yes, even in the world of Wikitravel/Wikivoyage and TripAdvisor and Foursquare and all the advice you can get on social media and travel sites, i like to have a guidebook handy for two reasons: ① read on the plane to while away the hours, and ② do a quick read to get background and an overview (if not more) when at a place of interest. i rarely use them to plan travel, though i do enjoy suggested walk itineraries you can find in many of them (especially Frommer’s — but you can get these online).
in fact, the main reason i have a library card is to borrow guidebooks. i mean, what other book are you only going to use once? you might as well borrow them for free, no? (remember, if your library doesn’t have a particular title, they will likely have an interlibrary loan agreement with another that does.)
Library FTW. I do not believe in buying books, especially those I will use just once. pic.twitter.com/bDTBI8SmZl
— Jonathan Khoo (@jonk) September 7, 2013
BUT, physical books aren’t my first choice.
i do like the fact that i can quickly flip and skim through them and get to what i want without a lot of fuss, but their size and weight can make them unwieldy. enter the ereader (an actual Kindle or a device with the Kindle app available, which is pretty much all of them) and Overdrive. OverDrive, available at many libraries, is like a library for your Kindle.
and like physical library books, borrowing them is free (you’ll need a physical library card from your library, though), and you can renew and place holds on titles as well. and you don’t have to worry about overdue fines because your book will automatically be returned when the loan period is up. to see if your library has OverDrive, visit overdrive.com.
to borrow a book, just find one that’s available and click “Borrow” (popular ones will have a wait list and you’ll have to place a hold — if you see one you want and it’s available, but it’s a bit early for your trip, borrow it and renew it). you’ll get a screen that asks you what format you want it in. as i am a Kindle person, i choose that, then continue. note that there are various other formats your book might be in, but most are Kindle-enabled.
you’ll be brought to Amazon to complete the transaction. click “Get Library Book” and it’ll appear on the selected device and in your Kindle library.
you can download the book onto multiple devices. i prefer the old-school e-ink Kindle because of its great battery life, but i may also download the book onto my phone if i think i’ll need to reference color maps or images. remember to sync before your trip to avoid data charges and wifi woes.
of course, there are all manner of books available on OverDrive, from cookbooks to trashy romance novels — so what are you waiting for? it’s FREE.