Boaters and commercial mariners, each in their own way, lack badly needed space. The former can park their cars near the pier and quickly load their boats down to the water line, but rarely have much cabinet space to store non-essentials. Commercial mariners have cabinets and closets galore, but can only fit a limited amount of gear in the luggage they carry when flying to a foreign port to pick up a ship.
The space squeeze makes it difficult to bring many books along on a voyage, even though most sailors fill hours of their seagoing time by reading. Books take up space and can’t be ordered and delivered mid-ocean. In port, you may find a local bookstore, but unless the country is English speaking its not likely to have much of a selection. One solution is ebooks and our favorite ebook reader is Amazon’s Kindle Paperwhite 3G.
Kindle is the world’s first and best-selling ebook reader and the Kindle Paperwhite is the best of the Kindle line. The Paperwhite seamlessly integrates the best hardware, massive ebook selectivity, the lowest ebook prices, the best reading features, the best customer service, personalized recommendations, and customer reviews into a lean, mean reading machine. Best of all, its illuminated screen is the most advanced e-reader display ever constructed. Its higher contrast and greater reflectivity mean whites are whiter and blacks are blacker, making its pages virtually indistinguishable from printed pages. You won’t find this level of contrast in any other e-reader, and its built-in, low-energy LED bulbs guide light toward the surface of the display so you can read comfortably without eyestrain.
The Paperwhite does not have a color display or the ability to play movies, video games or surf the Internet. For these features we recommend Apple’s iPad Mini, the best tablet on the market. The Paperwhite doesn’t do much besides display books, but it’s the best device for this single task. Fancier Kindles, like the newer Kindle Fire HDX, have more features, but are larger and heavier, and have shorter battery lives and more fatiguing screens.
The Paperwhite is light, tough and relatively inexpensive. The basic cost is $139, but Amazon drops the price to $119 for users willing to see an ad displayed on the device when it goes into screensaver mode. Saving 20 bucks, I chose the no-ad version, but upgraded it to 3G for an extra $70. The cellular 3G version is identical to the basic Paperwhite except the 3G connection enables you to buy and download new books, magazines, blogs and your favorite daily newspaper.
Why would anyone need a 3G connection if cell phones don’t work out at sea? Sure, the feature is useless more than a few miles offshore, but a great thing about 3G is it works in nearly every country around the globe and comes with no additional monthly fee. So if you run out of books mid-Atlantic, the moment you sight land (nearly any land with cell towers) the Kindle will start downloading the latest news from home and allow you to purchase more ebooks.
My Paperwhite, which I’ve owned more than a year, has accompanied me both offshore and on overseas flights, and performed flawlessly. It’s one of my favorite devices, but don’t just take my word for it. Yahoo technology editor David Pogue, formerly of The New York Times, wrote that “if you’re choosing an E Ink reader over the color models, it’s because what you intend to do mostly is stare at that screen, lost in your reading. In that case, the display of the page is more important than any other factor, and that’s where the Kindle Paperwhite shines.”
TheWireCutter.com technology review site recommended the Paperwhite over Barnes & Noble’s Nook “because of Amazon’s stronger ecosystem (of books).” A Google search reveals dozens more overwhelmingly positive Paperwhite reviews.
The newest version of the Paperwhite, released late in 2013, is even better. Engadget, the respected technology blog, praised its “improved processing speeds, better front lighting, software tweaks and forthcoming Goodreads integration” as welcome updates that “help solidify the Paperwhite’s status as a truly terrific e-reader.” Goodreads.com is the world’s largest site for sharing book recommendations.
For all these reasons, the Kindle Paperwhite is the best ebook reader for sailors. We also think the 3G option is well worth the extra $70, especially for anyone traveling outside the United States.