Best eReader for Travel ~ Almost four years ago, when the Amazon Kindle eReader first hit the scene, we wrote about whether an eReader was a good pick for green travelers. There are green pros and cons to any electronic reading device or tablet computer while traveling, but all this time later, one thing is clear: the Kindle is here to stay. The new question is, which Kindle to buy? Here’s our breakdown of the Amazon Kindle vs. Kindle Fire.
Amazon Kindle vs. Kindle Fire – Best eReader for Travel
What’s the difference between a Kindle or Kindle Touch and a Kindle Fire?
We’re big readers in our family and always travel with ebooks, so between us, we access our shared Amazon Kindle library in just about every way possible, on a variety of devices. Here’s a breakdown: a Kindle is strictly an eReader. Users can use the built in Wi-Fi to access the Amazon Kindle store, download books and PDF documents, and read. That’s it. A Kindle Fire does everything a Kindle does, and considerably more. In full color, a Kindle Fire can access the web, stream video, play Amazon apps, and store your music library in addition to keeping your book and magazine library at your finger-tips. An Apple iPad, as well as iPods and iPhones, can also be used to access your Amazon Kindle library using the free Amazon Kindle app. An iPad can do all a Kindle Fire can do, plus double as a work horse should you need to work from the road.
If you’re considering a Kindle for travel, ask yourself the following three questions before deciding which Kindle to buy.
1. What personal electronics do you already own?
As mentioned above, the great part of the Kindle ‘system,’ if you will, is its versatility. Kindle users can access their Amazon library from a variety of devices, from Kindle eReaders to iPads, iPod Touches, and laptops, thanks to the useful and free Kindle app. If you already travel with an iPad (either for work or entertainment), no need to reinvent the wheel (and consume more electronics than you need): your iPad can do everything a Kindle or Kindle Fire can do and more. Consider downloading the Kindle app to access your library on the device you already own.
2. Where will you be reading your Kindle?
One of the Kindle’s best features is its E-ink display: it reads like you’re looking at paper. This not only saves your eyes from too much screen time, but it means you can easily read in bright light, such as poolside or outside on the deck in summer. If most of your reading will be done in the daylight, a Kindle Fire, with its beautiful full-color display and back-lit screen, will frustrate you — as will an iPad. If, however, most of your reading is done at night, when the lit screen will be useful, a Kindle Fire might be perfect. Also important to consider: a Kindle Fire requires more frequent charging than a Kindle Touch. If you’ll be using your Kindle in remote areas, you’ll want to plan for this.
3. What will you be using your Kindle for?
This is, of course, the most important consideration. If you already own other travel entertainment devices such as an iPad, iPod, or travel-sized DVD player, and plan to use your Kindle strictly to consume books, a Kindle Fire will be more device than you need. Buy a Kindle instead for considerably less. If, however, you plan to use your Kindle for on-road or in-flight entertainment, web browsing, reading email, or if you enjoy reading magazines or other visual material on a regular basis, a Fire is the clear choice.
What a Kindle is not:
While both the Kindle and Kindle Fire have Wi-Fi access, and the Fire can be used for internet browsing, neither should be considered as a substitute for an iPad or laptop. Why not? While great for entertainment and basic web browsing, you cannot get any work done on a Kindle Fire (though you can view and share documents). You’ll need to pack your computer for that purpose.
What about all those other eReaders out there?
Yes, there are other eReaders to choose from. However, Amazon continues to offer the widest selection of both books for purchase and free selections, as well as offer the largest lending library if you’re an Amazon Prime member (opt for the trial basis first to see if they carry the titles you’ll want). And remember, nearly all public libraries in the U.S. now offer their own eReader lending library.
What You Need to Know to Buy a Kindle Fire vs iPad 2
And for good reason. There are some features of the Kindle Fire that are unique:
- Android OS: For those familiar with iOS, you will probably continue to enjoy an iPad, but as a recent convert to the Android operating system, I’m a big fan
- Amazon Silk Browser: The Amazon Silk Browser promises to be “revolutionary” in it’s speed
- Free Cloud Storage: If you’re a huge Amazon user, then the Kindle Fire’s Cloud storage will make it unbelievably easy to access your files
- Amazon Whispersync: The ability to sync where you are in a book or movie across devices seems like it could come in really handy. (For instance if you start watching a movie on the bus and want to finish watching it on your home TV)
The Kindle Fire seems like a good choice for Amazon groupies. If you’re a Prime subscriber and already have access to streaming videos and TV this seems like a good bet. It’s close in battery life to the iPad 2 (8 hrs vs 10 hrs), but lacks some of the “universal device” extras that an iPad 2 comes with – like a camera, GPS, and 3G service.
It also seems like a good choice for international travelers and media junkies. You don’t end up paying for things you don’t need or can’t use on the international road (like 3G and a camera.) Plus if it breaks you’re out less than half as much as you otherwise would be.
What are others saying about the Kindle Fire? Over at Wired, here’s what they’re saying:
The Kindle Fire tablet … leverages everything Amazon offers, from its multimedia sales to Amazon Prime streaming video service and free two-day shipping and Amazon’s industry-standard cloud infrastructure.
Quick hardware specs for the Kindle Fire: 14.6 ounces, dual-core processor, 7? multi-touch IPS (i.e. infrared) LCD screen. What it’s missing: camera, GPS, 3G. It also has only 8 gigabytes of storage. But that’s a moot point: It’s a cloud-driven tablet.
Video isn’t the only draw of Kindle Fire over the mainstream e-readers. It also has Silk, a web browser leveraged by Amazon’s EC2 cloud processing power. Bezos calls it “a split browser.” It promises to use that extra computation power to do all of the DNS, TCP/IP, interactions, etc., on the back-end to make Silk much, much faster than competing mobile browsers. It also stores, reformats and compresses common instances of over-sized media designed for the desktop for faster mobile delivery. An Amazon engineer calls it “a limitless cache” to optimize the last-mile delivery between the web and the tablet.
And yes: Silk runs Flash.
As a soon-to-be mom I noticed the feature of having 1000+ children’s books (and the pictures look great) which would make transporting books less of a hassle. (But you can’t let you kid chew on a Kindle they way they can on a hardback book…) I have resisted the draw of the iPad 2, but I have to admit that I’m now asking myself, should I Buy a Kindle Fire?