Traveling as a Reader (or Why I Like My Kindle)

Reading is very important to me. I had just forgotten that in the face of the wonders of travel.

I am an explorer and a curious one at that. I like to see what is over that hill or around that next corner. Travel feeds this nature and yet so do books. When I am out traveling, I can actually go around the corner or over the hill to see for myself. Books (good ones anyway) ask these What If questions and attempt to answer them.

In the face of traveling though, books are heavy. I moved to Germany with a backpack and a rolly-bag. A fair chunk of that weight and space was paperbacks. When I went back to get married, I went home to look at what I had stored and rescued more books. And yet now we are trying to move Beyond Vacation and travel more. What am I to do about reading?

Enter the Kindle

I am not willing to give up reading. Especially now that I have set a goal to become a fiction writer, I need to continue reading to keep learning that. And yet I cannot afford to carry the books I would want to.

Ali has a fairly old one and raved about it, though I wasn’t so sure. I like the heft of books and the ability to loan them back and forth. But given our desire to travel, I had to make some sacrifices so I invested in a new Kindle. I tend to buy most of my English books on Amazon anyway, so hooking into their company wasn’t a big deal to me. I am now over eight months with this thing and through our first big trip, so I wanted to look at the pros and cons.

Pros

  • Lightweight and small. Even with the case and cord, it is still lighter and smaller than a single large format paperback.
  • I can read nearly anywhere.
  • Books are pretty easy to get
  • It is easy to read several books at once.
  • Amazon offers samples – This was one of my biggest worries with the Kindle. If I can only read the reviews and the backcover text, how do I find new books that I like. The ability to get a Sample of a book onto the Kindle (usually 30-50 pages or so) for free has helped immensely. I can just pull samples for anything that looks vaguely interesting and only buy it later.
  • Cost – Even with the cost of the device, the books are fairly cheap. Living in Germany there is 0 second-hand market for English fantasy paperbacks. This means I either get them shipped from the UK or buy them new. I am attached to the German version of Amazon with the Kindle, but have had no issue getting books in English. They sometimes come out a few months after the print, but I can be patient.
  • A lot of classics are free from Project Gutenburg. It is a bit of a pain getting them onto the kindle, but still.

Cons

  • Some “free wi-fi” points require you to log-in within a browser. Yeah, Kindle’s don’t do that well. I didn’t see the need to pay more for the 3G version, so I am using wifi. It is a minor issue.
  • Maps – I read a lot of fantasy books, many of which come with maps in the front. I like to refer to them through reading. This is a lot harder on the kindle than in a real book.
  • Start up and down time – I can just open a book and start reading, then close it when I am done (or I have to get off the tram). Since I am trying to save battery, I tend to want to shut off the kindle when I am done. This takes a few seconds. I just need to not worry about it so much.
  • The battery is really good, but there still is a battery.
  • Some of the older paperback books that I have (and love) are not on Kindle.

I still like to read and will definitely continue to do so. As much as I don’t really like binding myself to a company, I do rally like to have all my books in one spot.

If you like travel books, check out The Global Bookshelf, run by our friend Gillian, for a bunch of recommendations.

13 thoughts on “Traveling as a Reader (or Why I Like My Kindle)

    • Thanks for the link. I will look through there, but at the moment I am looking to write novella length stories to self-publish in e-book form.

      I am even getting used to read the kindle at home. I like being able to up the font size if I want to. I do miss being able to flip to the maps quickly though.

  1. I switched to a Kindle about five years ago, because I’m sort of pathological about uncluttering my stuff, and I’ve really enjoyed the experience.

    Fun fact: My circa-2008 Kindle has the international “Whispernet,” so when I first arrived in Germany and had no Internet connection, I was able to use the rudimentary browser on my Kindle to post an “Arrived in Germany” note to Facebook.

    I bought an iPad Mini back in March and where before I used to travel with a laptop and kindle and ipod touch, and sometimes an ipod classic as well- now I travel with just the iPad Mini. I leave the laptop and other devices behind now and just carry the one. This is a win, in my opinion. I do agree that the non-backlit screen of the Kindle is nice, but having fewer devices to charge up is even nicer.

    • I like unclutter too. It makes the organization in the Kindle very important.

      I have never tried the browser. I have other devices far more suited to it than the Kindle. I can imagine the Tablet Kindles being interesting in that fact ,but I love the non-backlit and battery life of the one device. There are certainly reasons to combine features and reasons to have dedicated devices.

      We still travel with the laptops and all the other stuff, though no tablet as of yet. We tend to go for longer times though. Weeks or months instead of just days. I can imagine for a weekend or even a week only a table could be really nice.

  2. Just a couple of points to add. You don’t necessarily need to buy a physical Kindle. You can open a free Kindle account with Amazon and then download the free app to your smart phone, tablet or computer. Although the screen is small, I find reading on my phone is a more pleasant than you’d think.

    Also, if you find a book you want in another format (ie not the .mobi file used by Kindle) you can easily find a free file converter online. If you go to your Kindle account online on Amazon you have a unique Kindle email address and can then email the converted file to your Kindle account. If it doesn’t appear automatically on your Kindle or app, check back in your Kindle account to see if you have to enable the file for other devices.

    • Good points. I like the Kindle device though. I personally find reading on my phone very painful with the tiny type and the lit background. I stare at computers enough that having that non-lit Kindle is very calming.

      Thanks for the other tips. I have yet to run into other formats for a book that I wanted, but nice to know about converters.

  3. Does Kindle allow you to bookmark multiple pages? I have an Barnes & Noble Nook ereader that allows me to do that, and I’ve used it for the same map-referencing while reading fantasy fiction.

    • I honestly don’t know. I have heard there is a bookmark feature, but I have not yet learned to use it. It would be nice though. I’ll see if I can hunt down instructions.

  4. I fought the Kindle for forever….as in, I regret not switching sooner. I would likely NOT have made the switch had I not moved to Germany. But yeah, books are waaay cheaper on Kindle. I watch the Amazon sales since I read so much, and have set alerts for the books I´d like to read. I´ve bought a TON of books for less than $3.00
    I have Kindle Fire, which also has an amazing camera for Skype, and is damn good for movies/TV.
    I do miss that I can´t do http://www.bookcrossing.com/ – one of my FAVORITE things to do with paper books while traveling. Too fun.

    • I don’t think I fought it so vehemently, but I was not really interested in one for a long time. Then I tried Ali’s and got into it.
      I probably should have switched a lot earlier being abroad, but oh well.

      Do you have your account with COM or DE? How do you like the tablet? My big complaint there was the battery life. If I only use it for books, it seems annoying to have to constantly keep it charged.

      I miss being able to go into bookstores and buy 3 for $2 style clearance books to get to know new authors. I am having to learn new authros in other ways.

  5. A great list of pros and cons Andy. I agree, there are definitely things I miss about ‘real’ books but when you’re on the road the Kindle’s pros outweigh the cons for sure. Thanks, too, for the shout out for The Global Bookshelf; I hope people will visit and find the perfect book!

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