Relaxing by the fire with a good read is great way to unwind after a day of riding. Nothing is as serene as losing yourself with a book in one hand and a beer in the other. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, the latest Aussie bestseller, and silent save for the crackle of the fire and calling of the night birds. But is a paperback still the best, or have the new generation of e-readers, such as the Amazon Kindle, finally proven their worth?
I’ve had my Kindle Paperwhite (middle model, around $150AUD) for a bit over a month and have been using it daily and also taken it on a few trips.
Could a Kindle Replace the Paperback?
Books have a certain tactile feel. There is something special about a well read paperback. The flutter of pages. The smell of mature paper stock. There’s also an element of community around books. Buy and trading books with others is an often overlooked joy of reading.
Nobody can deny the feel of a real book. Paper between your fingers, the smell. The best thing is it doesn’t need a battery so you can read anytime, anywhere no matter how remote. For those spending an extended period on the road, plenty of hostels, cafes and libraries these days offer book exchanges – allowing you to trade that well-thumbed paperback for another title. Don’t think you’d be doing that with a hundred dollar Kindle.
Something that books don’t need to worry about is battery life. That said, Kindle’s have incredible battery life. One of the Kindle’s strongest features is the E-Ink type display, which the majority of the time really does look like paper. It has the added benefit of giving the Kindle Paperwhite weeks of run time. I was curious to see if this was a legitimate claim. Even with back light use (which again is great for camping) I still get a few weeks out of it. This is a great positive for longer motocamping trips.
Books Have Some Drawbacks
Unfortunately, books can be a bit precious, and a campsite may not be the be the safest place for them. From your pack getting soaked to mud or coffee staining your favourite book (or even worse, your friends favourite book). Although a Kindle isn’t immune to these damages, with a cheap sturdy case the Kindle holds up surprisingly well. Although, if your pack does go for a swim, you’d rather lose a cheap paperbark than a Kindle. You’ll also quickly realize the book’s other shortcoming once the sun starts going down and you begin to squint. Campfires rarely offer light to read by, and some people may not enjoy using their head torch’s battery, or find laying in the swag with one strapped around your noggin is just plain uncomfortable.
While battery life is often touted as an advantage that books hold (due to not needing one), the Kindle Paperwhite is incredibly conservative in its energy use. With the E-Ink type display that I mentioned earlier, not only does this mean I can read for hours without suffering the eye fatigue associated with looking at a phone screen, it actually gives the Kindle weeks of running time. Very few of us will be in situations where we are going weeks without access to some sort of charging port. And of course, the optional back light means that you’ll always have enough light to read by.
I believe the Kindle’s greatest virtue is it’s packability. Taking up the same space as a medium sized book, it’s capable of storing over 1000 books. With books ranging from free to premium this represents great packing and dollar value.
Any electronic devices most obvious flaw when compared to non-electronics is the need for a battery. Also, at around $170 you’re not going to want to be too rough with the kindle.
The Kindle Certainly has a Place by the Fire
There’s definitely strong cases for both paperbacks and Kindles. While I can see why some may not be ready to part with their books yet, I definitely prefer the convenience of a Kindle. I can load up as many books as I like in less space than a large novel, and I never need to worry about a light source. The Paperwhite’s display is as easy on the eyes as real paper and combined with the long battery life, it has gone a long way in overcoming the common shortcomings of e-readers.