The following is the first of a two-part post about my customer experience as a Kindle owner. It’ll be half personal essay, half product review—a format that has become par for the course here at BCSAB. I’d guess this is not quite how they do things over at Consumer Reports.
When my brother and I were younger, my mom was adamant about passing on her love of reading onto us. We were typical book resistant boys, preferring to do anything else in the world other than sitting down with a good book.
As a compromise, my mom set aside a half hour of reading time every few days for us to finish before we could go outside and play basketball or stay in and play hours of NBA Jam on Genesis.
There was nothing sweeter than the sound of the egg timer dinging, signifying that our prison sentence was over. We’d stop reading mid-paragraph, mid-sentence, perhaps even mid-word, and throw our books across the room to rush to the next activity, eager to wash the taste of reading out of our mouths. Often we wouldn’t even bother to bookmark our pages.
Our reading lists were typical for two young boys. I read a lot of the Hardy Boys series, Matt Christopher’s YA sports books, Where The Red Fern Grows, The Crazy Horse Electric Game, or articles in Sports Illustrated; my brother, four years younger than me, read classics like Goosebumps and the novelization of the movie Rookie of the Year. (After reading ROTY, my brother, then maybe 9 years old, expressed some confusion about the Chet Steadman character, played by Gary Busey in the movie. Apparently, each time he read Chet’s name he thought it referred to the New York Mets’ former ballpark, Shea Stadium.)
By the time I got to high school, required reading was no longer enforced by just egg timers and “I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed” looks from Mom. There were pop quizzes and please-please-please-don’t-call-on-me mini panic attacks to encourage us to stay up on our reading. And by college, not only was there syllabi telling me what textbooks to read, but I also had to pay through the nose for them at the college bookstore.
I couldn’t remember reading a book just because I felt like it. It was only after reading was no longer required that I realized I had, in fact, inherited my mom’s bibliophilia. (To some degree, it was like figuring out that I didn’t want to eat cookies for dinner simply because no one was telling me I couldn’t.)
I attacked my newfound love of reading with fervor. I took book recommendations from coworkers, and shared my own suggestions with friends. I signed up for a new library card for the first time in ten years. I’d peruse giant shelves of fiction titles the Sachem Public Library—often judging books exclusively by their covers—wondering if some obscure novelist would get really excited when she found out I checked out her book.
After I moved from Long Island, whose library sharing system is phenomenal, I had far less luck with the Hoboken Library. The tiny facility almost never had my desired titles in house and the transit process to get it from another library, usually a couple of weeks, was too long for me to wait. The waits only got longer, much longer, when I moved into Queens and later Manhattan, where there are simply too many readers for the city libraries to adequately service. I found myself buying books when I couldn’t borrow them—and doing a lot of Sudoku in between.
At least once a year, I knew I could count on a free book from my mom, who started a Christmas tradition of buying me my own copy of her own favorite books. A few years back, it was Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead (still one of my favorite books to this day, which led me to Atlas Shrugged), and the next year J.R. Moehringer’s outstanding memoir, The Tender Bar.
I never make it easy on my mom when it comes to Christmas shopping because I never ask for anything specific, with no exception this past Christmas. But I knew I could trust her to pick another great book for me, so I was happily anticipating that as I opened my first few presents from her. I still didn’t find the book after a few minutes of unwrapping when she handed me my next present.
It was the Kindle!
(To be continued in next week’s “A Complicated Relationship With My Kindle, Part II.)