Best eReaders for International Travel

inca-trail-machu-picchu-peruWhether you are getting ready to blaze the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, Peru or to set foot on the Silk Road, China, one thing that every seasoned world traveler in common is to learn to pack light for the long journey.

These days packing light is not only a practical matter, an economical one as well as most of the airlines charge hefty fees for checking bags.

Fortunately, with the modern technology, we can easily find ways to lighten our load.  For example, we used to pack books after books for in-flight reading and reading while traveling. Now we can tuck thousands of books away in one compact device called an ereader that only weighs a bit more than half a pound.  Why not embrace the modern technology and convenience?

Then you may wonder which ebook reader to buy as it is incredibly confusing to choose one vs. the other.  As you may know that ereaders are not created equal, some are more suitable for students, and others are better companions for world travelers.

When shopping for a digital ereader for everyday use, there are several factors to consider:

  • Display size and technology
  • Design, dimensions and weight
  • Access and ease of acquiring content
  • On-device and off storage
  • Battery life
  • Wireless connection
  • Web browsing and email
  • Price
  • Customer reviews

If you are buying one specifically for international travel, you should pay special attention to a few important features:

Dimensions and Weight

When you are trekking on the Inca Trail for four to five days, one extra ounce of weight will make a significant difference in your backpack.  So pack the critical few and shed the unnecessary many.  It’s wise to choose an ebook reader that’s compact and light weight. A perfect ereader would be Amazon’s Kindle Touch as it is only weighs 7.5 ounces for the Wi-Fi option and 7.8 ounces for the Wi-Fi + 3G one with a display screen size of 6”.

Wireless Connection

We often take it for granted that there are hotspots within a wireless network no matter where we go such as in a Starbucks store or at an airport.  However, it may not be so convenient in some parts of the world where technology seems to be lagging behind.

For the most part, you may not need to access to a wireless connection if you have uploaded enough reading materials before your trip.  Occasionally, you might be compelled to check out a new book recommended by your tourist guide.  Having a 3G connection through the data network is handy when you are in a foreign land.  You don’t have to hunt for a wireless hotspot.  Better yet, you don’t have to pay outrageous international data plan fees for the 3G connection. Once again, the Kindle Touch 3G option is ideal for this purpose.


If you are using your ebook reader for mostly reading pleasure, storage is not that critical as most of the ebook reader models can store up to 3,000 books. A few top brands such as the Nook series and Sony Readers are equipped with a Secure Card (SD) memory slot option where you can expand the on-device storage up to 32GB.

Battery Life

I don’t know about you, but when I travel overseas, my normal routine is interrupted as I have so many people to see and places to go.  Charging the battery of my ereader or phone may be the last thing on my mind.  In addition, there is also a reality that different countries have different electric voltages.  For instance, in China, the voltage is 220 vs. 110 in the U.S. Also the electric socket is shaped differently.  I always carry a universal converter where I plug my gadget in for recharging.

If you have an iPad, you don’t have to worry about the voltage part because Apple’s iProducts (e.g.: iPhone, iPod and iPad) all come with a dual-voltage adapter.

Access to Content

The battle among ereader brands such as Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple and Sony has been not only about the device itself, it also extends to the content offering.  In the most recent past, if you owned an Amazon Kindle, chances were that you would have to purchase content through Amazon and the same logic goes for Barnes and Noble in the case of Nook. 

The battle is mostly over thanks to the apps that allow cross-device content consumption.  A real life example would be that I own an iPad, but I purchase most of my digital content from Amazon.  I have no problem whatsoever in reading books bought from Amazon on the iPad.

If you’d like to pack a travel guide with you on your trip, you can easily buy a Lonely Planet Peru Kindle edition on Amazon and download it to your choice of ereaders, be it a Kindle, a Nook, etc.

One word of caution about reading maps on your ereader.  You may want to print out hard copies of maps to pack with you as reading a map on a 6” screen on the go may not be the easiest thing to do.

I would suggest that you check out a few travel guide ebooks from your local library and play with the ebook reader to see which guide book works best in terms of display and content referencing.

In fact, borrowing some travel guide books from your local public library will save your some money vs. buying assuming the duration of your trip coincides with the library due date.

Text to Speech (nice-to-have feature)

Everyone is different when learning and consuming content.  For me, I am more of an audio learner besides being conceptual and visual.  That’s why I listen to many audio books instead of sitting down and reading text.

Some of the ereader brands have Text to Speech feature such as Kindle Touch, Kindle Touch 3G, Kindle Keyboard, Kindle Keyboard 3G, Kindle DX, and the iPads. Don’t expect a sensational voice as it is a computer-generated voice and robot sounding.  Personally I would rather buy an audio version of the book with a professional voice.

My Recommendations:

kindle-touch-3g.jpgHopefully by now you are more knowledgeable about what to look for in an ereader for your next trip. From overall features to price-value, I strongly recommend Kindle Wi-Fi + 3G and Kindle Keyboard Wi-Fi + 3G. Here are my reasons for choosing these two ereaders:

  • These two ereaders all have FREE 3G connection for travel domestically or overseas.
  • Amazon is the king of content.  Needless to say it’s so easy and effortless to buy and download ebooks. 
  • Both devices have enough internal storage to hold up to 3,500 books.
  • A long battery life of two months perfect for international trips
  • You can check out free public library ebooks and read them on the Kindle.
  • Both have text-to-speech and audio book capability should you have the need to do so.
  • Kindle Touch 3G also has Instant Translation feature from English to Spanish, Japanese and more.
  • Kindle Touch 3G and Keyboard 3G are light and compact.
  • Both have E Ink technology for screen display with the best reading experience indoors or out for longer periods of time.
  • Both are affordable in price. For less than $150, you can get a high quality ereader that will accompany you wherever you go.

One Comment

  1. Davide about e-Reader for traveling
    Posted January 23, 2014 at 2:02 am | Permalink

    Just a few months ago I bought my first eReader, and now I just can’t leave without it!