There’s something magical about books; the ones made out of paper and not 0’s and 1’s. There is just something about the feel and smell of a paper book that is comforting. You don’t need to worry about battery life, or dropping it too hard, and you can trade or sell it when you’re done with it and get a new one. I thought I would never become one of those eReader people. At least, that was my thinking before we started out on our round-the-world (RTW) trip and I have since changed my mind.
Kindle is King
When we first started our RTW trip my wife and daughter each had their own Kindles. They tried to get me to buy one but I said, “No way, never!” My plan was to start with a couple of “real” paper books and trade them for other books written in English along the way. It sounded good in theory, but the longer we traveled the less practical it became. I discovered that books written in English are really hard to find in non-English speaking countries, and when you do find them they are really expensive. I thought I could just stop by a hostel and see if anyone would want to trade, which sounded like a good option, but I never had time to go seek out a hostel and test that theory.
The biggest hassle with carrying paper books while traveling is the weight. Books weigh a lot, and when you have to lug your bags up and down stairs and through subways you really notice it! Downloading one, or even a hundred books, to a Kindle weighs nothing at all, besides the weight of the Kindle. It not only cuts down on weight, it also saves on space.
The other benefit is that eBooks are much cheaper than paper books and can be downloaded instantly from anywhere in the world.
So, after 4 months on the road I am now an eReader convert. I commandeer my daughter’s Kindle after she goes to bed at night and now read my books on there. At some point, I should probably buy my own. I have tried reading books on our iPad and Macbook, but it is really hard on the eyes and I much prefer the e-ink of the Kindle.
Digital Travel Guides
When we first set out traveling we had a few paper travel guidebooks with us with the plan to purchase more along the way. We have always used paper guidebooks and we really liked them. But, the longer we traveled the more we realized that they were not very practical. We got tired of leaving an expensive trail of guidebooks along our route and have finally decided to try going digital. We have recently downloaded the Lonely Planet guide on Morocco in PDF format to see if it would work, and so far we have been impressed. We downloaded the free iBooks application onto our iPad and transferred the PDF files to the iPad using iTunes. We can now read the guidebooks on our Macbook or bring the iPad along with us in a backpack and have access to the guidebook wherever we go. The iPad weighs about the same as a guidebook and we no longer need to leave a trail of our old books along the way. And another benefit is that you can search for keywords within the chapters.
Maps, Directions, and Other Documents
Before we started our travels we had a printer at home and could print off directions, maps, or documents with ease. Taking a printer with us was not an option so we had to rely on seeking out cyber cafes and paying money to print documents. Seeking out a cyber café and trying to communicate that we needed to print some documents often became harder and more expensive than we had hoped and have since come up with a better solution. We now convert our maps, directions, and documents into PDF format and transfer them to our iPad. This has worked really well for the most part, but there are times where companies require paper documents and we still need to seek out a cyber café to print. Overall, this new method has really saved us time and money and we highly recommend it to anyone who travels a lot.
Unfortunately, we still need to lug around a lot of homeschool books with us. We have downloaded a few educational apps onto the iPad and have a few educational websites that help our daughter learn, but nothing is going to replace her books for school. We would love to go completely paperless, but this is one thing that paper is still the better option.
If you have any paperless solutions that work well for you, we would love to hear about them in the comments below.