Reading on board: ebook or print?

reading on passage

In 2007, Jamie added bookshelves to Totem. LOTS of bookshelves. We felt important to accommodate our family before moving aboard. At the time, ereaders were relatively nascent. Reading needs at our kids’ ages then—4, 6, and 9—better aligned with print books than screens. I could not justify what was then the equivalent of a month’s worth of groceries on a couple of ereaders. But a few of years later, I got Jamie a Kindle for his birthday. And BAM, within months, all five of us had ereaders. Although while I am a diehard print book lover for many reasons, the ebook formats makes a lot of sense for cruisers.

ebooks are great for cruising

Most obvious are the reduction in weight and space by replacing a physical library with a digital one. We love to read, and we now have access to what feels like an endless supply of reading without the compromise of storage.

Being able to source new books just about anywhere is another key benefit. Unfortunately, there’s a very low bar set for the quality of books on the “give one, take one” shelves in laundries and the salty corners along cruising routes around the world. If you’re good with pulp fiction and supermarket romances, no problem. If you’re looking for pretty much anything else, it will feel like a gift when you spy a winner among the fluff.

mairen and ereader
Mairen and her ereader. Thailand, 2013

Also, if you’re expecting to buy print books locally while you cruise…think again. From the time we left the USA until we reached Australia more than two years later, there just weren’t a lot of options. Not in Mexico. Tahiti had bookstores, but unsurprisingly, books were mostly in French. It’s the same in New Caledonia, and most other English-speaking islands along the coconut milk run between those two don’t have populations big enough to support bookstores.

Ease of access means most of the books the kids read for learning are digital. Amazon makes retail purchasing very easy, but resources like project Gutenberg have free classics, and by maintaining accounts with a library at home, it’s possible to access those ebook libraries as well.

Maldives! no bookstores, but plenty of internet to shop ebooks

Ebooks are also more watch-friendly. Reading is one of my favorite ways to pass time, stay alert and awake on watch. Previously I used a headlamp to read paperbacks, which is a great way to kill night vision. By comparison, a dim setting on my kindle is very low impact. If I’m reading on an iPad, I can set a 10-minute timer on the device as a reminder to do a 360 and check instruments.

A note on hardware: for reading in sunlight, I really don’t like backlit tablets like iPads or Nexus or Kindle Fire. We have some of these: they’re great for a lot of things, but not for reading. The black and white eink displays, on the other hand, are a dream in sunlight; their screens also don’t have the glare that tablet glass gives, and their dim settings work better at night. We use these almost exclusively for nighttime reading (also: marriage saver in comparison to leaving a light on!).

Print still has a place

Print will never lose a place on Totem, and it’s our preferred type for any reference books. That includes not just the nautical books on board, but the field guides and travel books. I want to flip to the overviews, skim genres of plants or animals or skip ahead to whatever town we’ll visit next. Browsing isn’t as easy for me on an ebook. In technical manuals, tables and charts and diagrams don’t always translate as neatly as you’d like. While the front-to-back reading of a book for pleasure makes a lot of sense on an ebook, the non-linear mode of a reference book doesn’t suit.

kids need books

Print was also essential when the kids were small.  They’d lose themselves for hours in colorful DK books about the ocean, or a country we’re visiting, or something they love- dogs, astronomy, whatever. One of our great indulgences of space on board is a full set of encyclopedias. I don’t regret that for an instant. We also had Britannica on the computer, but the kids engaged differently with print references: they’ll got lost in them for ours, where they tend to do more shorter duration point searching in digital format.

Voyaging with Kids: ebook or print?

Jason Haase httpswww.facebook.comjason.haase.92
future cruising kid with his copy!

Now that I’ve got my name on a book, the question has slightly different weight: what’s better for Voyaging with Kids, anyway? While I prefer ebooks for most reading, and print for reference reading, Voyaging with Kids is actually kind of in the middle. I think it lends itself to either format, and it depends a little on how you’re going to use the book.

A vivid layout in color throughout with rich images to bring cruising to life: there’s something about being able to flip through and get a feel for the cruising life. It may be more readily shared with those friends/relatives who need help understanding you’re not crazy (hey, look: happy well-adjusted families! On boats! All over the world!).

linked content vert
Print edition mentions this NOLS medical training; ebook links to a website about the course, and eink Kindles display it nicely.

On the other hand, the ebook version can take you directly to content throughout the book with a keyword search. There’s a good index, but that’s powerful. You can highlight material to save for later: to build a list of skills, or resources, or knowledge you want to build in the process of gearing up to go cruising. And, a digital edition fits in a handbag, so it’s easy to take with you (dentist’s waiting room? Bus? Lunch break?).

What the ebook also does that print can’t is connect directly to resources online. Voyaging with Kids has a significant amount of supporting content from videos, to blogs, to books, or the resources like the medical training course mentioned in ‘Staying Healthy’ – shown here. That gets a mention in the print edition, and a URL in the appendix, but it’s a live link in the ebook.

If you’re not sure which one is best for you, it’s easy to try the ebook for free. First, Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature gives a good preview. Then, send a free sample of the book directly to your kindle from Amazon, and try it on your device.

Sale on Kindle edition of Voyaging with Kids!

I have an ulterior motive for tackling this topic. This month only, there’s a huge discount on the Kindle edition of Voyaging with Kids. A number of people who purchased the print edition of Voyaging With Kids asked about discounts for purchasing an ebook, since they’ve already bought the book. Our awesome publisher (pricing is Lin Pardey’s call) agreed, and thought it was a good idea for ALL buyers to have a shot at the same low price on an ebook—not just those who already own the print edition. So for the rest of February only, the Kindle edition is $9.99. That’s almost a quarter of the recommended retail price! It’s a steal, so if you’ve been on the fence, or want more flexibility for your gonna-go-cruising reading, maybe this tips the scale.

For more about Voyaging with Kids—a look through a selection of pages, Q&A with the authors, links to video content and more, visit Purchase from my Amazon associates link, and you toss me a tip. Thank you!

kindle tablet-horiz

Shoutout to Tim Murphy, designer for the digital edition, for sending me the ebook photos.

This post is syndicated on Sailfeed.



12 Responses

  1. My rule on ebook versus print is I’ve realized I prefer print books, so I have a ton at home, but ultimately just can’t beat the convenience of a Kindle while traveling. *Especially* for the whole “awful selection when in random places” part!

    Doubly nice in my family at least is we also linked all our Kindles onto one account that my father manages, so it doesn’t matter if I’m far away, we can still read the same stuff. 🙂

    1. Being able to share a book between family Kindles is HUGE. We do it too! And while I’m one of those print-book-lovers too… I’m pretty much a convert now.

  2. We all have kindles onboard Mahi, however, Joe still prefers print books. I made the transition to eReaders many years ago, so when I read a print book, I tap the page to turn- and nothing happens! LOL!

    Another informative article!

    1. So funny- I’ve caught myself doing that too! The preference is definitely individual, especially for those of us who did not grow up as digital natives. I was one of those “LOVE THE SMELL OF OLD BOOKS” types, haunted used bookstores to try and find the really good cloth editions of my favorites. I never expected to like ereaders…until I got one! Now, I find I don’t pick up print copies if I can possibly read it on my Kindle instead.

  3. Great post as always Behan! Michael posted about the sale on the kindle version on his site and I immediately purchased it to go along with the print version. Both formats are excellent and so chock full of tips, techniques, and multiple examples of how people cruise with children! My kids are all grown, but I have 7 grandkids to take out on the boat over the coming decades. The cruising information alone is worth the price of admission as are the gorgeous photos and interactive layout. Well done!

    1. Thank you, Kevin, for being such an awesome supporter! That sounds like quite a fleet of kids. I’m so glad you find it helpful, especially kid info aside, for your own plans.

  4. We are deeply conflicted about our encyclopedia. Even with building out a pilot berth into shelving, we just don’t have that much storage on our boat; but having reference books to page through is so important! I guess we’ll have to wait and see what fits…

    And sharing a Kindle account among three eReaders has led to some surprises in our family; both the kids enjoyed reading our copy of The Martain, even though in Print Book Land we might not have left a book laying around that lead with the f-bomb on the first page!

    1. Our encyclopedias feel like a luxury. We’re not a weight sensitive boat, and we created the room. But truly, everything- EVERYTHING- on a boat is a compromise, and you’ll know what’s best for you! Love the note about Kindle sharing…that works for us too!

  5. Great post Behan – after reading a previous post From July 2015, I took your advice and purchased an eink Kobo ereader (The H2O version as its water proof) and have never looked back. Absolutely love the format. Like most, will keep my hard cover cruising guides and reference books, but love the convenience and practicality of the Kobo for everything else. Thanks for the advice.. Bruce S

    1. Thanks Bruce! I love the concept of the H2O. Haven’t seen one yet but hopefully when we’re back in N America this year. Any kind of water resistance makes it sound like a great ereader for cruisers!

  6. As an American living and sailing around Europe, I’ve been a kindle fan for a very long time. We live on board 6-7 months of the year and I can get new books anytime I have an internet connection. Priceless ! But I always keep a sack of paperbacks on board so that I can enjoy book swaps in ports. It’s always fun to see what other cruisers are reading and I’ve picked up some real gems along the way.

  7. Behan,

    What a helpful review. I’m about to take the leap and your post was filled with useful insights, especially the benefit of Eink when reading outdoors. With all this evolution in book reading habits, I’m starting to feel bad for the guys who own the big printing presses.

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