Wednesday, April 27, 2011
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.