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Should you take a Kindle overseas?

November 30, 2011

Should you take a Kindle with you on your first assignment instead of the huge pile of books you’re going to end up needing? Well, as always, it’s not that simple. The idea is seductive, you could leave behind a suitcase full of books and journals, and carry pretty much the entirety of human knowledge in a piece of technology the size of a notepad. While I’m down with that in principle (if, that is, you actually have all the books you want electronically, and don’t end up having to buy them again), in practice I think I would advise against this particular piece of electronica.

For one thing, it suffers from all the usual flaws of technology: It’s fragile, doesn’t like getting wet, you can’t use it to hammer a nail into the ceiling to hang a mosquito net, and it’s a theft target.

On the plus side, it can hold all the reference books you will ever need, but then so can your laptop, which you’re going to need anyway (and while we’re talking about laptops, I’ve been totally won over by the new MacBook Air – tiny, fast, and no moving hard drive!) So, save the hundred and fourty dollars, buy my e-book instead, and read it on your laptop!

That’s for non-fiction reference books, which play to the strengths of e-readers in my mind, then, for fiction, take real books – just a couple of them, and trade them with others.

Of course, if you want one anyway, it helps me support this site if you buy it from the link here (the price is the same for you).

7 Comments leave one →
  1. December 5, 2011 8:17 am

    I would actually disagree, as I think that a Kindle is a fantastic thing to take overseas. In my opinion (and based on past experience), packing books is one of the most unwise uses of space and weight in your luggage allowance. There are so many things you’ll want to use more often than a book, which you’ll only read once. (My advice for the extra luggage space: bring granola bars and other familiar snacks for those days when you are sick of the local food in your new country of residence.)

    Furthermore, a Kindle really is different from a laptop because of the “virtual ink” technology, which makes reading much more pleasant and easy on the eyes. The battery life of the Kindle is also amazing (I recharge mine about once a month, despite frequent usage) — which comes in handy if you’re somewhere with frequent power outages! And as long as you invest in a case, it’s pretty sturdy (and not nearly as flashy as a laptop, so I don’t think that theft is an issue to be concerned about). Buying books on the Kindle is fast and easy (you just need a WiFi hotspot), there is a great selection of titles, and it’s cheaper than buying real paperback or hardcover books.

    That said, if you’re going to be someplace with easy access to English books (either through bookstores or through an expat community that likes to trade books), it may be more worthwhile to save money and not buy a Kindle. Also, I’ll always bring a hard-copy guidebook, rather than loading it on my Kindle.

    • December 5, 2011 9:04 am

      Thanks for that perspective – I definitely like the e-ink screen of the Kindle, and the battery life!

  2. AwFuL permalink
    March 27, 2012 11:23 am

    I think you should bring both. On my last deployment I only had hardcopies, I ended up getting most of them stolen. This being said, it was a great way to bond with people by sharing books but this may not be the case for all deployments (Depends how many people are coming down with you and if they speak/read the same language as you do)

    I think you should bring both, bring a huge amount of content on your kindle and some KEY books in hardcopy. (Such as a history of your AO, medical references and a good book to trade.)

    BTW Just bought your kindle book…

  3. March 28, 2012 8:48 am

    Sorry to hear you got your development books stolen – that’s low!
    Thanks for the feedback,

  4. coopernatural permalink
    November 4, 2012 10:16 am

    Another good reason to bring a Kindle – if you get the Keyboard version with 3G (2nd and 3rd generations only) you have a very basic text based browser and can access Facebook, email, etc. as well as any other mobile website when wifi isn’t available at no charge. This was disabled in the newer versions. While in Haiti recently I was able to update Facebook so the people back home knew how our group was doing. (We were in a remote village during Hurricane Sandy.) It’s painfully slow but when there are no international data fees. I have a Google Voice account and can use the Kindle to send and receive text messages.

  5. December 25, 2012 3:37 pm

    WOW just what I was looking for. Came here by searching for dumpster rental

    • December 26, 2012 9:34 am

      Thanks Adriana, glad I could help you out with your dumpster rental issues. You know, what I most love about SPAM is the opportunity to present my own unsolicited commercial message. If you liked my page on dumpster rentals, please buy my book on Amazon!

      Getting your first job in relief and development

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