The Ultimate eReader Travel Guide

The Ultimate eReader Travel Guide:  Guest Post by Julie Raynor

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Editors Note:  There are a lot of eReaders out there and it’s hard to know what to get and what will work best with your travels.  This article will clear up all of your questions if you are in the market for an eReader for your journeys.

I think this is the best eBook/eReader guide for travelers I’ve read that is out there.  This was written by my genius librarian wife who just happens to be an authority.  Julie recently won a national award for her work with ebooks and ereaders and we wanted to share this valuable info with our readers!

 The eReader Guide

So, you’re about to travel to Europe or some other far-flung destination…Congratulations!  Traveling abroad can bring rewarding experiences that allow you to learn about yourself by being in other cultures.

Reading ebook at the beach.

You have many decisions to make, especially in what to bring with you. The guidebooks and videos stress that you should pack light and that limits your ability to bring books! You always like having a book to read, especially since there will be long stretches of time that you are waiting—layovers in airports, flights, train rides, etc.

Maybe trying out one of those ebook readers would work. You’ve seen the clever commercials for Kindles and Nooks and maybe they wouldn’t be too heavy. Or maybe a tablet could do double-duty and allow you to surf the net and send email so you don’t have to lug your laptop up and down hotel stairs along with your suitcase.

Maybe you already have an eReader, but aren’t sure it would work in Europe—what happens if you need to charge it (hint: make sure you investigate which international electrical outlet adapters you may need to purchase before you leave home)?

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Also, are there travel eBooks available that might be useful as you’re touring small towns? And what about interactive maps or audio guides?

In this series, I will explore the different types of devices that are available and would work for travel. I will look at the differences between eReaders and tablets and their functionality as well as making comparisons among the different types of each.

I also will detail the travel eBooks that are available that might be useful and especially highlight the digital resources that are free or low cost (traveling to Europe isn’t cheap, after all…)

We’ll start out by looking at eReaders specifically and compare them on the features that make them practical options for travel. I will focus on those that have a built-in backlight, which would make them perfect for airplane travel and nighttime reading.

Comparing the Models

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Kindle Paperwhite vs. Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight

So you want to get a basic eReader to travel with. The basic functionality is almost the same but let’s compare the two for their travel-readiness features.

 

Weight Battery life Touch screen Internal storage
Kindle Paperwhite, 6” screen 7.5 oz (Wi-Fi); 7.8 oz. (3G) 8 weeks or more, depending on use; charging cord sold separately ($10) Yes 2 GB
Nook GlowLight, 6” screen 7.5 oz. 1 month with GlowLight on; 2 months with GlowLight turned off IF you only read a half hour per day; rechargeable battery included Yes 2 GB

 

For the battery life, it seems like they aren’t thinking of travelers when they made those estimates. Even so, the battery life on both devices should be long enough to last through trans-atlantic flights with or without layovers.Also, both Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble provide free and low-cost eBooks, but the selection is limited. Both devices also work with OverDrive’s collection of free eBooks available from your local public library. To find out if your library has a collection, go to: http://search.overdrive.com/.

 

Kindle Fire vs. Nook Tablet

If you want to have a more interactive reading experience while traveling (or just want to have access to email and your favorite games), the Kindle Fire or the Nook Tablet may be more to your liking. They could even be lightweight stand-ins for your laptop if you didn’t want to take it to Europe. With their color screens, you would be able to view interactive maps in full-color and you could make use of the wide variety of travel apps available (more on those in a later installment). Let’s compare these based on their interactivity and travel-readiness as well.

Both Kindle Fire and Nook are well-suited for reading. Both have very good battery life, especially if you turn off the Wi-Fi. When it comes to apps, the Kindle Fire is better suited because it is more open to apps from outside sources (Nooks are more limited to the apps that Barnes & Noble endorse). The Kindle Fire is also a better choice if you are planning on watching movies because there’s more available internal storage for downloading video.

The downside to the Kindle Fire is largely aesthetic. The Kindle Fire has no volume or power buttons, while the Kindle Fire HDs do have them, they are placed too close together on the side and they are difficult to find.

Weight Battery life Apps Internal storage Interface conn.
Kindle Fire, 7” screen 14.1 oz. Up to 8.5 hours with Wi-Fi off Limited to Amazon app store 8 GB Headphone jack; USB
Kindle Fire HD 7”, 16GB or 32GB 13.9 oz. Up to 11 hours with Wi-Fi off Limited to Amazon app store 16 GB or 32 GB Micro-B (USB 2.0) USB port connector
Nook Tablet 7”, 8 GB or 16 GB 14.1 oz. 11.5 hours reading, 9 hours video Nook Apps 8 GB or 16 GB USB port connector
Nook Tablet HD 7”, 8 GB or 16 GB 11.1 oz. Up to 10.5 hours (wireless off) Nook Apps 8 GB or 16 GB USB port connector

 

In summary, the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablets are both good, all-purpose tablets. The differences lie in the type of content you want to access. If you’re used to the video streaming and Amazon Prime perks, then the Kindle Fire would be for you. If you prefer the reading content from Barnes & Noble, then the Nook might be the better choice.

Weight Battery life Oper. Sys. Apps Internal storage Interface conn.
Kindle Fire HD 8.9”, 16 GB or 32 GB 20 oz. Over 10 hours Android, modified by Amazon Access to most popular free and best-selling apps (Facebook, Pinterest, Hulu Plus, etc.) 16 GB or  32 GB Micro-B (USB 2.0) USB port connector and Micro-D (Micro-HDMI) port connector for HD video output to tvs
Nook Tablet HD+ 9”, 16 GB or 32 GB 1.13 lbs. Up to 10 hrs. (reading, up to 9 hrs. (video) Android Better than other models, but not as good as Amazon 16 GB or  32 GB microSD, HDMI, USB
7.1 iPad (4th Generation), 10”, 16 GB 1.44 lbs. 10 hours Apple iOS Best selection available 16 GB Headphones, microphone, front-facing camera

 

The almighty iPad (and its humble competitors)

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So now, the iPad and its closest competitors (based on size): Kindle Fire HD 8.9 and Nook Tablet HD +.  The iPad is the ultimate in tablets, but the Kindle Fire 8.9 and Nook Tablet HD+ have their selling points, too—primarily their price point being significantly less than the iPad.  They are also both slightly smaller than the iPad and the Nook weighs the least of the 3.  So for traveling considerations, that can mean a lot.  For reading, the Nook Tablet is preferred because it is slightly smaller than the iPad and balances well in one hand (the Kindle Fire 8.9 is awkward in one hand—7” is much better for reading).  The Nook Tablet also allows for adjusting the line spacing of the text, which is an exclusive feature not available in Kindle or iPad.  The Kindle Fire is much better for its video content and streaming capabilities than the Nook HD+.  The Kindle Fire also has equally good sound and video, which is rare to find in a tablet.

In general, the iPad is excellent for reading, video, audio, internet speeds, etc.  And, if you want a tablet that can do basic internet, sound and video, and provide an excellent reading experience, the 7” Nook Tablets and Kindle Fires would be the place to start.

Additional Note:  The other obvious alternative to the iPad is the iPad Mini, which starting at $329 is a more affordable option to enjoy the iOS operating system and all that comes with it. The size may be appealing as well; at 7.87 x 5.3 x 0.28 in. and 0.68 lbs it is much smaller and lighter than the iPad. It is closer in size and weight to the Kindle Fire HD or Nook Tablet. With its long battery life (10 hours) and wealth of features (back-facing camera, microphone, speaker, and variety of apps) it is very comparable to its larger brother.

Our Favorite Travel EBooks

So now I’ve chosen my device and I want to load some travel guides on it before I leave.  What should I look for?  Where should I look for them?  Are there any free ones?  What special features might they have (interactive maps, museum guides, etc.)? Which ones cover Europe?

The following are the highlights of my search for travel eBooks.  This is not a comprehensive list, just the best of what’s out there.  Keep in mind, not all eBooks are available for all devices, so if you love one particular travel eBook or travel publisher, that may factor into what device you choose.  Some of these publishers also have travel apps, which I will cover in the next section.

Rick Steves

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Rick Steves, best known for his European travel series on public television has also written guidebooks that are now available as eBooks. They are priced from $2 to $15 based on whether you want an entire book, a chapter of a book, or a walking tour. His titles are compatible with: apple device, kindle, nook, kobo, and sony reader. You can find his books at his website: http://www.ricksteves.com/books/update/ebooks.htm.

Lonely Planet

TravelGuides

Lonely Planet, another well-known travel guide publisher provides eBook versions of many of its guides. They range in price from $13-$20 and cover many of the City and Country Guides that Lonely Planet is known for. They also offer their Phrase Books as eBooks for as low as $8 per guide. These titles are compatible with: iPad, kindle, nook, and kobo readers. You can find them at:  http://www.lonelyplanet.com/apps-and-ebooks/.

Berlitz Insight Guides

Berlitz is best known for its language learning materials, but its series of travel guides “Insight Guides” are available as eBooks. They are compatible with apple devices, kindle, nook and kobo and can be found at: http://www.insightguides.com/shop/guide-books.  The titles from Berlitz are more limited since they only have eBook versions of their Southwest France, the Greek Islands and Italy Insight Guides.  But they are optimized for the iPad and Kindle Fire. The price is around $12 per guide.

Michelin Guides

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This well respected series of travel guides can be found as free eBooks from Google books.

You may have to browse a bit, but you’ll find an interesting variety of travel books ranging from $3 to $10 per guide.

Your Local Public Library

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You may not realize that your local public library might have a good collection of free eBooks and eAudiobooks that you can access with your library card. Many libraries work with a company called OverDrive that provides the eBook collections. Not only will these collections have a variety of travel guides and language learning materials, you can also get current authors and bestsellers from this resource as well. If you don’t find a title you’re looking for you do have the option to request that your library purchases it. OverDrive is the largest company offering this service, but your library may have others. You can see if your library has an OverDrive collection by going to http://search.overdrive.com/. Click on the “Library Search” tab and enter your city name or zip code any check the results for the library location nearest you. If you don’t see your library listed, contact your library directly to see what other options they may have.

Stay tuned for a future installment where I review different travel apps, free and otherwise.

We hope you enjoyed our eReader Travel Guide! Feel free to post any questions or comments below.

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