In the weeks leading up to my trip to Taiwan, our paper copy of the Taiwan Lonely Planet was lost in the mail. And no Beijing bookstore carries it, probably because it doesn’t lump Taiwan in with the rest of China. Since I’m not yet the kind of traveler who goes guidebook-less, I decided the time would be ripe for experimenting with an e-Guidebook. Specifically, the Kindle edition of the Taiwan LP, to be read on my iPod Touch. Read on for my review.
PROS OF THE E-GUIDEBOOK
- Size: It made my purse so much lighter to abandon the paper guidebook and just carry my iPod… which I would have been carrying anyway. This is by far the biggest upside to the e-book.
- Bookmarking: You can “highlight” text in the Kindle edition, and your highlights are then added to the Table of Contents page for easy access. Even better than dogeared pages, since you immediately know which page you are turning to.
- Zoom: I expected the maps to be the most annoying part of using an electronic version of Lonely Planet, but the iPod’s crisp screen made them easy to read and zoom in and out of.
CONS OF THE E-GUIDEBOOK
- Speed: Not an issue with a paper guidebook, but moving between the (small) pages of the e-guidebook was noticeably slow, especially when I was trying to flip through many pages at once. Since the maps were randomly interspersed in the text, this was a pretty frequent annoyance.
- Navigation: Some effort was made to add intra-book links to the text (particularly directing the reader to the relevant map), but WAY more are needed before the Kindle edition will be as easy to navigate as the paper book. Unfortunately, I imagine they are probably directing their focus towards creating new apps rather than improving Kindle editions.
- Power: I was also using my iPod for regular reading, Google Maps and my Chinese dictionary, which meant that I had to charge it at least once a day and lived in fear of running out of power when we still needed the maps. You never have to recharge a paper guidebook!
OVERALL VERDICT: From a user’s perspective, the paper guidebook trounced the e-guidebook in every aspect but one: weight. But to me, that is a decisive factor. With the guidebook on my iPod, I could carry my dSLR without my shoulder falling off, or alternatively I could get away with just a small purse. Next time, I’ll use more bookmarks to mitigate some of the speed and navigation issues, but I’ll definitely be looking for the electronic edition.