My first overseas experience was a backpacking trip through Europe with my best friend right after college. Before the trip, we bought the Lonely Planet Europe guidebook. We couldn’t believe how big it was — and how much it weighed. At the time, our solution was to cut out the pages we needed and throw them away when we were done with them.
With the popularity of e-readers and tablets, these days you don’t have to resort to destroying books to get a lighter, eco-friendly guidebook option. Here are the best guidebooks for e-Readers, plus the pros and cons of using an e-Reader instead of a traditional guidebook.
Benefits of an e-Reader over a traditional guidebook:
- Weight and space: I really appreciate that I do not have to carry multiple books if visiting multiple areas. A thick guidebook can weigh up to 2 lb., but the Sony e-Reader is just 6 oz.
- Cost: The list price of a Lonely Planet Ireland guidebook is $24.99, the eBook list price is just $7.99 on the Nook.
- Less waste: As an avid reader, nothing beats curling up in a cozy chair with a good book. However, I really appreciate the paper saved by using eBooks. The Lonely Planet India book alone is over 1200 pages!
Downsides to eBooks:
- Formatting: It doesn’t seem like guidebook publishers have spent much time formatting the eBooks versions, so they can feel a bit awkward.
- Maps are hard to use: Many people have complained about maps being awkward in eBooks. It may be helpful to print out any maps you need before you leave.
- Hard to flip through: I love flipping through guidebooks, and eBooks are definitely more difficult to navigate.
1. Lonely Planet
Lonely Planet guidebooks are a good option for backpackers and independent budget travelers. No matter where you are headed, chances are there is a Lonely Planet guide. They have regional guides, like the Lonely Planet Africa Travel Guide. Or you can purchase them for a specific area like East Africa, or even a specific country like Kenya.
Since they are not published yearly, information is often outdated. But because they cover so many areas, Lonely Planet guides are a great option for eBooks.
2. Frommer’s Guides
Frommer’s is typically geared towards an older traveler, but is also a great book for anyone traveling on a budget. You can find guides that cover countries, regions, and even cities and help you decide which sights are must-sees when you don’t have a lot of time. Whether you want to go to the South Pacific or South Africa, Frommer’s has a guidebook for you.
3. Rough Guides
Rough Guides are also geared towards budget travelers, but tend to be more comprehensive than some of the other options. Known for offering critical reviews, Rough Guides are great for people looking to steer clear of tourist traps. Rough Guides are available for many European travel destinations. They are known for having comprehensive historical and sightseeing information. Like Lonely Planet, these aren’t published yearly, so be sure to check the publication date.
I really like that Rough Guides offers snap shots of certain areas for $2.99. Rather than focusing on an entire country, you can buy a guide for a certain area of the country. For example, they offer a snap shot of just the Italian Riviera, which is also part of The Rough Guide to Italy.
4. Rick Steve’s
Out of all the guidebooks available as eBooks, Rick Steve’s publisher has spent the most time making sure his are formatted correctly. The European guides are some of the best. Unfortunately, If you are looking for travel guides for somewhere outside of Europe, you’ll need to look elsewhere.
Overall, eBooks and other online travel guides are a great options for frequent travelers or travelers visiting a lot of places in a short timeframe. I recently moved from South Africa back to the United States and I had to get rid of most of my books. I love that eBooks can come with me where ever I go!
Have you abandoned paperback guidebooks for eBooks? What is your favorite?