"It's as if a great bird lives inside the stone of our days and since no sculptor can free it, it has to wait for the elements to wear us down, till it is free to fly." Mark Nepo

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Peer Pressure

When Kindle first came out we had a long discussion in book group about whether it was a good thing or not. The consensus at that time was that the four of us loved paper and ink books and the multi-sensory pleasures they offer far too much to switch to electronic. Our homes were full of treasured volumes, many of which we had borrowed from one another. Trips to book stores and book festivals and book signings were among our greatest pleasures, both as individuals and as a group.

Lou was the first to change her mind. She spent the better part of one evening extolling the virtues of her new best friend: the portability, the instant and relatively inexpensive access to nearly unlimited reading material, the fact that she could share all her new purchases with a number of other people on one account. It wasn't long before she began clearing all but the most important books from her shelves, and refusing all offers of loaned books.

Patty joined Lou on her account soon after. With two of them switched to Kindle, and sharing their purchases with one another, they began to pressure the remaining two of us to take the leap as well. Their logic was sound: the four of us could share books again, just in a different format. Their emotions were strong: they never imagined feeling so attached to an electronic device (and both own smart phones). Their campaigning was relentless.

Deb (there are two of us), the other writer in the group, swore she'd never get a Kindle - at least not in the foreseeable future. Her logic was sound: she already had more books to read than years left to live. Her emotions were strong: there was no way an electronic device could hope to replace books in her affections. She was immovable, and even a little cranky from time to time as Lou and Patty leaned harder and harder on us to join them.

I've been as close to neutral on the subject as I think it's possible to be. I love my books, but I love the act of reading more than anything. So I can't hate a tool that would allow me to read the way a Kindle does. Besides, as a writer, I'm fascinated at the impact e-readers are having on the business I hope to have an active stake in sooner rather than later.

I've said I was holding out because of the cost, not just of the Kindle, but also of the downloads. But just last week as I passed a big display ad at a local one-stop-shopping store I realized that even if I had unlimited funds, I'd probably rather spend them on travel or a class or a charity. While I'd be tickled if someone gave me a Kindle, it's just not high on my list of wants.

Book group met on Sunday. I hadn't been there long - we were still settling in - when Deb said she had something to show me, and that she hoped I didn't hate her once I saw it.

Given her strong stand previously, it took me a minute to register what the slim black rectangle in her hand was. It took me a lot longer to understand why she changed her mind. In fact I'm not sure I do understand. Deb said she had the money in hand and it was an impulse. Except she's not an impulsive person, and it's never really about the money.

Not that it matters.

Except what was once a split vote has now become three to one, with me as odd man out. And while the pressure is for the most part friendly and playful, it's also sincere and steady.

I found myself thinking of junior high when it really mattered that you not be the one different one in a group. And then high school when it mattered just as much to stand out from the crowd in some rebellious and unique way. Adulthood has been about learning to accept and tolerate and value differences of all kinds, both within myself and in those I share the path with. It seems odd to be dealing with peer pressure at my age, and even more odd for that pressure to be that I conform.

I don't want to buy a Kindle just to fit in. I don't want to not buy a Kindle to prove I'm my own person. I want, I think, for the stories to matter more than the method of delivery. I also want to matter more than my choice to stick with the library for now. I'm happy for my friends and their satisfaction with their new toys. I'm hoping they'll be happy, too, to have a group member who chooses to hold off a while longer before joining them in their electronic bliss.


Retired English Teacher said...

I feel you pain. I was given a Kindle for Christmas by my son. I like it. I am reading a book on it now. There are features about the Kindle that I really like. Portability is probably the most important.

I also really love reading books. I still buy books. I don't intend to stop buying or reading paper and ink books.

kario said...

I feel the same way about it. Bubba gave me an iPad for Christmas, knowing full well that I wouldn't have gotten myself one, and I do read the occasional book on it. I have to say, I don't miss the paper experience as much as I thought I would, but browsing around the library or through a used bookstore is much more satisfying than looking online, and I can get used books cheaper than new e-books for the iPad.

I know that whatever you ultimately decide, it will have merits other than peer pressure ;-)

Stacy Crawford said...

Kindle, no kindle...what I like is your reflections on peer pressure. All that really matters is that you are happy.

Anonymous said...

I love your bright blog and your bright beautiful smiling face.

And I enjoyed reading this post. The writing flows!

I got a Nook, and now the new reduced price Kindle for my daughter, not from "peer" pressure but because I can afford to buy books for them that I can't afford in paper. I realize I've spent a fair amount of money on the devices and will have to buy a lot of books to "pay them off"." But when you have a small house like mine, there just isn't room to accumulate bound books. But I still buy some print ones to support a friend or because it's a book I want to keep. I still prefer being able to turn paper pages, but, sigh, it's the way of the world, technology; not always a bad way, just different.
Ann Best, Memoir Author

yaya said...

I'm still device free too. My Sis has had a kindle for a couple of years and really loves it. She lives with my Mom so there isn't room for her books. I understand the attraction, and perhaps someday will succumb..but for now give me a good book with a pretty cover, that print smell, and a place to write a note or two in the margin!

DJan said...

I waffled back and forth about a kindle, but finally decided to buy one of the new iPads and get everything my iPod does plus read books on it! It hasn't arrived yet, but I'll be blogging about it, for sure. I have been one of the holdouts but now I'm excited.

Wanda said...

I downloaded the Kindle for PC onto my computer from Amazon.com and have chosen a number of free books to peruse. I'm reading one now...sort of. I still like books--and I use the library. I am sure that if I had unlimited resources I would have some kind of "pad." However, I am enough of a non-conformist that I avoid iPads and iPhones and Mac anything.

The story I like the most is one I heard about a young teen who got a Kindle and hadn't stopped reading since she got it. She didn't pick up books and read them before that. Now that's worth it.

Out of My Mind said...

My books are my old friends. I have over 500 and I have found one good thing about getting older. I have forgotten enough about books I read years ago that I can once again enjoy them. I wouldn't have a Kindle even if someone gave me one. I love the feel and the smell of a book. I like to see them all lined up in my book shelf.

The sad fact is that books as we know them are probably going by the way of the dinosaur. It.s sad to think of all the book stores that will be going out of business because of this new technology.....

As for your comment on my post. No, not so amazing. Just can't say no to family.....Oh well!...kt

Linda Myers said...

I have a Kindle and when I'm traveling I take it with me instead of the six books that weigh more! I also check books out of the library, and I do paperbackswap.com. I also have an iPad, a MacBook and an iMac. Each has its use, but I'm not a fanatic about any particular thing.

I say listen to your gut.

Desiree said...

My favourite posture for reading is prone! Tucking up in/on my bed with a book is non-negotiable for me. An electronic device simply doesn't cut it. My husband has an iPad which he loves and he'd ordered the iPad 2 for my birthday (it is being launched here today, in fact), so there is one reserved for me, but I have told him I really can't see myself using it. I think he's disappointed, but he'd never force me to change my mind.

I refuse to bow to any peer pressure. I never have and never will! If and when YOU want a Kindle, you will know! Now...RELAX!

Charlene: the Polarblogger said...

I enjoyed reading this blog. It strikes a chord in my heart.
I also love to read, whether through books or Kindle, which I've never really tried. Whichever form is okay for me, I'm just happy reading.
I don't need to give in to peer pressure to enjoy. For me, it's better to be myself and enjoy what I do, with or without things that others have.
Have a great day!

Anonymous said...

I'm thinking of getting a kindle as well but your photos made me realize why I like books so much. Bookshelves.

Linda Hoye said...

I have a Kindle and I love it! When I first got it I resolved to stop buying physical books but that resolution didn't last long. I like the Kindle in that I can take a number of books with me when I travel and I can instantly purchase books (which can be dangerous!). I am still a dedicated bibliophile though and have bookshelves jam-packed full of books.

Donna said...

My kids gave me one. I love it, but still love my library full of books too. Books are treasures but there's no kidding anyone,...boy! Is it nice to take to sit in the doctors ofice with!!

Cheryl said...

Ah now this is a battle indeed. I don't have one, and do have many gorgeous books to read, and I also have concerns as a writer. Most contracts here, (and those I've had) offer 10% of receipts to the author. I look at what friends are downloading books for and I know, more than ever, that I write for the love, not the money - but is that fair? At a recent book festival an agent said the current offer on ebooks is 25% of receipts and they hoped to take it to 35%. Will such reader convenience drive authors from the craft I wonder?

Lavi said...

I've never liked peer pressure, to be honest, and never gave in. I was one of the odd one out, but that never stopped me from being friends with the others. It's a matter of acceptance, regardless of the small differences, just like you said.

I have recently worked with an American company and had to find a few ways of changing the format of a book to fit various portable devices. That is how I found a software called calibre, which basically exports a document into formats supported by these readers. You can also read on a computer.

One good trick I found was to view documents on my mobile phone with a java applet. If you want, I can tell you more about it.

Reading comes in all shapes and sizes, cheap or expensive or free. It's the passion we have for the written word that matters most.

Wanda..... said...

I don't have one and as of yet...haven't even thought of getting one, but I see the benefits it might have for some.

cj Schlottman said...


This is so thought provoking! Your analogy of the reading club and junior high was amazingly true. Do we ever really grow up and leave the urge to "fit in" behind. I think some of us do, like you and me, but all around me I see my contemporaries rushing out to buy the latest in designer everything - including luxury SUVs! They need to fit in, and that's okay.

I do have a smart phone, and yes, I have the Kindle application downloaded. It is wonderful to be able to whip out my phone, wherever I might be, say in a doctor's waiting room, and read a book!


PS - I drive a 13 year old car.

Sandi said...

I am so with you on this! I totally get the idea of portability, and the concept of holding more volumes than believable in the palm of your hands, but . . . I can't shake the idea that electronics are so impersonal, hard, cold, and icky.

When I first started reading this post I was not expecting that Deb would cave! But, good for you. Peer pressure isn't pleasant, but it's also not impossible to live with.

You just stick to your books, as I plan to. (But, it certainly isn't a bad idea to consider selling your book electronically!)

Terri Tiffany said...

My daughter has one and wanted to buy me one-- I said no. I love books--real books --too much. My memories of the smell and touch and joy of them goes too deep. I don't own a smart phone either--I prefer to talk face-to-face with people.

Anonymous said...

Why do you seem to feel it's an either/or situation? Look at the people who've already commented - they use their ereaders (mainly for the portability, it seems), but they also read and buy (and presumably borrow) tree books. Yes, peer pressure isn't a good thing, but neither is a closed mind. Your argument would carry more weight if you'd borrowed one of your friend's ereaders, given it a chance, and then, based on an objective viewpoint decided you didn't (or did!) like it.