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Meredith C. Carroll

Meredith C. Carroll

Posted: September 14, 2010 03:05 PM

Kindling a Love Affair With E-Books

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I'm not so big on gifts.

Correction: I'm big on Oprah-style gifts, like "We're buying you a house!" or "Say hellllloooooo to your new ISLAAAAAAAND!" (Either a kitchen or tropical one would be fine by me). Suffice it to say, I don't get too many big gifts.

Which is why I surprised my husband and myself last month after finishing a particularly satisfying novel and declaring I wanted a Kindle for our anniversary. I haven't asked for a gift in ages, preferring instead that whatever money would have been spent on me is saved for something big in the future (although a small island -- kitchen or tropical -- would be appropriate at any time).

He was more than happy to oblige. ("Something she can't complain she didn't want or doesn't like since she asked for it specifically," he surely thought. "Perfect!") Besides, it's hard to spring anything on someone with whom you share a credit card account, the statement of which is checked online routinely by the gift recipient.

The next day I e-mailed him the link (6" Display, Graphite, Latest Generation with Wi-Fi), and the obsession officially took hold. I haven't stalked prey this hard since junior year of high school when I suspected (correctly, as it turned out) that Chris Fisher was cheating on me with Annemarie Joyce. Because of "strong customer demand," the newest Kindle is being doled out conservatively on a first-come, first-served basis, with Amazon being irritatingly cagey about shipping dates. My web browser rolled its eyes each time I refreshed Amazon's order summary screen, and the customer service staff became my collective frenemy in the 24 long days between purchase and arrival. I passed the time making a list of books I planned to buy, but stopped when I realized I should save some of that money so my family can pay its grocery and heating bills this winter.

Unfortunately the Kindle made its appearance on our actual anniversary about 20 minutes before we were due to head out for the night. I spent a moment of panic in the bedroom while my husband waited for me downstairs. Cancel our plans and stay in to play with my new love, or continue to be married? Reluctantly I left the unopened box on my desk.

Frankly though, spending the evening with my husband was a much more amorous decision. Because -- let's be honest -- the Kindle is not sexy. It's like the homely girl in the romantic comedy who lives next door to the star who once dated, was engaged or married to Brad Pitt. It's the Minnie Driver to Angelina Jolie, if you will.

Lack of offers to pose in Playboy aside, the Kindle is not perfect otherwise. Reading without page numbers is like going on a road trip without a map. When you don't know where you are, it feels like it's either going to be a painfully long or sadly short journey, and when you finally manage to figure out your location, somehow you always thought you were either a lot closer or a lot farther away.

And there's no backlight, a fact that Amazon touts as a selling point. I had just been hoping that there was some sort of night-vision option so I could do the grownup equivalent of pulling the sheets over my head to continue reading undetected.

But the Kindle really didn't need to seduce me (the sumptuous Cole Haan hand-stained pebble grain leather cover I got for it is enough of a turn-on); it had me at chapter one. Sure, the iPad is like a sleek little computer, or a proudly plus-sized iPhone, but its e-reader makes me want to poke my eyes out, and the keyboard on my Speak & Spell in the second grade was easier to use.

To be fair, the Kindle is clearly trying to be sexy, as evidenced by the experimental web browser that came installed on mine. It's vaguely reminiscent of my mother-in-law's WebTV, which is also, I believe, what the Ingalls family used to surf the web in their little house on the prairie. If I wanted to go online, however, I'd use my computer. I really did get the Kindle to read. And now I'd better get to it, considering that within 35 seconds of ripping open the box, I ordered four e-books.

Twenty-six percent of the way through the first one, I can tell already tell it's going to be a hard gift to top when Hanukkah rolls around this year. But it's nothing a tiny archipelago in the Caribbean won't solve.

 

Follow Meredith C. Carroll on Twitter: www.twitter.com/MCCarroll