A few weeks ago, I gave in and bought a Kindle from Amazon. The new smaller e-reader costs a very reasonable £89 and mine weighs 168g, less than the average paperback. While I didn’t buy this specifically for backpacking, it does have a lot of appeal if you want to do some reading on a trip.
According to the blurb, it will hold up to 1,400 books. You can also put other files like PDFs on it, but unless they are formatted correctly, they are not easy to read. There is also a web browser, which is not very good. It has WiFi connectivity. So far this has been fine. I tend to turn it off to save the battery unless I need it. I’ve not fully tested if fully. Amazon claim 12-13 hours with WiFi turned off. I’ve no reason to believe otherwise.
Charging is through a USB cord. Be warned, the connector at the Kindle end is non-standard, so you’ll need the lead supplied. At the same time I bought the USB 3 pin plug adaptor as it charges faster through the mains than a computer and is useful if you are not near a computer. The Amazon plug weighs 36g, slightly lighter than the equivalent Apple adaptor.
The screen is an e-ink screen. I’ve found it very legible and clear. The font size is easily changed, but I found the standard font to be the right size for me. There are also three options on the font itself (regular, condensed, san serif). Line spacing and words per line can also be adjusted. Again I found the default settings work for me.
I’m impressed by the clarity of e-ink. It’s less strain than reading on my iPad. The only time I struggle is in very low light. Page forward and back is accessed by two elongated buttons on each side. Menus are accessed by the buttons and directional pad below the screen. It’s all pretty easy and intuitive.
Buying a book is simple either through the device itself by WiFi or through a computer. Delivery takes a matter of seconds. All books are stored centrally by Amazon, so you can’t lose any. There are lots of free books, that are out of copyright like Sherlock Holmes. The paid for books are generally cheaper, but by how much seems to be dependent on popularity and promotion (e-books attract VAT, while paper books don’t).
So far I’ve read one complete book, “The Elegant Universe” by Brian Greene. I’m now on to his second, “The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time and the Texture of Reality”. Hardly light reading! I’ve loaded some other free books as well. Dictionaries are pre-loaded.
So the crucial question is: how do I like it compared to reading a normal book?
What I like:
- Very clear and easy to read.
- Feels quite natural to read.
- Lightweight and easy to handle.
- Easy and intuitive navigation.
- Quick to buy a new book.
- Notes and highlights often provided.
- Bookmarking easy.
What’s not so good:
- No sense of where you are in a book.
- Diagrams and drawings are poorly reproduced, despite the ability to zoom.
- Laborious to flick backwards and forwards, e.g. to glossary.
- Non-standard USB connection.
Tied to Amazon.*
All in all, I’m very happy with the Kindle. From a pure backpacking perspective, it’s a very attractive way to carry reading material with you. I do have some philosophical misgivings about the control that Amazon may gain in the book selling and publishing world. It is possible that Amazon might gain a quasi monopolistic position through Kindle and e-books, which may not be healthy.
* Addendum, apparently you’re not as tied to Amazon as I thought (commentary that I had read suggested that you are), see comments below. Not sure how this works and whether Amazon will back up non-Amazon purchases.