The Kindlers are coming to get me

Last Friday, the first day of the holiday weekend, I swung by the library; I had books to return and plans involving a new novel, a lounge chair, and a tall glass of ice tea. The library, however, was closed.

Another woman and I arrived at the locked doors at about the same time, and turned away. “Darn,” she said, “I needed a book for my book club; I was hoping to read it this weekend.”

“No kidding,” I replied, “I’m flat out of books.”

“Oh,” she says, whipping a Kindle out of her purse, “I never have that problem,” and proceeds to give me a 10-minute pitch about the marvels of the Kindle. (She was making this now rare trip to the library because the book she needed, something printed a while back, isn’t available on Kindle, to her dismay.)

Now I spend vast amounts of time in front of a computer. I also read a lot of books, mostly fiction, sometimes current nonfiction. I read them in hardcover and soft cover, borrowed from the library, or friends, or purchased from Amazon or from a garage sale. But, to date, I don’t Kindle. Because, for me, getting away from the electronic screen is part of the appeal of books, it flips a little switch in my brain that tells it to kick back and relax, because what I’m doing when I turn those paper pages is purely recreational.

You think that’d be OK with people. My gym went to electronic tracking of workout stats years ago, but no one minds that I still use the paper cards, neatly filed under my last name in a drawer near the entrance. I’m not a Luddite, but, again, when I go to the gym it’s for a mini-vacation, not more computer time.

But more and more, I’m running into Kindle evangelists; this woman in front of the library was the latest in a long line. They are determined to convert the heathen tree-killers among us. And they just won’t give up.

I tried to be polite, saying, mmm, interesting, so it really works for you, huh.  Meanwhile, I’m thinking that even if I’d wanted to read books in electronic format, which, to date, I don’t, having to purchase each book for $9.99 would be a deal breaker, given most of the books I read are borrowed, not bought. Conservatively, I’d say I go through three books a week, that’s $1560 a year. Ouch.

I finally asked her about the cost; does she find she’s spending more on reading material. Yes, she confessed; she made a deal with her husband to drop all her newspaper subscriptions to subsidize her Kindling; no, she doesn’t read them on Kindle, she’s just pretty much stopped reading the newspaper instead. Who knew that the Kindle could be banging another nail in the newspaper industry’s coffin?

I finally managed to edge back to my car. But this won’t be the last Kindler that will try to convince me to join the cult. And maybe, someday, they’ll win. But until then, if I see someone with a Kindle in hand, I’ll avoid eye contact and suddenly find somewhere else I need to be.


Tech Talk

IEEE Spectrum’s general technology blog, featuring news, analysis, and opinions about engineering, consumer electronics, and technology and society, from the editorial staff and freelance contributors.

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up for the Tech Alert newsletter and receive ground-breaking technology and science news from IEEE Spectrum every Thursday.