•   
  •   
  •   
 

The Kindle 3: The Perfect Bike Touring Gadget?


If you’re going to buy just one gadget to take on a bike tour, make it the Kindle eBook reader.

We know that’s a bold statement but after buying a Kindle 3 and playing with it for a couple months, we’re convinced that this is one of the best things a book-loving bike tourist could carry.

The Bike Touring Survival Guide on a Kindle

The Kindle. Small enough to fit inside your handlebar bag. Powerful enough to hold 1000s of books.

We’ve surprised even ourselves with our love for the Kindle because we never thought we’d enjoy reading books on a screen instead of paper, but the Kindle is truly an enjoyable reading experience.

Here’s what we love about it so much:

  • Light and compact. At just 240g, it weighs less than most paperbacks.
  • Great battery life. It lasts up to 1 month with the wi-fi turned off.
  • Holds up to 3,500 books. This is great for bike tours where you may not have easy or cheap access to physical books.
  • Easy on the eyes. The display really doesn’t tire your eyes out. It feels like reading a book on paper.
  • Many classic books are in the public domain and available for free. Check sites like Project Gutenberg and Amazon’s free book store.
  • You can borrow books via services like BookLending and Lendle. Soon, you’ll also be able to borrow Kindle books from U.S. libraries.
  • Displays PDFs. This seems like the ideal way to carry and access repair manuals for things like stoves and water filters.
  • Can be good for reading maps. Just save them as a PDF to your Kindle, or use eReaderMap for Google Maps on the Kindle.
  • Possible to access the internet. The browser is still a bit primitive but certainly functional for basic tasks.
  • The buttons are big and easy to use. They’re large enough that you can use the Kindle even with ‘fat fingers’ in a cold tent at night.

camping with the kindle

Camping with the Kindle: small, light and a good battery life.

We’re not the only ones who are in love with the Kindle 3.  Dave is cycling around the world, and has been using a Kindle for over a year now. When we asked for his thoughts, he wrote us two long emails full of praise for the Kindle.

It has been the lifesaver of my trip. Travelling alone, it helps me wind down from a long day of cycle touring, proceeding to get me lost in my imagination keeping me up for hours on end. When suffering from random bouts of insomnia, I have just the perfect selection of books to help me get to sleep.

There are two versions of the Kindle – the Kindle 3 that can connect to any wireless internet signal, and the Kindle 3G that can also connect to the 3G network.

Dave has a Kindle with 3G. He says the ability to get online anywhere there is a 3G signal, using the Kindle’s built-in web browser, has been incredibly helpful on his bike tour.

While the browser can’t handle resource-hungry websites containing audio, video and animations, it is perfectly adequate for sending emails, checking weather, and interacting on social networking sites such as Twitter or Facebook, or arranging to be hosted via WarmShowers or Couchsurfing. I recently cycled through for 9 days without phone access, in Newfoundland, Canada. The Kindle consistently provided me with full reception and service, useful to keep me in touch with the outside world. Similarly, when cycling through barren areas normally only occupied by bugs, bear and bison heading up to Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, the Kindle was able to pluck a signal out of air at various points throughout the 1,800km journey.

Nothing is perfect. If we have to quibble about the Kindle, here’s what we don’t like:

  • The screen seems a bit fragile. You’ll need to protect it, either with a cover or by wrapping the Kindle in soft clothes or fabric and packing it carefully in your panniers.
  • Some books aren’t available on the Kindle. Others need to be converted from the ePub format before you can read them (this can be done using Calibre or any number of other free converters). Here’s more on converting books to Kindle format.
  • The black and white screen is sometimes a bit dull. Occasionally, you really want to see the colour in photos and maps. There are rumours that a colour Kindle could be coming out in 2011 but this is pure speculation.

Overall, however, we love the Kindle, and we can’t remember the last time we found a gadget that was more suitable for bike touring. We know there are other alternatives for reading books on tour such as iPads and smartphones but when it comes to readability and battery life, we think the Kindle comes out on top.

If you want to buy a Kindle, this carousel links you directly to the Kindle and some bike touring books for Kindle on Amazon.

We get a small commission if you buy through these links. The commission doesn’t raise the price you pay but does help us keep this website running.

What Next?
Related Pages
 

33 Responses to “The Kindle 3: The Perfect Bike Touring Gadget?”

  1. Graeme says:

    Picked one up on recent trip back to UK. Was unconvinced but difficulty in picking up books where I live pushed me to give it a try. I am now a complete convert. Not a flash gadget but does one important thing extremely well. Battery life is weeks of normal use. As someone who can’t travel without 2-3 books minimum, it’s a godsend. Ideal for bike touring with a minimum of care against damage.

  2. Becky says:

    I love my Kindle for casual reading – I can see how it would have saved us both money and time when we were travelling. Books in English can be very expensive (about 20 Euro per paperback novel).

    Familyonbikes used kindles to ensure the kids had adequate reading material throughout their journey. They can also comment on the Kobo, as they bought one when the kindle broke.

    When I bought my kindle 3, I bought a cheap case for the older (and bigger) kindle. It is handy for carrying the kindle and a small notebook.

  3. My only question is: How do I rip the pages out of my book as I read them to save weight?

  4. Doug W. says:

    Couldn’t possibly say enough good things about the Kindle for home and on-bike. I was a naysayer until I had one in my hands. Up until then I just didn’t get it. It took one minute with it to realize I needed to buy one.

    One other feature that often gets overlooked: You can share books with up to 6 Kindles if you have them on the same account. Meaning my wife and I can buy one e-book and be reading it simultaneously on two separate kindles.

  5. jim says:

    I got a case for mine (130 grams) but now just use a bubblewrap envelope with a thick bit of cardboard in it to shield the screen (26 grams!).

  6. Rik says:

    Having your book on our kindle saved us from a world of panic the other day when we broke a spoke and didn’t no how to fix it. Yes, we LOVE our kindle, the battery lasts for ages, its really easy to read even in strong sunlight and love the way Amazon allow you to share books on multiple accounts (well basically everything Doug W said)

  7. Tom Allen says:

    Been thinking about getting one for a while now. I think I will eventually cave in to my inner gadget-freak… once the next version comes out, anyway :)

  8. Mark says:

    a useful website when using the kindle for browsing is kinstant.com . Essentially it is a customizable homepage, and offers optimized mobile browsing.

  9. I’ve had one since last Christmas and I carry it everywhere with me for work and pleasure. No longer do I have stuff a paper book into my hand luggage when flying or on a train. It’s compact, light and contains enough books for me to be able to flit between them depending on what I want to or need to read.

    The key advantage over an iPad (which I have tried for reading and it’s not nearly as good as a Kindle) is that you don’t have the nagging, low-battery angst that you get from most devices from which you can read.

  10. Jeff says:

    I don’t know if it’s still the case, but the first 3G Kindle offered *FREE* access to 3G networks in most developped country. That’s a quite big and important differenciation from all other reader and tablet. It’s probaly the features that impressed me the most about the Kindle.

  11. DPeach says:

    I have had my Kindle for 2 weeks a 1 day. I am completely in love. I have been reading Kindle books on my iPhone for more than 2 years (I think since the day the app was released on the iPhone). While it was no worse than other experiences, I was not convinced I would like a Kindle. A few months ago I started reading books on my wife’s Sony eReader. It didn’t take me long before I started wanting to get my own ebook reader. I researched all the options (because that is what gadget geeks do) and the Kindle won out on so many levels.

    I bought mine and had it hand delivered to me in South America two weeks ago. I couldn’t wait for my visiting friend to leave so I could spend all my free time on the Kindle. :-)

    When I am not commuting by bike I use public transportation. Reading a book on a Kindle is so much less pretentious than an iPad (which I don’t have anyway). I still don’t pull it out on crowded buses and trains, but there are still plenty of times I get to read in public with my Kindle.

  12. I’ve looked longingly at these for a while and think it’s time to make the investment. It’ll free up so much space in our panniers getting rid of the small library the kids bring with them on tour. But how I fear the squabbling over who’s going to use it. I wonder if we can get a deal on a set of 5.

  13. Pete says:

    no book swapping with fellow travellers any more then…shame.

    • Friedel says:

      Actually, many books on Kindle can be lent out to someone. I haven’t done it yet, but I know it’s possible.

      • You can lend books (if you are in the US only right
        through a service called Lendle (www.lendle.me).

        But, the point is that a lot of people seem to think
        that Kindles stop you lending or swapping books and
        that if you have a Kindle you stop reading paper books.

        Kindles are great for travelling. But, I still read printed books and sawp them with people. Kindles just allow
        you to carry more books than if you carry printed books.

      • Alvaro says:

        I’ve had a Kindle now for nearly a month and I’m in love with the thing. I also took it cycling last week. Perfect touring gadget.

        As for sharing books, my friends and I have a shared folder in dropbox and we put books we like there. Easy :) Calibre does the rest.

  14. Rory says:

    I’ve started trying to put maps on my Kindle that will work offline. I’ve done one for my home town of Dublin, Ireland. If you’d like one for your area made, please let me know at the link below.

    kindle maps

  15. Danny says:

    There are a few ways to keep a kindle 3 from showing the screensaver when it goes to sleep, so that whatever page you’re looking at just stays there without turning it on. It works great with map views and transportation timetables.

    It will also play MP3s, which is okay for music and in-freaking-credible for old radio shows, podcasts, and listening to old audio journals.

    And speaking of that, I wonder when there will be a upgrade that lets us use the microphone of the Kindle 3. It teases me!

  16. The Kindle sounds good, but isn’t the iPad a better all round touring gadget?

    • friedel says:

      I guess it depends on how you define better. The iPad is more expensive, doesn’t come with free 3G internet access and has a much shorter battery life. An iPad also feels too much like reading on a computer screen, whereas the Kindle reproduces the feel of paper very well.

      For us, those things are pretty compelling, but what you’re looking for may be different.

      • The article is entitled “the perfect bike touring gadget” which I interpreted to mean the one electronic device that best meets the needs of the cyclists. Personally I’ve found the iPad (with camera connector, head phones and zagg keyboard) to be the best all round gadget to meet all my IT needs ie: a laptop, ebook reader, smartphone, movie player and ipod all rolled into one great to use gadget.

  17. friedel says:

    I suppose you could more accurately add the words ‘for us’ or ‘in our opinion’ to the headline, or maybe even ‘best value’ – everything is ultimately a matter of personal opinion. The iPad wouldn’t work for what we require (big downsides for us being the cost and the battery life) but for you, and many other bike tourists, it’s certainly a popular thing to carry.

  18. Peter says:

    Anyone considering the brand new Kindle (released in the UK in October 2011) should note that the “on screen keyboard” is not a touch-screen keyboard (which would be convenient) but a keyboard displayed onscreen, which you have to navigate around, from letter to letter, using the five-way controller. So making annotations, looking up a URL, writing an email, etc., will all be MUCH slower and more fiddly.

  19. Brimstone says:

    Kindle has enticing features for sure. Battery life foremost follwed by form factor and excellent screen. But for all it can do it’s comparatively limited. From a minimalist POV, like Bevan I’m also thinking more function from a single device.
    I’m following 7″ Android tablets closely, watching prices fall and features rise. For travel I think they hit the sweet spot. Less expensive and heavy and fragile and longer battery life than an Ipad, more versatile than a Kindle with full color web access and GPS and Bluetooth. Android reading apps have improved and are somewhat closing in on the superb Kindle reading screen. Maybe the new Amazon tablet will be perfect? I’m thinking a 7″‘er and a smartphone together give redundancy for technical and leisure reading, navigation, photography, communications, and emergency lighting etc. Not perfect for any one thing including reading but: the two can adequately replace many stand alone devices.

    And the less stuff you have, the less stuff you have to lug, lose, break, secure, charge, store, maintain and fight over.

    Now if I can just get that hub generator USB charger thing dialed in…

  20. Brimstone says:

    Kindle has enticing features for sure. Battery life foremost followed by form factor and excellent screen. But for all it can do it’s comparatively limited. From a minimalist POV, like Bevan I’m also thinking more function from a single device.
    I’m following 7″ Android tablets closely, watching prices fall and features rise. For travel I think they hit the sweet spot. Less expensive and heavy and fragile and longer battery life than an iPad, more versatile than a Kindle with full color web access and GPS and Bluetooth. Android reading apps have improved and are somewhat closing in on the superb Kindle reading screen. Maybe the new Amazon tablet will be perfect? I’m thinking a 7″‘er and a smartphone together give redundancy for technical and leisure reading, navigation, photography, communications, and emergency lighting etc. Not perfect for any one thing including reading but: the two can adequately replace many stand alone devices.

    And the less stuff you have, the less stuff you have to lug, lose, break, secure, charge, store, maintain and fight over.

    Now if I can just get that hub generator USB charger thing dialed in…

  21. Marcey says:

    I bought a kindle after reading all your recommendations. THANK YOU!! I am enjoying the freedom of taking my books with me and reading which ever one I am in the mood for. From all the reader replies, I’m slowly adding to my kindle knowledge.

    My bike trip will start April 2012 and I will ride around the US until I run out of funds. Your website is one of my inspirations.

    • friedel says:

      Hi Marcey, great that you’re enjoying your Kindle. Good luck on your bicycle trip – not long to go before the big start date! You must be really excited :)

  22. Daniel says:

    Hi guys,

    First up, thanks for the site. I’m a longtime lurker planning a trip through India/China/Central Asia/Europe next year and your site has been a great help and inspiration.

    Now for the question :P Does anyone here have first-hand experience of charging the Kindle via dyanmo hub– particularly Dahon’s Biologic’s ReeCharge power pack? ( http://www.thinkbiologic.com/products/reecharge-power-pack ) I’ve emailed the Dahon customer service to ask if Kindles were supported, and they said ‘no’, yet I’ve also read two accounts online of people who’ve said they had no trouble charging their Kindles with the Reecharge. Confused! I was hoping someone here might be able to offer me a conclusive answer :) As a compulsive reader staring down months of English-scarce countries, my fingers are crossed for compatibility!

    Thanks all

    - Daniel

  23. Nico says:

    Alas, my 2nd Kindle has now bitten the dust as I obviously didn’t protect the screen enough. As much as I love it, I don’t think I can trust myself with another one, so paper books for me now…

    An extra thing I noticed on my kindle recently is that GMail now correctly recognizes it as a mobile device and therefore serves you a much more usable GMail interface when using your Kindle :) This makes it a much more viable email checker than it previously was, if you use GMail.

  24. friedel says:

    Is there a chance you’re using an iPad? We experienced the same thing with our iPad and it was a virus on the iPad itself.

Leave a Reply