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Rick Steves Travel Guides: Kindle vs. Rick Steves Digital Library

I am trying to learn if there are any benefits of buying Rick Steves Travel Guides from Kindle vs. RS Digital Library. In particular, do the RS DIgital Library formats have any advantages?


Posted by
903 posts

Hi there,
While I'm usually on the forum to provide moderation, I'm also the one that tends to handle the more technical questions and user experience relating to the use of Rick's guidebooks as ebooks.

Generally speaking, in case you aren't yet decided about using an ebook vs a paper book, know that there are significant trade-offs. Ebooks save space and weight while traveling, but browsing through an ebook is significantly different and sometimes cumbersome. Guidebooks aren't used like normal books. They aren't read page by page like novels which is what most reading devices were designed to handle. Paper books are much easier to browse through when you need to flip through pages to find the part of the book that has the information you need. With ebooks, you are limited to using the Table of Contents and the Index (assuming the index is linked at all... most of our guidebooks are now but there may be some lingering exceptions) or you can move forward page by page. Ebooks do allow for Search functionality which is something a paper book doesn't have, but some don't find this as useful as being able to flip through pages. Ebooks also typically don't have as much detail in their maps as images tend to pixelate when you want to zoom in. This is constantly being improved, but the technology isn't quite there yet.

With regard to the first part of your question, if you have a preferred app or device that you already use and prefer such as Amazon's Kindle, Barnes and Noble's Nook, or Apple's iBooks, it is probably the most simple for you to use what you already know. I personally find that the e-ink displays are what really make ebooks great, but that may not be handy if you are trying to get information from what would otherwise be something in color like a map as e-ink displays tend to be black & white.

With regard to the RS Digital app/service in which you can buy ebook versions of select Rick Steves guidebooks (which do not work with Kindle, Nook, etc), I would genuinely say that our publisher that built the app found ways to have an improved user experience with ebooks used as guidebooks. It's just a bit easier to get around. However! ... The significant drawback with the RS Digital app is that it is difficult to get started with this app. Yes, I'm saying something unflattering about an app with our name on it. If you download the app and expect to be able to buy books within the app and read books straight away, you will be disappointed. You must begin from the RS Digital website (linked from the Guidebooks section of this website's Travel Store aka Shop Online) in order to be able to follow the process that it takes. From there, the process is that you sign up for an RS Digital account, buy the ebooks you want, get the app for your mobile device, sign up for a second separate Adobe account (it's what allows the app to read an ebook document), sign into the app with the first RS Digital account, and download the ebook you bought into the app. Whew! The good news is, the RS Digital website does offer support and there is a support email address you can contact that can help you with specifics if you run into trouble. Like I said, using Kindle or another app/device might be easiest.

I hope that helps your decision!
RS Webmaster

Posted by
10344 posts

This week I have not been able to buy and download the Kindle versions of 2 Rick books:
Best of Europe 2015
Paris 2015

I attempted to purchase them, but was not able to access them from my Kindle.
Amazon gave me a refund of these purchases.

An Amazon/Kindle rep said there might be "something is wrong," on their end, with those books.

I've had no problem, subsequent to this experience, buying other travel books from Amazon for my Kindle.

I mention this in case this is something the Rick Steves' Europe organization wants to follow up on with Amazon.

Posted by
4359 posts

Have used ebook version of some of his guide books. The only downside I see is that the maps leave a great deal to be desired. TC

Posted by
1994 posts

Good to hear most indexes are now hyperlinked – the lack of a functioning index is what's kept me from even considering purchase of another electronic guidebook.

It would be really helpful if book descriptions indicated whether the index was hyperlinked or not.

Posted by
903 posts

Our publisher handles interactions with Amazon. If they aren't seeing any sales for a title, I'm sure they're working on fixing it. Thanks, though, Kent.

As for book descriptions, I do agree with you, but the reality is that descriptions of an online product (not just books) sold by a third party (Amazon) tend to be written once and used in perpetuity when possible. Third parties don't always reliably update things when you want them to, so businesses tend to avoid complications by writing descriptions that will always apply. I can pass on the idea, though.

Posted by
4 posts

To RS Webmaster:
Your description of the use of eBooks vs. Print was one of the best explanations I have ever read. Very clear and thoughtful. Thanks.

You mentioned enhancements you have made on the RS Digital Library version. I would be interested to learn about these. Could you describe them?

There are SO many incredible things that could be done with RS eBook Guides, far beyond and far better than anything that exists. Is there a way to contact RS to discuss these with him? I think he could get really jazzed by the potential.