And while there are many to pick from, here are nine reasons I believe the Amazon Kindle is your best choice.
The One Thing No Reader Should Travel Without
Sleek and sexy. If “sexy” isn’t the word that comes to mind when you think of e-readers, the Kindle might surprise you. Rounded corners, beveled edges, and your choice of either a charcoal or ivory finish — it looks damn good. Just make sure to buy a cover for your Kindle! You don’t want it banging around in your bag unprotected. I went with a Timbuk2 memory foam case that keeps my Kindle safe and looks good doing it.
Amazing battery life. I use my Kindle about an hour each day. I charge it once a month. If I am going to be travelling for a couple of weeks I can be confident that even with extended use my Kindle won’t run out of juice. Can you say the same for a laptop or Ipad?
Massive book selection. When you travel with a Kindle you travel with a virtual library at your fingertips. There are nearly one million titles available for the Kindle on Amazon. And with 4GB of memory built-in you can take 3,500 of those titles with you on the road. That’s a lot of reading! Plus, if you’re unsure about whether you’ll dig a book or not, most publishers allow you to download a free sample chapter. Brilliant.
Magazines, newspapers, and blogs, too. My perfect Sunday morning involves a neighborhood cafe, a cup of coffee, and The Atlantic. The first two are easy enough to replicate abroad. The third? Not so much. Not until I got my Kindle, anyway. Now for $1.99 a month I have The Atlantic delivered directly to my Kindle. One of the best things about home, wherever I go.
Wi-Fi and 3G. The Kindle comes in two flavors: A Wi-Fi only model, and a model with Wi-Fi + 3G. Which one is right for you? If you spend a lot of time travelling you’ll probably want to go with the 3G model. The Kindle’s 3G network is huge. Being able to download a book from, say, a beach in Thailand is a convenience well worth the asking price. I have the Wi-Fi only model and I love it. But if I was going to do things over again I’d pay the extra fifty dollars and go with the 3G model. Oh, and the best thing about the Kindle’s Wi-Fi and 3G functionality? They’re both totally free.
Support for non-Latin alphabets. The Kindle displays Cyrillic, Japanese, Chinese (traditional and simplified) and Korean characters. This is wonderful if you’re travelling through countries where those languages are used — or if you’re just looking to read “War and Peace” in the original Russian.
Fantastic value. The Kindle debuted in November 2007 at $399. Today you can get a third gen Kindle which offers more features and greater functionality for a fraction of the price. The Wi-Fi only model is available for $139 and the Wi-Fi + 3G model can be yours for $189.
Okay. I’m obviously a fan. A big fan. And, honestly, that surprises me. I didn’t expect to love the Kindle as much as I do. I think I’ll always prefer a good old fashioned book, but as a traveller living overseas it’s a wonderful alternative. The Kindle is great, but it isn’t perfect. Here are the three biggest drawbacks I see with the device.
Some books are overpriced. There are a lot of good e-book deals available on Amazon. Most books published in English before 1923 are free. Couple this with a site like Project Gutenberg and your Kindle can be home to an almost endless supply of inexpensive or free reads. But too many books on Amazon are overpriced. I hate dropping a ten spot on an e-book when a paperback version is offered for less than that. Publishers set prices so this overpricing isn’t directly the fault of the Kindle. Still, it is a drawback worth mentioning.
No EPUB support. The Kindle will display PDF files — although they’re often formatted strangely — and of course Amazon’s proprietary AMZ files. But EPUB files? No dice. This is frustrating. EPUB is one of the most popular e-book formats. And the Kindle is the only major e-reader that doesn’t support it. C’mon, Amazon! There are whisperings that Amazon will soon offer EPUB support for the Kindle. Let’s hope so.
Not the best for guidebooks, i.e. Lonely Planet. Lonely Planet offers Kindle versions of their popular guides. That’s great! But navigating maps with the Kindle’s rocker and 6″ screen can be an excercise in frustration. That’s not so great. It might work as a back-up, but I wouldn’t depend on it. I still keep a guidebook in my backpack when I’m travelling.