Let me start by saying that I bloody love my Kindle! I’m sure there are loads of reviews out there with detailed descriptions of the features and specifications but this will be much simpler – this is what I’ve grown to love and hate about my Kindle after cycle-touring with it over the last few months.
I have the 4th generation Kindle with Wi-Fi and a 6″ E Ink Display – not touch-screen. I chose this because it’s the smallest, lightest, cheapest, has the longest battery life and I don’t need or want any of the other features of the larger Kindles, at least not at the cost of the battery life and weight etc.
Before, when on cycle tours, I used to carry a shed-load of books with me. One of my panniers was filled with paper of which would only be useful to me one page at a time – it was hopelessly inefficient. Now I have 100 times more books in a fraction of the space. The kindle is light, durable has a fantastic display and sports an ever impressive battery life – you may find out more of these details elsewhere if you wish. What follows is a more analytical account of where it works or where it falls short:
What I Love:
Effortlessly downloading books – When I suddenly develop a fascination with a subject, which happens often, I can immediately feed my hunger for more information before I grow tired of the idea or before it’s displaced by a new interest, which also happens quite frequently for me. For example; when in Greece at a cafe a few weeks back I developed a near insatiable desire to learn about beekeeping, with the aid of a wi-fi connection I was reading about apiary management within moments and I could take a selection of bee books with me for the rest of my ride. This is such a valuable feature of the Kindle, without the instant access to books I would not read as often, and intently and with as much enthusiasm as I can by feeding my desire for knowledge of a certain subject whilst my interest is at it’s peak. Searching for an English language book on beekeeping in Greece would have been a wild goose chase. If I could have ever found one it would be long after my interest had peaked, and I’d have new ideas to pursue by then. Having access to a comprehensive and growing library of books and quickly being able to download new material has changed the way I read, sure, but more than that; it’s revolutionised the way (and the pace) that I consume information on the road.
The size and weight – when travelling it’s hard to put a price on the lightness of your kit, it makes a tremendous difference to the ease in which you move. Hauling books around isn’t much fun, for long trips, or anywhere that you need upwards of 6 books, taking a light, portable e-reader is an obvious preference over paper books.
The lightness, and slimness also makes it more comfortable and easier to hold and read than the average book. It’s elegant slate like body sits comfortably in your hand and is conducive to finding a comfortable position in which to read.
The dictionary – the Kindle has, cleverly embedded into it, a comprehensive dictionary (for many languages). It’s really handy to lookup and learn words on the page that you don’t recognise – I even use it for words I more-or-less know but just want some clarification on. It helps to ensure you don’t miss a subtle point in a linguistically diverse text and is a great way to quickly expand your vocabulary as you read. You simply select the word on the page and a dictionary definition pops up.
What I don’t like:
I can’t flip through pages as well – with a kindle, despite it having good search functions etc., it’s still really cumbersome to skip through pages if, for example, you want to remind yourself of something at the beginning of the book quickly and without it interrupting your current reading too much. This isn’t such a problem with fictional or linear story books, where you seldom need to refer back to a previous point, but can become a pain when using reference books.
Pictures – the Kindle has a black and white screen. There is a colour screen version, the Kindle Fire, but it has a normal LED display that means it has relatively poor battery life and isn’t as good in sunlight and for long reading sessions. Also it’s much bigger and heavier. The E-ink displays on the basic Kindles are superb for rendering text but not images. Not only are images rendered in just black and white monochrome but the resolution is quite low too. I realise that, at the moment, you can’t have your cake and eat it too; i.e. you can’t have the great E-ink display and view colour photos but the limitation stands, images are poor and this really affects reference materials. For example reading my book on bees I was not able to see colour pictures showing some intricate features of the beehive and other things that really need images to be properly conveyed.
To summarise; I believe the benefits overwhelmingly outweigh the disadvantages, when compared to paper books, and I can honestly say that I’m completely smitten with my Kindle. It’s simply one of my favorite things. It’s simple, it works, it’s utilitarian and for less than £70, at the time of writing, it’s pretty egalitarian too. If I set off from home without it I would be deeply upset, I’d rather leave my phone and wallet. It never leaves my side, not ever…
You can get your (New and Improved) Kindle from Amazon, if you use this link it wont cost you any more but you’ll be supporting CycleFar in a small but valuable way – I never recommend products or retailers that I haven’t used myself and am happy with.