Amazon’s Kindle – Can It Make Travel Easier For Bookworms? by Jane Toombes

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When we travel, be it overnight or for a couple of weeks, one of the things many people take with them is a book or two. This might be a reading book or perhaps a travel book relating to the holiday destination. Either way books can be heavy and of course take up room when packing. So is there a better option?

Well, yes, an eBook reader is the ideal companion for many bookworm travellers. There are several of these on the market but Muchmor Canada Magazine takes a look at the Amazon Kindle which has repeatedly been named best eBook reader by companies such as Consumer Reports.

The Kindle is now in its third generation redesign and there are three models to choose from. The first and cheapest model is the Wi-Fi version which retails at $139 USD. It has a 6 inch screen that uses E Ink Pearl to display the books. It weighs only 8.5 ounces (240 grams) and the battery lasts approximately one month (wireless off).

The second model is the same as the Wi-Fi version but also includes 3G wireless coverage. It weighs a fraction more: 8.7 ounces (246 grams). It cost $189 USD.

The third option is the larger Kindle DX which boasts a 9.7 inch screen and includes Wi-Fi and 3G. It weighs 18.9 ounces (535 grams) and has a battery life of approximately 2-3 weeks (wireless off). This model is by far the dearest at $379.00 USD.

All models come in the new graphite finish and come with Amazon’s Whispernet technology which along with Wi-Fi networks allows instant searching and downloading from their Kindle book store.

So, does the Kindle live up to expectation?

Muchmor Canada Magazine tested the Kindle to find out if it was really as good as everyone says it is.

As an avid book reader I was very skeptical about using an eBook reader as I love the touch and feel of a book in my hands. This might sound a little odd to someone who is not a self-confessed bookaholic, but to anyone who is they will understand what I mean.

On first glance the Kindle looks very nice. The graphite finish adds a bit of class and feels good to hold. It is very light, lighter than a standard paperback and it feels comfortable in the hands.

There is a qwerty keyboard at the base of the device along with menu, home and back buttons. The 5-way controller allows you to navigate the screen with ease. Down the side of the screen are four large paddle-type buttons which allow you to turn pages forwards and backwards. The same buttons are on both sides to allow for right and left handed navigation.

I had the Wi-Fi version and so after initial charging I was anxious to try it out. I very quickly set up the Wi-Fi connection. It found the available network without any trouble and within a couple of minutes I was set to go.

My first task was to navigate to the Kindle store to search for and purchase a book. By pressing the menu button you have the option to go to the Kindle Store where you can search for books in the same way you would if accessing Amazon via the internet.

The store was easy to use and I soon found a book to download. I clicked on the buy option and it instantly downloaded the book to my Kindle. (You do need to set up the 1-click ordering option on your account to allow this to work.)

You can also search for and order books direct from the Amazon website. These will then download next time you switch on the Kindle if connected to Wi-Fi.

It is worth mentioning at this point that Amazon allows you to download a sample of a book before you purchase. By doing this you get the first few pages of a book to read allowing you to get a feel of the writing style etc before you buy. If you like it you simply click the buy now option and it downloads to your Kindle within seconds.

Reading books on the Kindle is a pleasure. The text can be changed to suite you. You can choose bigger or smaller characters, line spacing options and characters per line etc.

The E-Ink screen is very clear and easy to read even in bight daylight as there are no reflections to hinder you and no LCD backlight to wash it out. On the downside because it does not have a backlight option reading in low light requires additional illumination. Amazon does offer the option of cases with lights but these need to be purchased separately (approximately $60 USD). They also use the Kindle’s battery to power it and so the battery life will be reduced.

As you turn the pages the screen has to refresh, but this is very quick and should not hinder your reading experience. According to other reports and reviews the Kindle does have one of the fastest page-turn speeds of all the available readers.

The Kindle can store up to 3,500 books and you can set up collections (folders) to store them in. You can add the same book to several collections if you wish. You can also archive books which takes them off the device, but keeps them stored in your Amazon account so you never lose them. You can also download pdf files and read them on the Kindle.

You also have the ability to add annotations and bookmarks to text. This allows you to add notes, highlight passages etc. These notes can be deleted or exported if required.

One cool option is the built-in dictionary. If you come across a word or phrase you don’t understand you can access the dictionary and it will give you the definition.

Also, if you don’t feel like looking at the screen or even turning pages and reading yourself, the Kindle will do it for you. It has a Read-to-me feature which when activated will read the text to you and even turn the pages making it completely hands-free. You can choose the voice it uses as well as the speed of speech. Cool eh?

Another feature the Kindle has is a web browser, so you can access the internet. I personally found this strange as you will be looking at the internet in grey tones only – no colour which can be odd. However, it can be handy if you just want to quickly look something up. Navigation is not ideal as you have to use the 5-way controller but if you want a device to access the internet on a regular basis, then the Kindle is not the one for you. After all it is an e-reader.

One other feature worth mentioning is the Kindle supports MP3 files so you can transfer your favourite tracks to the Kindle and listen to music whilst you read. I like to read in silence so this feature is not for me.

But is it good for travel?

I would absolutely recommend the Kindle for travel of all kinds. It is so light and thin it will fit into the tightest of packing bags. If you are travelling for any length of time you can simply pack a Kindle knowing you have a whole library of books available to you at any time.

You can download a travel or guide book so when you reach your destination you have all the details of the area to hand. The Kindle will fit into most women’s purses, so is handy to have for those impromptu destination checks.

If you are like me, I never know what type of book I will be reading next and tend to have several in reserve for when I finish a book. This allows me to choose a new book depending on my mood at the time. With a Kindle I don’t need to have lots of books sitting on the shelf waiting for the time I am ready to read them. As soon as I finish one book I can select another and download it within seconds. The Kindle is ideal for those long car or plane journeys, or simply as I found when waiting at the garage for my vehicle to be serviced.

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Overall I found the whole reading experience to be very good and much better than I had anticipated. I have not missed the feel of a book in my hands. This is something that has shocked me as I really thought a gadget of this type would not sway me from reading traditional books – but guess what – it has! No one is more shocked about this than me.

I am now on my third book on the Kindle and cannot see myself ever buying another traditional reading book again. I specify reading book, as there are other types of book I would not choose to read on the Kindle. Graphic heavy books or coffee-table type books do not work well on the Kindle as the screen only displays in 16 shades of grey, so photos lose their impact.

But for ease of use, convenience and overall reading experience Muchmor Canada Magazine cannot recommend the Kindle enough.

Jane ToombesJane Toombes is owner/editor of Muchmor Canada Magazine which is an online, free to subscribe digital lifestyle magazine that brings together the best local knowledge, writing, photos and information about traveling to and around Canada, living in Canada and relocating to Canada.

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