Traveling Light: eBooks and eReaders

Traveling Light

kindleI love printed books. I love the feel and the smell of them and I like the tactile feel and sound of turning a page, so I don’t give them up lightly. I still carry a printed travel guide with me, which serves as not only a trusty companion but also as a souvenir, with places I’ve been now noted and tagged.  However, as my travels have increasingly grown from a few weeks to a few months, lugging along volumes of printed matter is not the most practical thing one can do.

At first, I figured the solution was to just carry one large book with me, which could last me a while. The problem with this approach is that you now have to carry it on you if you want to read on buses, trains, and planes, which adds weight and takes up space in the daypack or backpack. Large volumes also tend to use thinner paper, which is not ideal for the road.

So a few years ago I finally succumbed and purchase the most basic Kindle, the one that was only $69 if you were willing to have it come with ads (I wasn’t, so I picked up the ad-free version for a bit more). The size and weight was ideal, especially as those seated in front of me on those aforementioned buses, trains, and planes tend to always recline, not allowing for something larger like an iPad. However, I soon discovered one major flaw: you need a light source to read from this type of Kindle, one that is often not found in many rooms around the world, that have replaced the one bulb that was there with an even dimmer compact fluorescent. Good for the environment, bad for the eyes.

This past summer saw both my wife and I working while traveling, and I started to notice the need for us both to have multi-purpose devices. While I didn’t want an iPad due to its size, the iPad mini was something else all together. It has a Kindle reader app, and will let me do many other things the Kindle itself will not (or will, but it’s a pain in the ass). So now I’ve switched to that and am hooked, though I am not pleased with the new iOS 7 interface, but that’s a whole other issue.

The short of it: any sort of eReader now lets you take as many books as you’d like with you, slim or gargantuan. I only keep unread books on mine, but enough to give me variety. If you have a color reader, such as a Nook or Kindle Fire, you also open the door to magazines, some of which are better than others. National Geographic, for instance, is an incredible experience, using the full power of these multi-purpose readers to include audio, video, and a multi-dimensional scrolling experience. Others, like TRVL, are free and offer glimpses around the world with a simple, yet still pleasing, interface.

Next up: Staying connected while traveling light.

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