Kindle 2011: Why I’m Buying Another Kindle for International Travel

I’m already sold on my Kindle for travel. I bought what is now known as a Kindle Keyboard, earlier this year.  The device is great, and I’ll tell you why in a moment. But the thing is, I need to buy another one. My partner has high-jacked my Kindle! He won’t give it back. He’s a voracious reader and I have to steal the Kindle away from him or read my eBooks on my netbook. Fortunately for me, Amazon have released a whole bunch of new Kindle’s – some of which are even available for international customers. In order from cheapest to most expensive

Kindle (aka Kindle 4 – but Amazon officially calls it (confusingly) – the Kindle).

Kindle for travel - thailand

Stolen Kindle Keyboard travelling in Thailand

I’ve compared the new models to the existing Kindle Keyboard (which will stay in production)

Compared to the Kindle Keyboard:

  • no keyboard (duh) – you have to use the on-screen board and a joy-stick-like button – tedious – but I hardly ever use the keyboard
  • same e-ink so you can read it outside, but need a light to read in the dark and its black and white only
  • cheaper, even the international version (ie without special offers), insanely cheap at $79 with special offers
  • 1/2 the memory stores about 1500 books
  • 1/2 the battery life – but it still lasts for about 15 hours of reading with WIFI turned off
  • doesn’t have audio so no option to have it read to you or play music
  • lighter under 6oz (170g)
  • faster page turns and not so much flashing dark as you do so
  • same basic menu structure and home page
  • same side buttons to page forward and back
  • same main buttons for changing font size amongst other things

Why is the Kindle good for Travel?

  • Its light – enough said I think, the keyboard version isn’t exactly heavy, but this is lighter and smaller.
  • Its cheap – stuff gets broken, lost, stolen, when you travel, and I don’t travel with anything that is very valuable (your books are all backed up on your Amazon account so you don’t lose those either). For that reason if you are in the US I’d suggest you save a few dollars and buy the cheaper “special offers” version – which serves ads on the main menu and screen saver (only not in the books).
  • Can be read in bright daylight – until you’ve tried to read a shiny backlit screen in sun you won’t realise huge this is.
  • Good battery life and easy to charge (you can use your cell phone charger or netbook to charge it)
  • No 3G but WIFI is everywhere in the world these days – so finding somewhere to browse wouldn’t be hard.
  • It won’t replace a netbook or smartphone if you need to stay connected online, it will replace a pile of books

Kindle Touch / Kindle Touch 3G

This is  the touch version. Rather than clicking buttons you swipe or tap the screen – there therefore there are no buttons to click. I suspect you will either love or hate it. The interesting thing with the non-touch Kindle’s is how easy non-computer people seem to find them. If you are buying for a non-techie – I would be cautious buying them a Kindle Touch.

Apart from the touch screen the main specification is very similar to the Kindle Keyboard (as is the price)

  • no keyboard or other keys – you use an on-screen virtual keyboard and turn pages with a tap or swipe
  • same e-ink so you can read outside in bright sunlight and its black and white only
  • same memory size (4GB) – holds about 3500 books
  • same battery life (claims 2 months with WIFI turned off)
  • comes with a 3G option same as the Kindle Keyboard at the (similar) higher price and free worldwide downloads

Why is the Kindle Touch Good For Travel ?

  • If you want really, really long battery life – then this is better than the Kindle – and the same as the Kindle Keyboard.
  • If you want an enormous library – then the memory is better than the Kindle – and the same as the Kindle Keyboard.
  • So the decision comes down to whether you want a touch screen
  • And whether you want 3G

Shipping late November (US only but will probably be international once they have cleared the backlog).

Kindle Fire

Well I can’t really compare this to a Kindle Keyboard – because its more similar to a tablet like the iPad or Galaxy. Its a cheap tablet, but its a tablet nonetheless. Its a 7″ display, 1024×600 resolution.  Its full colour screen – just like an iPad. WIFI (no 3G), and has no camera or microphone, 8GB internal storage plus unlimited Amazon cloud storage . It uses the same software (Whispersync) which allows you to start reading your book on your Kindle and swap to your phone or netbook and not lose your place.  On Fire this extends to videos and audio as well. Cool, but it will ONLY work in the US. The browser itself is a custom built version – and again it will be fast in the US because it uses  Amazon’s cloudstorage to speed it up – but this will mean it will probably not work in the rest of the world for the long time (never in NZ if you know anything about the costs of downloads and speeds).

I don’t recommend the Kindle Fire for Travel

  • The screen is backlit – its as hard to read as any other netbook or smartphone. particularly in the sun.
  • The battery life is about 8hours – good for a tablet, pathetic for an e-book reader.
  • The tight integration with Amazon Cloud will mean that it certainly won’t work outside the US for now – and probably won’t ever work in many countries with expensive data (Australia, New Zealand in particular).

Shipping mid November (US only).

Kindle WIFI or Kindle 3G for Travel

Both the Kindle Keyboard and the Kindle Touch each have a more expensive 3G version. What’s the advantage of 3G? Well basically its like there is a cellphone built into the Kindle – it can dial up the Internet and connect anywhere (pretty much) there is cellphone coverage.  So if you currently have no or poor cell phone coverage there is no advantage with 3G.

Can you use the 3G overseas to download books? Yes you can – and you don’t pay download fees. So if its really important to you to be able to connect with the press of a button most places in the world – 3G is the way to go.

I don’t bother – I’ve travelled with the WIFI version – and really I had already downloaded far too many books before I left home – I didn’t bother connection when overseas.

Depending on where you are travelling many, many places now have free WIFI often in hotels, coffee shops, public libraries or just public spaces. You connect your Kindle the same way as you connect your netbook, laptop or smartphone.

The 3G version will use more battery than the WIFI version with the WIFI turned off.

Now just in case you want to do some shopping

Kindles at
Kindle’s at (UK Only)


  1. travelyn on November 12, 2011 at 1:46 pm

    Ive been a great advocate of the Kindle as a reader but haven’t caught up yet with the later version Kindle Fire which I thought would be similar to the kindle WIFI or 3G and very suitable for travel, so I was interested to read your comment on the different versions. I will have to get onto my own research now. Thanks for sharing.

  2. James Cook on November 25, 2011 at 12:05 pm

    I love love love my kindle. It is so convenient!

  3. Jade - on January 8, 2012 at 8:06 am

    We have the kindle with the keyboard. Its really great for reading books – but reading guide books on it can be a little tedious. Especially with the maps…. For places I am spending a lot of time in (like australia) I bought the actual lonely planet, because reading it on the kindle would be too much effort

  4. Regev on March 1, 2013 at 11:06 am

    I just received my Kindle Paperwhite about a week and a half ago and… I FELL IN LOVE with this thing. It is so amazing that I threw away all my library and gave it away. Why didn’t you write about the Paperview? It’s seriously the creme de la creme of the e-readers today. I think you’ll love it Lis 😉

    • Elisabeth Sowerbutts on March 26, 2013 at 3:54 pm

      Yeah I should update this post with the paperwhite – they are all good so long as you steer away from the Tablets in my opinion

  5. Kemort on August 11, 2013 at 4:01 pm

    Can you tell me if I can borrow library books from my US based library on my kindle when I am in Europe?

    • Elisabeth Sowerbutts on October 18, 2013 at 9:50 pm

      Yes I believe so – its based on where your Amazon a/c is based not the current location of your Kindle

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