standard Paperwhite. I upgraded last year during Prime Day, and was knocked out by how much better the Oasis is in terms of book readability and responsiveness. Plus, the physical page-turn buttons are so much better than swiping. Amazon runs a lot of deals on this, and watch out for trade-in bonuses on older Kindles to get it for a reasonable price. 

Note that the Oasis dropped to $175 during Prime Day in October, so that’s the price to beat for Black Friday shopping.

Read our Amazon Kindle Oasis (2019) review.

Sarah Tew/CNET

It hasn’t changed much in the last few years, but the latest Paperwhite is waterproof and has more onboard storage. I’d consider it the default Kindle to consider. The backlight is excellent; the size and weight make it highly portable as well. 

The Paperwhite bottomed out at $80 on Prime Day — that’s the sale price worth hunting down.

Read our Amazon Kindle Paperwhite (2018) review.

Sarah Tew/CNET

I’m not going to sugarcoat it. This basic Kindle is nowhere as good as the Paperwhite or Oasis. But it’s also a great impulse-purchase-price gift for a casual reader or someone just getting into ebooks. The latest version adds a built-in light, which makes it much more usable. 

The entry-level Kindle hit $60 on Prime Day — that’s the strike price for bargain hunters.

Read our Amazon Kindle (2019) review.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Amazon makes several different versions of its Fire tablet, and it’s basically the only budget-priced small tablet I’d recommend. The Fire tablets, including this slightly more upscale 8-inch version, are good for video streaming and some basic games, but they also double as excellent ebook readers, and the color touchscreen makes them especially suitable for digital graphic novels. 

This product retails for $110, but it’s periodically discounted to between $80 and $90.

Read our Amazon Fire HD 8 Plus review.

Óscar Gutiérrez/CNET

The best iPad for ebooks is the iPad Mini. The 8-inch screen and light weight are perfect (smaller than a book, even), and besides reading, you can do all the other great things — from games to movies to apps — you can do with an iPad. Again, this isn’t an E Ink display, but it’s an excellent high-res LCD and now has Apple’s True Tone technology for automatically adjusting white balance.

Just note two important caveats for this product: It frequently sells for as low as $350, and the 2020 eighth-gen full-size iPad has nearly the identical specs for less money ($300 now, and likely lower come Black Friday). You’re paying a premium here for the small size and slightly better screen.

Read more.

Dan Ackerman/CNET

I’ve tried many book lights over the years, and this is my hands-down favorite. It’s bright, rechargeable, has a very solid clip and a long neck. It can also stand up on its own, using the clip as a base. It’s popular around my house and my wife keeps stealing it, so I’m about to order a second one for myself. 

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