E-ReadersWhen I travel, one of the biggest decisions that I make isn’t which clothes or shoes to pack, or whether to drive or fly. As an avid reader, I always make sure to pack a book or two – depending on the length of the trip, it can end up being several. I think one of my worst nightmares has always been getting stuck somewhere with nothing to read. 🙂

The decisions about which books to take when I’m traveling don’t always involve whether I’m in the mood for a thriller or romance story either – in the past I’ve usually chosen lightweight paperbacks that are easy to pack and don’t weigh as much as hardcovers. But nowadays there are even more options – ones that allow you to carry dozens or even hundreds of books with you on a trip, and which hardly weigh anything at all.

When it comes to e-readers, there are a lot of different ones to choose from, even within the same brand. Amazon’s Kindle, the ‘original’ e-reader can now be purchased for as low as $114, if you don’t mind special offers and sponsored screensavers. Another popular option is Barnes & Noble’s Nook, available in an e-ink version, or as a color touchscreen device similar to an iPad for $249. There are also e-readers from Kobo, Sony, and more – you can see comparisons between the different options in many places online. No matter which kind you choose, there are generally features for bookmarking the page you leave off at, searching through the book’s text for specific words or phrases, and storing several to many books on the device at once.

If you have an iPad or other tablet, it’s also easy to download an app to turn it into an e-reader as well – and again there are several options to choose from – both Amazon and Barnes & Noble have free apps that are compatible with their book libraries and allow you to share your  books between multiple devices, including smartphones. My first experience with reading digital books was actually on my iPhone 3G, using Kindle’s app. It’s a small screen and requires a large amount of page turns (finger swipes), but I love having books with me wherever I go without having to haul a physical copy along. Now that I have a Nook, I still share books back and forth between the actual e-reader and their iPhone app. And I can also read them on my laptop if I want to!

If you are looking at purchasing an e-reader for your travel reading this summer, here are a few things to consider, no matter which brand you’re interested in:

  • There are two different screen technologies – each has its benefits. The e-ink display of the Kindle and original Nook allows for a reading experience similar to that of a written page, in black-and-white, with no worries about screen glare if reading in sunlight. The color screens of the Nook Color and iPad let you read more easily in low-light, but do give trouble with glare in bright sunlight.
  • There are also two choices when it comes to how your e-reader accesses its online library – you can buy a less-expensive version that connects via wi-fi, but you’ll only be able to browse, purchase or download books when connected on a wireless network. If you spend more money up-front, you can buy an e-reader that will access a 3G cellular network (there’s ongoing cost for this) and allow you to search for, buy and download your books from almost anywhere – as long as there’s a 3G connection available. While most airports do have wi-fi available, it may not be free, and/or may only be accessible in certain portions of the terminal.
  • Keep in mind that e-readers, smartphones and tablets are all electronic devices and therefore can’t be used on an airplane during takeoff and landing. I always make sure to pack at least one magazine or paperback book to read when I can’t use my Nook, or take advantage of the time to pull out my knitting. If you’re on a short flight, you may not have much time at all to use your e-reader while in the air, but they are a good option during long layovers, in your hotel room at night, or when relaxing by the hotel pool.
  • Brick-and-mortar bookstores now have plenty of ebooks available too. While most ebooks do cost money, they are usually less expensive than their physical counterparts and there are some good free options available too if you search for them.
  • Neither physical books or e-readers are waterproof, but you are out a lot more money if your e-reader gets wet than your paperback. One option to protect your e-reader is to put it in a waterproof case, or if your e-reader doesn’t have a touchscreen, you can just put it in a gallon-sized plastic baggie as a less-expensive option.
  • If your e-reader can read PDF files (the Nook does), you can also load your travel itineraries on it so that you have them accessible anytime without having to print out and keep track of hard copies.

As I get ready to travel this week, I’m making sure that my Nook is charged up – but that I also have a great summer travel reading option in paperback version with me too. My choice on this trip? The first novel by a local West Michigan author – and I can’t wait to get started!

My goal isn’t to recommend any particular e-reader over another here, but to list the options and the pros and cons of using them while traveling. Although I do own a Nook, I purchased it on my own and all opinions given here are are 100% mine. Photo credit: jblyberg

Deb writes as West Michigan TravelingMom as well as at Mom of 3 Girls and Just a mom’s take on things…. You can also find her on Twitter – she’s @DebMomOf3.