Travel reading: iPad, Kindle or book?

Image: Amazon

What reading device deserves a place in your travel luggage? Alice Orszulok compares technology to paperback.

Youʼre off on another holiday (or business trip, or sabbatical). Youʼve settled into your seat on the plane, with many hours stretching in front of you. You reach into your carry on bag and pull out—what? A Kindle? An iPad? Your favourite novel?

There was once a time where the biggest issue in packing for your time away was deciding what book to take. Now, in our progressively digitalised world, weʼre faced with another conundrum: what are we going to read with?


The iPad

These days the iPad is a must-have for many business travellers. Its higher price (the cheapest being around $500) pays off, with its 9.7 inch screen making it easy to read and navigate around its numerous editions of digital magazines and newspapers, such as The Sydney Morning Herald (SMH iPad app) alongside its various other functions. As well as being adept at producing reading material, the iPad comes with all the pleasures of a computer, including up to 64GB capacity, the ability to watch films, and pretty colours. However, most of these require the use of the Internet, which is not only almost impossible to get over 9,000 metres above ground (unless you pay for the pricey in-flight wifi, which letʼs admit, people only do to let other people know theyʼre tweeting on an airplane) but also difficult to pick up in most foreign countries. Its other drawbacks include only a nine-hour battery life back light causing eye strain and fadeout in the sun, as well as being much more expensive and much heavier than its closest peers. Nevertheless, it is often described as the “does everything” tablet. But not every traveller needs everything.

Cost: 2/5 Usability: 1/5 Size: 3/5 Ease of packing: 3/5 Comfort: 3/5

Total: 12/25


The Kindle

The Kindle is almost a completely different device altogether. For reading books, there is no contest. The battery on the new Kindle can last a month. It isnʼt back-lit so it is more comfortable to read for long periods of time and to read in the bright sun. The 6.5 inch Kindle is also much handier to throw in a carry on bag than the bigger and heavier iPad. Also in comparison to the iPad, the Kindle is much, much cheaper, at most being around $200. Once the device is purchased, books are reasonably cheap as well—the entire Lonely Planet Guide can be purchased for just $15.39. This is particularly good value comparing them to their traditional hard cover counterparts, which can individually easily be up to $50. With a storage capacity of 8GB, the Kindle can potentially hold around 3,500 books, travels guides, and other documents, making in-flight wi-fi unnecessary, unless of course you bought the Kindle in the airport before departure without downloading any material. Additionally, the Kindle has a built-in dictionary, which allows you to search strange words if you get stuck in a foreign country.

Cost: 4/5 Usability: 4/5 Size/weight: 4/5 Ease of packing: 4/5 Comfort: 4/5

Total: 20/25


The Paperback

Digital books are lighter and more convenient to tote around than paper books, but there are still advantages to the old technology. One of the obvious benefits of a book is its battery life: it doesnʼt have one. You can read for as long as you like and the only thing that will ultimately stop you is finishing the story, which if youʼre a fast reader can be a big problem. Depending on what youʼre reading, books are usually a lot heavier than their brothers, I can’t see someone carrying 3,500 books in their carry on luggage! If youʼre an avid reader, you might find that you will need to purchase two or three books for even a short time away. For longer travel trips, the avid reader finds themselves purchasing books as they go. Not only is this distressing, like leaving an old friend behind, at $20 a pop it becomes an extremely expensive hobby. Regardless of these obvious downsides, thereʼs something extremely comforting about flicking through paper pages in your downtime, especially when you spend the majority of your days with your nose pressed to your computer screen or mobile device.

Cost: 3/5 Usability: 5/5 Size: 3/5 Ease of packing: 2/5 Comfort: 5/5

Total: 18/25

On a score basis, the Kindle is the clear winner. However, thereʼs definitely something to be said for the increased functionality of the iPad, or the physical comfort of reading a good old paperback. At the end of the day, each intrepid traveller will have their own wants, needs and preferences for their method of treasured downtime.

Alice Orszulok


3 responses to “Travel reading: iPad, Kindle or book?

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