My carry-on just got a whole lot lighter now that I won’t need to carry a single printed book for my trip to the Emerald Isle. Whether you favor the Kindle, Nook, iPad or iPhone, some of the best guidebooks on Irish travel are ready for download.
I tested a few publications using… the Kindle for iPhone and discovered a few things in my initiation into the world of digital travel guides.
First of all, it takes a while to get used to reading the extensive information of a guidebook on my phone. This is where the larger e-readers have an advantage.
Fortunately, even in digital I can leave notes and highlights in the book to help me find key information later. Another novel Kindle feature is being able to see the sections other people highlighted on their portable devices – it’s like reading a used textbook where, if you’re lucky, the important bits are already highlighted
My favorite on-the-go trick is searching inside the book; it runs a bit slow on my device, but when I need to find every mention of, say, “the Cliffs of Moher,” all I need to do is search.
Here are a few of my favorites… remember, features and availability will vary based on your device.
It’s refreshing to see an independently-published guidebook take on the big guns. Pat Preston’s extensive guide took home 1st Place Travel Guide at the North American Travel Journalists Association awards. And for good reason, it is truly a comprehensive how-to on Irish travel. This guide does not include maps, but it is loaded with hundreds of website addresses throughout, however, they are not clickable. The suggested itineraries toward the end of the book provide a travel planner’s treasure chest. $9.99 (almost 60% off the printed price)
Two words. Color photos (sorry Kindle, Nook and Sony E-Reader owners). It’s amazing how a few gorgeous images can completely change the experience. They’ve got plenty of in-book links to move you between topics. Oddly, the table of contents appears at the back of the book. Once I found it, I preferred having it there than it taking up the first several pages. Maps are basic, but relatively easy to read. Overall, probably the most feature-rich of the e-books. $12.99 (20% off the printed price)
Lonely Planet Ireland
A perennial favorite for its extensive coverage, Lonely Planet’s offers a range of information for budget and luxury travelers. I love the glossary of Irish and Ireland-specific words (it’s probably more useful portable than in print). The guide includes clickable website links AND internal links that will move you around the book. The maps are basic, but are relatively easy to read.* It’s great they are taking advantage of more digital-specific features, but I have to wonder why Lonely Planet didn’t include a photo on their digital cover. $13.79 (20% off the printed price)
Lonely Planet also offers ala carte downloads which include ability to just download sections on Dublin, Belfast and several county-specific guides. $4.79 each
The new edition, continues the Frommers tradition of celebrating affordable family travel. The digital edition mirrors the printed guide’s spot-on system of rating their favorite spots. Includes clickable website links throughout, and their clickable resource lists in the back are fantastic. Of the books I sampled, Frommer’s maps are by far the most difficult to read*, but they manage to give a simple snapshot of the region. $13.19 (10% off the printed price).
Rick Steves Northern Ireland
A perfect companion for a trip to Northern Ireland, narrowing the focus provides this one a bit more history and information. Maps maintain Steves’ trademark, hand-drawn style, which makes them relatively easy to read. The handful of uninteresting photos don’t add much, but the abundant clickable website links throughout are appreciated as are the links that forward readers to different sections of the book, and his preferred sites get special markings making the best places stand out. $6.36 (20% off the printed price)
This is the one that surprised me. It’s the book I never heard of, yet it’s one of the most extensive when it comes to covering destinations. It’s chock full of links and color photos, and because it skips covering restaurants, shops and accommodations, it can fit in a lot more information on less-traveled sites. As a bonus, it includes poems by William Butler Yeats and James Joyce’s book Dubliners – some reading material for the plane ride. $8.99
Dublin Face Off:
Experience Dublin ($2.50), Rick Steves’ Dublin ($6.36), Offbeat Dublin ($7.99) and Lonely Planet Dublin ($4.79)
These guides all have the capital city covered. However, if you’ve downloaded other guides, you probably won’t need these unless you are looking for more variety in the lists of restaurants, shops and accommodations. If your trying to narrow down your search, Off Beat wins out with its focus on things to see, do, eat and drink, but Rick Steves holds his own with handy maps, more photos and more clickable resources. Lonely Planet includes much of the “extra content” that also appears in their main Ireland guide, and Experience Dublin provides useful information, but lacks the features and has less than a third of the content of the other two, but it’s only $2.50.
*Editors Note: It looks as though technology is catching up with demand. I checked the maps on these e-books a year later, and the image quality improved across the board… now zooming in actually reloads the image. This makes these e-books even more valuable for travelers.
Screenshots of Maps: