Four weeks ago I headed off from my base in Islamabad to Turkey on assignment. In my bag was sufficient reading matter for the week or so I thought I’d be away:
- Ed: The Milibands and the Making of a Modern Leader
- Cables from Kabul: The Inside Story of the West’s Afghanistan Campaign
- Moth Smoke
At the end of the week, however, and with all but 70 pages of Moth Smoke read, I was on my way to Libya. My two books on Libya (briefly thumbed) back home in Islamabad.
Now I know this is desperately old hat to almost all of you – and it’s pretty embarrassing that it took me until last night to figure this out – but that’s where my Android tablet came into its own.
One of the curses of shambling around the sort of cities where I’ve plied my trade for the past seven years is that internet speeds are generally low to stationary. Often, it’s a struggle to get any connection at all. Days are spent on the road in areas where smart phones are dumb. Generally, then, I like to have a thick wad of print-outs with all the background I need on whichever country I happen to be visiting. Unless you set fire to them, there’s no danger of data corruption or of being unable to download what you need.
But this time, I hadn’t prepared. Looking up basic facts on Libya meant clunking around on google, waiting for pages to load.
Until, that is, I activated the Kindle app on my tablet. It took about 15 min to download two hefty files (on a bit of a wonky connection) that should now keep me going for Libya facts and figures as well as providing some decent reading matter. I don’t need to worry about finding an internet connection to find the correct spelling of towns, or distances from Sirte and so on. Admittedly, one is little more than the CIA factbook chapter and wikipedia, but actually that’s what I need:
- 2011 Complete Guide to Libya: Muammar al Qadhafi (Colonel Gadhafi, Qaddafi, Gaddafi), Government, Politics, Military, Human Rights, History, Economy, Uprising – Authoritative Coverage
- Libya and the Afghan Model Revisited (Over the Horizon)
They are on my Xoom, which means I have a good 10 hours of battery life. And I can carry them anywhere I go. So I have all the fact I need at my fingertips. I have to say, I’d always prefer to slip a novel in my bag as reading matter for the road. (And I like to have something to pop on my shelves when I’ve finished.) But as a tool for the travelling journalist, the kindle app and these cheap ebooks crammed with fact, figures and official reports are bloomin useful.