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July 31, 2008

The Amazon Kindle: The Best Travel Gadget Since the Neck Pillow


by Tom Loftus

I have to admit that praising an e-Book reader in the middle of iPhone Summer seems so 2005, but I'm starting to lust after my wife's Amazon Kindle. She's in the publishing business and someone at her company--bless him or her--decided that money (and trees) could be saved by loading manuscripts onto the Amazon Kindle. Adios clutter.

On a lark I took a look at the screen. Whoa! The words read so clear. I would later learn that the print came courtesy of E Ink, electronic paper that...well never mind. Look it up. Guaranteed many of you will be reading from some form of E Ink or similar technology in the very near future.

I spent more time with the Kindle. I actually curled up with it, playing with font sizes, creating bookmarks, running word searches, and using the built-in dictionary. I did the kind of stuff I couldn't do with a dead tree. 

But here's the thing that makes the Amazon Kindle the most important piece of travel technology since the inflatable neck pillow. Say you're on the road and you suddenly realize that you must have--must have!--Oprah's new book. All you need to do is turn on the Kindle and connect to the store. (The connection is through Sprint's EV-DO network. It's free.) You'll have to pay for the book, but it will be cheaper than the dead-tree version. Or, if you wish, you can download sample chapters for free.

There are some drawbacks to the Kindle's portability. Right now, the wireless download is limited to the U.S. So if you're heading outside the U.S., it makes sense to just pack your Kindle with reading material beforehand. Amazon says that the Kindle can store 200 books. One more drawback: You probably wouldn't want to take this $350+ device to the beach. You don't want sand to get in the works, and besides, placing a Kindle on your head to block out the sun is both ineffectual and rather silly. Stick with dead trees for that. 

Further reading:
* Gear Review: The Sony Reader



My Kindle goes to the beach and the pool. I just slip it into a heavy duty zip lock. You could also find a large water camera bag if you want something more secure. So don't let that keep you from taking your Kindle around sand and water.

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