Going MOBI: Traveling with a Kindle eReader


Photo: termie (Creative Commons)

I’m a writer and a fan of the physical book, but I just bought a second-hand Kindle 2 and will soon take it on the road.

What pushed me in that direction was stacking up all the books—guidebooks, reference, and pleasure reading—I wanted to take with me. It was one tall stack, and would have needed its own suitcase. I’ll be traveling by bus, car, boat, and maybe light plane, so I need to pack pretty light.

I thought of getting a non-Kindle e-reader (like a Sony, or the Barnes & Noble Nook) because I really wanted to be able to download and read all the books available in epub format (check out Gutenburg.org or books.google.com) that are free once their copyright lapses—you can download Jane Austen and Edgar Allen Poe and old scholarly works to your heart’s content.  Kindle can’t read epub files–it reads MOBI files.

The Rio San Juan, Nicaragua

The Rio San Juan, Nicaragua

The problem was finding up-to-date guidebooks or new fiction—I could find that only in the Kindle store. And even there, Lonely Planet has the monopoly (what’s new?). Let’s take Nicaragua guidebooks on Kindle as an example. I get to choose between Nicaragua Adventure Guide and Lonely Planet. That’s it. What about Moon, Footprint, the Rough Guide to Central America? But I bit the digital bullet and downloaded the Lonely Planet chapter on San Carlos, Islas Solentiname, and the Rio San Juan. It is cool that I can choose just part of the book. Of course now you can get just parts of a book in print, too, or you can do what I like to do—rip the chapters you need out of larger (real) book and then carry them in a zip-lock bag. You’ll never hear that satisying riiiip! coming from an ebook.

played-with-fire1So my first Kindle download was a guidebook. My second? Stieg Larsson’s The Girl Who Played with Fire, the second book in his compulsively readable trilogy. Yes, I have succumbed, along with the rest of the world. (He sold 3.5 million copies just in his native Sweden, which has a population around 9 million.)

But back to the Kindle–the navigation is driving me crazy. Next page. Previous page. Those are my choices. Oh, I can go to the Table of Contents, but when I do it often jumps back to another page. I didn’t realize ‘till now what a wonderful technology flipping through a book is. It works perfectly for a guidebook reader’s needs.

And trying to see maps on Kindle 2 is a losing battle. The Kindle has one order of magnification, not enough to read LP’s doll-sized maps.

I know there are programs to convert epub, pdf, and other file formats into something the Kindle can read. I’m looking into them right now. But wouldn’t it be nice if all the e-readers read all the ebook formats without having to make us jump through hoops?

Everyone’s taking the Kindle on the road—or blogging about it.

On Tuesday, guidebook writer Rick Steves published a short piece on Worldhum.com about guidebooks and ereaders. He said a reader wrote to say that Steves’ book on a Kindle was driving them nuts and did he know any place in Venice that carried non-digital copies of his guide?

And today, Edward Hasbrouck, author of The Practical Nomad, posted about the new Kindle for Windows

“Amazon.com has released a beta version of Kindle for PC software that you can download for free, and use to read e-books you buy from the Kindle store or, with some awkward conversion, other e-books….It’s functional and has all the features of — albeit no more than — the standalone Kindle e-book readers. You can now read any books you’ve already bought for your Kindle on your Windows PC, and vice versa, but you do not need a Kindle to buy and read “Kindle Editions” on your Windows PC. That means you can now use any device that runs Windows as a reader for Kindle format e-books.”

  • By Stephen, November 20, 2009 @ 11:00 am

    I’m waiting for Apple’s iTablet.

  • By Ryan H, January 9, 2010 @ 4:27 am


    I brought my Kindle 2 on my trip with me to South East Asia and I wrote up a little article on it:


    I find it extremely helpful when traveling, I loved it before I left on my travels and I love it even more now. I purchased Lonely Planet Cambodia on the Kindle 2 and found it to be good. (Maps Aside, they are a joke) I have never used the Maps in a LP anyway so no big loss, the format will get better with time.

  • By joe kochinski, January 11, 2010 @ 8:06 pm

    Wow – what a great site! Very informative, which I like. I also found another site that has a lot of customer reviews that are up-to-date. they have helped me determine which of these products are good or bad. Have a look at http://kindle.net23.net/index.html

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