Friday, August 23, 2019

The Survival e-Reader

& is used with permission.
After writing last week's article, I realized that while I have mentioned the Survival e-Reader before, my argument for why it's a good thing is something which is not readable on this blog, due to it being presented in episode 56 of the GunBlog VarietyCast. Since referring to a concept that is inaccessible to our readers is in poor form, I present to you a transcript of my segment from that episode.

Sean: In addition to being the bratty kid sister of the blogosphere, you're also like Auntie Erin the prepper aunt. We all look to you for the most amazing, exciting, neat, very inexpensive ways to hack our way to safety and live through dangerous things. So what are you going to tell us about today?

Erin: Well, last podcast's plug of the a week about your Kindle Fire inspired me to talk about how to make a survival e-reader.

You're kidding, right? My Kindle is a survival tool?

Erin: You have a Kindle Fire HD 6, right? That comes with eight gigabytes of memory. You probably have access to only six for storage. The average e-book is about 500 kilobytes, so six gigs is roughly 600,000 kilobytes. So that's about a thousand to twelve hundred e-books you could store. Now your options increase if you have a Barnes & Noble Nook instead. They have slots for micro SD cards, in which case you can just expand that storage space massively. Amazon has 64 Gig micro SD for about $20. Now your Kindle cost you only $114, whereas the cheapest version of the newest Nook, the 7.0, costs about $150, so you pay for that versatility. But, if you don't mind getting an older model, a Nook from 2012 will only cost you about $50.
Editor's Note: This was correct when I said it four years ago. Things have changed since then; all current Kindle models have much more internal memory and all have SD cards. The cheapest is the Kindle 7 with 16 gigs of memory (and the ability to add 512gb more with an SD card) for $50. The $80 Kindle 8 HD can have up to 400gb additional memory. I do not recommend the Kindle 10 as it only allows the addition of a 256gb card to its 64gb of internal memory; you end up paying more for less storage, which is of critical importance to a survival e-reader. 

Meanwhile, the only Nook to still have SD card access is the Tablet 10.1, which at $130 costs much more than the Kindle 8 but has less memory (32gb internal and 256gb SD card). I no longer recommend the Nook; get a Kindle 7 or 8 instead. 
Alternately, make a field expedient e-reader as explained in this BCP article by Scott Bascom
Ultimately, the main difference between the Kindle and the Nook are file types. Nook uses the very common ePub format, while Kindle uses its proprietary MOBI format, which is mostly popular because it's on Amazon. Fortunately, there is a way to convert one to the other on your home computer; just follow the link in the show notes below.
 So what can you do with all of this storage? Well, you create a survival library of ebooks that can teach you first aid, or help you identify plants and animals, or show you how to do any number of other things. And the wonderful thing about these readers is that they can show you what to do using full color pictures rather than simply telling you through words. And sometimes that makes all the difference. For example, edible plants look different in the winter than they do in the summer, and a good e-book will show you both pictures. And what's more, there are plenty of e-books about prepping and survival that are absolutely free. I've included a link to a Web page for that.
Now, I do want to caution people about using apps. There are many apps that do similar things like do first aid or have survival information, and they do have the benefit of being interactive. However, apps often take up more room than ebooks -- you need the memory to run the program, not just read from a file -- and many have a tendency to not work without an internet connection. But, sometimes these are fine, so be sure not to dismiss them out of hand. Just investigate before you invest.

Sean: Oh, come on, Erin. My Kindle is fragile. It needs power, and what if it gets wet. I mean, aren't regular books better?

Erin: Well, these are good points, but you're fragile, too. You'll break if dropped from a great height, just like a Kindle. And you need a light to read a regular book; your e-Reader makes its own light. And yes, an e-reader that gets wet is likely broken. But a book that gets wet has pages that can tear, or stick together, or become moldy. The fact of the matter is that e-books and regular books both have a place in a bug out bag. Your Kindle weighs as much as one book, but can hold the information of over a thousand. That's not a bad weight to value ratio. Now yes, you will need to take care of it just like any other piece of gear. Fortunately, there is an entire industry dedicated to creating waterproof and shock proof tablet cases. Just yesterday I was in the sporting goods section of Walmart and found a lockable waterproof plastic case shaped for an iPad and it was filled with that pluckable foam so you could create a custom cushion. And this was around $20, which is not a bad investment for an expensive tablet.
Now, yes, you are going to need to power it. Fortunately, most e-readers can be powered by solar or by crank, just like a cell phone can, so any cell phone recharging strategies work for them, too. The problem is that most of these are trickle charged, so you're looking at a lot of cranking for many hours in sunlight. Now for this, I would recommend getting a USB-based battery that can charge your tablet while you sleep and then recharge that battery during the day. I've included my recommendations for solar panels, batteries and crank chargers and the show notes.
And even if the worst happens and your Kindle or Nook breaks, you can still make use of it by taking it apart and using the pieces. For example, the battery can be used to start fires. The circuit boards can be turned into cutting tools, and you can use the back of the LCD screen as a signal mirror. 
So you see, Sean, it makes a lot of sense to have an e-reader in a bug out bag; just make sure to take care of it.

Sean: Then when I'm bored, I can just read a book for entertainment?

Erin: Or listen to music, or watch a movie. Yes, morale is an important part of survival, and anything that makes your life better and takes your mind off boredom or miserable conditions is worthwhile.

Sean: All right, Erin. It was good to talk with you. See you again next week.

Erin: See you, take care.

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