My mom and my sis pooled their money and bought me an Amazon Kindle 3.0.2 with Wi-Fi last Christmas. Ever since I’d seen my sister kicking back on the lanai on our last family trip to Maui, reading book after book on this one slim, lightweight little device, I’d been lusting for a Kindle of my own. As an avid reader, a lot of the weight in my suitcases on every trip came from the clutch of books I carried everywhere. Guidebooks for whatever place I was going, plus novels for pleasure reading in the evening and during downtimes. Because I travel alone for work often, it’s nice to have a book for company when I’m eating alone in a restaurant. And when you go through a novel every other day, packing a supply for a two-week trip gets heavy.
The short story: I love traveling with my Kindle.
The long story: it’s not perfect as a traveler’s device, but I find the Kindle pretty darn fabulous. It’s lightweight. It slips easily into any carry-on bag–including a good-sized women’s purse. The case they got me to go with the device has a nighttime reading light (which doubles as a flashlight in strange hotel rooms). Its charge holds well–Amazon claims up to a month. For me, it seems 7-10 days is more common. But I keep forgetting to turn off the wi-fi antenna, and it sucks juice. The Kindle comes with a charge cord that plugs into a wall or into a USB port–it can charge off a laptop or other device. I haven’t bought a car charger yet, but I suppose I will eventually.
Sometimes getting my Kindle to connect to an available wi-fi network takes more time than I’d like, and of course there’s got to be a wi-fi network in range to buy books. As a rule, I load my Kindle up before I leave on a trip, just in case I run into a dearth of wi-fi on my travels. But the speed with which an average paperback novel downloads makes up for that. It’s super-quick–a book’s often in the device and ready to read in under two minutes. Because my Kindle doesn’t have 3-G or 4-G capability, I can’t speak to that, but I expect it would be useful for North American travelers who want to be able to download books from the widest possible variety of places.
The Kindle’s memory is such that it can hold hundreds of books, plus magazines and newspapers–whatever your pleasure. It’s got plenty of room even for enough reading materials for a multi-month epic journey. The “digital ink” and non-lit screen is as good as advertised. I can read it easily in bright sunlight, and without getting eyestrain. Page turning is easy and not invasive to the reading process. And one of the things I absolutely love is that the Kindle saves my place in my current book(s) without me having to do anything at all. In this, the Kindle’s actually easier to use than a paperback novel.
You need an Amazon account, complete with credit card, to buy books. Money’s necessary too–don’t expect e-books to run super-cheap just because they’re “virtual.” The discount for the e-version varies widely, from a mere dollar off the cover price to more than 50% off certain volumes. I found the purchase process pretty easy, but it’s important to know that I’m a Silicon Valley geek type and that sort of thing tends to come fairly easy to me. Finding the right book to read is a snap.
Digging a bit, I’ve found two travel-related inconveniences to the Kindle. First, the TSA whiz kids count it as a “computer” so it has to come out of my bag and get its own bin for the x-ray. Second (and to my mind worse), because it’s an electronic device, the flight attendants make me turn it off for take-off and landing. Which leaves me with spaces of time on the plane wherein I can’t read. Boo. I’ve become philosophical about it and decided it makes for a good time to check out the in-flight mag for professional reasons.
Oh, and the Kindle’s digital ink doesn’t do graphics worth a darn. So while I’ll use the Kindle for guidebooks, I’ll also take paper maps or a GPS device just in case the Kindle does a poor job of rendering the maps in the guidebook. Come to think of it, I did that before too. Guidebook maps can be…iffy.
For a traveler with pain, the lightweight portability and ease of use of the Kindle makes it a wonderful travel device. If you can afford it, I can’t recommend it highly enough.