What device should I buy to read e-books on?
Last week I was talking with a backpacker about reading when backpacking. She had a real paper book with her, I had my iPhone and was reading two books on it. She then said she was thinking of buying a Kindle – and that got me thinking about what I would recommend for the job.
One consideration in this process is that the phone/smartphone is kept in the pack, ready for use as a phone – rather than running the battery down using it as a book reader.
So what are the requirements for a backpacker’s e-book reader?
* easy to keep dry
* long battery life
So just looking at this I think I would reject the Kindle – and many of the other dedicated e-book reader devices.
* lightweight – most dedicated units are reasonably light, but not very light
* compact – they are about the size of a large paperback in area but thin. However there are not many models that are truly pocket sized.
* robust – and being thin I am not sure how it would pack. As you push that last stuff sack in the bag, will you break your e-reader?
* easy to keep dry – can you get a dry case (Aquapac) to fit it?
* versatile – some e-readers can be used to browse the web and have other functions but they are limited to doing one thing well
* long battery life – most e-readers make use of screens that consume very little power – this is their one big advantage
So, looking at my list I think a better device for a backpacker would be lightweight, truly pocket-sized and offer more functions than a simple e-reader.
I think that an Apple iPod Touch meets these requirements.
Using a program like Calibre and the iPod app Stanza you could load your own books and buy from some stores. You can buy books from the Apple store and use Apple’s reading app, or even load the Kindle app on the device! Several other booksellers have apps to access their catalogues, giving a very large choice of where you purchase your books.
The screen is small but extremely sharp and easy to read. Stanza also has a simple function to change the brightness of the page to match your surroundings.
An iPod is easily more flexible than a dedicated e-reader.
Leave your camera at home and use the one on the iPod. Same goes for video.
With an iPod you can get online at wifi access points, listen to music and of course there are many other apps that will interest you. However one thing to remember is “how much battery” this will consume. A Kindle has an incredibly long battery life for just reading books – an iPod Touch much shorter if you use it for lots of other things, longer if you use it only as a camera and book reader.
To make the iPod a better proposition you would need to extend the battery life – my son uses a battery pack he got from the supermarket with his iPod, and for my iPhone I have a battery jacket. I know a search of eBay will turn up many more ways to extend the battery life of an iPod (or iPhone).
There are several very good waterproof cases for the iPod and it is truly pocket sized, so you can keep it handy, get it out and read a book at your tea stop in the rain!
If you just want an electronic book reader – there is a good selection on the market, and if you must have one try Sony – they sell a pocket sized model. If you want a more versatile device, as well as a book reader, opt for the iPod Touch.
(Of course an iPhone will offer all the above, and be your phone, blog poster and GPS… and save on the weight of the mobile phone – just take another battery pack!)
This article is sponsored by Octagon Technology Lincoln, England