On a recent long jaunt around the Aegean, I realized something important about the Kindle: it’s the ultimate travel gadget.
I honestly didn’t expect this. I just brought mine so I’d have something to read! But here’s the deal:
- The Kindle has a web browser. It’s simple and slow, but solid enough to check Gmail and mobile.twitter.com. In fact, it works beautifully with the mobile versions of most sites.
- It’s almost miraculously connected. The browser wouldn’t mean much if Whispernet—Amazon’s set of carriage agreements with cell networks around the world—didn’t work everywhere. It does, and it’s also free. I was using Edge and 3G Whispernet reliably in remote-ish provinces and on sleepy islands. In fact, my Kindle generally got a stronger signal than my iPhone.
- It’s light and durable. There’s a big difference between older Kindles (which I’m toting) and newer ones in this regard; I’m considering snagging one of the latest simply because they’re so much smaller, slimmer and lighter. But any Kindle is more portable than any iPad, and I also felt a lot more comfortable tossing the Kindle into a bag or dragging it across the beach. (I had my iPad on this trip, too, but barely used it.)
- The Kindle works in direct sunlight. Especially when you’re traveling, this is a big deal. Standing on a busy corner or sitting on the beach, the Kindle is always totally usable. And this provides another contrast to the iPad, which always sends me scurrying to the shadows. (It really is a resolutely indoors device, isn’t it?)
- The battery lasts forever. You know this already. My Kindle was on a once-a-week charging schedule, and that’s with lots of reading and regular internet checks.
- Your Kindle is your itinerary. Using the Kindle as a virtual folder for travel documents was perhaps the biggest aha; it was my traveling companion who figured this out first. We got into the habit of forwarding tickets and reservations straight to our kindle.com addresses, which all Kindle owners have. (Oddly, this is the one part of international service that’s not free, but the price is negligible: $0.99 per megabyte for documents delivered this way.) It feels so good to have all of your information right there, in a format that’s so legible—not just to you, but to others. Once, in Turkey, I simply passed my Kindle to a ticket agent to help her understand where we were trying to go.
- Travel guides on the Kindle work great. I was a little skeptical about this—I think of the Kindle as being bad at random-access material, and a travel guide is definitely one of those books you want to be able to flip through freely. But as it turns out, we got a ton of use out of a Lonely Planet Kindle edition—purchased mid-trip, natch—and by the end of the trip, I felt like a dope for having bothered with a physical guide (which weighed in at about five Kindles).
Honestly, even if you are not ever going to read an e-book, but want a device to help you stay connected and organized while traveling—especially if you’re going a bit off the beaten track—the investment in a Kindle (barely more than a hundred bucks at this point) can’t be beat.