As many of my followers already know, my wife is something of a technophobe. When we first met there were two constants in my life. The first was that if both she and some harmless liquid were within 20 feet of me, I’d get wet. If I was the type to cry over spilt milk, I’d have been suicidal within a month of meeting her. Fortunately, she has over the years become adept in the mystic arts of controlling household liquids. The other constant back then was that if electricity runs through it, doesn’t matter what “it” is, at some point it will break for her.
This curse continues to plague her to this day, but there are signs the situation is getting better. The year that I gave her her very first PC as a birthday present she was a bit angry with me. Mostly she just let the kids play on it but eventually she started using email and Netflix. I hooked her up with some browser bookmarks for baby panda cams and some lolcat links. Eventually it became an indispensable tool and about a year ago she retroactively thanked me for it and apologized for being bitchy about getting it as a birthday gift. Wow. I had to sit down for fear of fainting.
It was about that time that I tried introducing her to Kindle. My wife is a voracious reader. When she finds an author she likes, she devours all their books and puts the author on her buy-on-sight list. I thought reading all of Stephen King’s books was daunting. She’s done that plus Michael Crichton, Preston & Child, James Michener, and the list goes on. She’s currently working her way through James Patterson.
Her favorite time to read is right before going to bed or taking a nap. The Kindle seemed perfect for her. It’s one of the paper-white models. That and the ability to increase the font size make it better than a book when reading in less-than-ideal light. It won’t lose her place if she falls asleep while reading, which happens a lot. It works one-handed with right or left hands and it’s lighter than most paper books. Plus, it carries hundreds of books at a time. It doesn’t match the feel or smell of a paper book but, all things considered, the Kindle is clearly superior to regular books. What’s not to love?
Everything, apparently. I made the classic technologist’s mistake. I forgot that features don’t sell new technology and tried to sell her on the features. Features differentiate between similar items to make new sales, but they don’t move you from one class of item to another. She didn’t connect with the Kindle on an emotional level because instead of delivering text more efficiently, she perceived it as getting between her and the text. She focused so much on the interface that it over shadowed the content. To her she wasn’t reading a book so much as trying out a Kindle, and she hated it.
All of that changed last week, thanks to Stephen King and Gail Martin. I happened over the course of two consecutive days to discover that Stephen King has published some Kindle Shorts and to acquire a new book by Gail Martin, who I had met a few times at local writer’s events. This created the perfect storm of content and I didn’t even know it yet.
I broached the subject one morning between the brushing and the flossing. “Hey, I found some Stephen King you probably haven’t read.”
“Really? Where? What is it? Doctor Sleep won’t be out in paperback for a while.”
Figures she’d know that. “Amazon has a format they call ‘singles.’ They are short publications that don’t qualify as full books. Some are how-to guides, some are non-fiction essays and some, like the Stephen King stuff I found, are short stories. But I think these are exclusive to Kindle. I don’t think you can get them in print and I’m pretty sure I can’t print them for you. Only way to get them is to read them on the Kindle.”
She expressed mild interest and we left it at that. I figured I had a long way to go before she’d actually give the Kindle a serious try, but it was progress. Sooner or later she’d run out of James Patterson and go looking for new content.
The next morning, I mentioned the new Gail Martin book I’d bought. I’m not big into the fantasy genre, I usually read audiobooks these days, and I generally do not buy the books of writer acquaintances out of sheer loyalty. But Gail’s book Ice Forged had been selected as a Kindle Daily Deal at $1.99 and if you buy the Kindle edition, you can get the audiobook for $1.99. In my head, I was buying the audiobook on speculation for $4 rather burning off an Audible credit at about $11. I can afford to support a friend for $4, even if it turns out I don’t like the book. Getting the Kindle version in the bundle was great but in my head it was disposable. I would not even have downloaded if Amazon had not automatically loaded it onto my Kindle for me. I certainly wasn’t thinking of pitching Ice Forged as the book to get my wife hooked on Kindle. She’s more of a contemporary thriller fan.
“Hey, you know those writer meet-ups I go to sometimes? Gail, who runs one of them, had her latest book selected for the Kindle Daily Deal yesterday. It’s kind of a big thing and means a lot more exposure for the book. I thought it was pretty cool so I bought a copy while it was on sale. The book was #1 in it’s genre that day and I helped put it there!”
“Wugh arrve urgh wuv iss vergun?”
She spit out her toothpaste and repeated. “Would I have heard of this person?”
“I don’t know. It’s not one of your usual genres but she’s made the bestseller lists and is quite well known. Maybe you would have. But I bought the Kindle edition, not the dead tree version.”
This pretty much ended the discussion. Having invested in the Kindle version is the kiss of death for her because she won’t read it there and won’t buy it twice. End of story. So to speak.
She had a doctor appointment that morning and stopped by my office on her way out to ask whether I’d bought the Stephen King book I told her about. Yes, I had.
“Great! Can I borrow your Kindle? Zoo won’t fit in my purse and I don’t feel like lugging it around. But the Kindle is small and I can read that Stephen King story in the waiting room.”
“Sure,” I smiled back at her. “It’s right here on the charger. These buttons page forward and back, here’s the power, and this joystick-looking thingy moves the cursor around. When you get it where you want it, just you push to select.”
I may have been a little insensitive when she got back from the doctor. She’s been sick but instead of asking what the doctor said, I went straight to the Kindle as though our conversation had never been interrupted. I have a terrible bedside manner when I don’t focus on it but she’s used to my Aspie tendencies and didn’t seem to mind.
“So did you read the Stephen King story?”
“It’s not a short story. It’s an essay on gun control.”
She hardly ever reads non-fiction so this was bound to have been a disappointment. Not knowing if I was in hot water, I apologized immediately. If thirty years of marriage have taught me anything, it is that when in doubt, apologize.
“Aw, I’m sorry. I hope it wasn’t a total loss. You didn’t have to sit there and watch that stupid TV show they run, did you?”
“Actually, I started reading Ice Forged. It’s really good! I was hooked on the first page and I need to hurry up and finish Zoo so I can read the rest.”
“Seriously?” I pushed back from my desk and turned to face her. “Do you want me to buy the paperback?”
“No, I don’t want to wait. And we already have it on the Kindle so we don’t need to buy it twice. Does she have any more like this?”
“Not in this series but she has several other series with multiple books each. With the Kindle you can be reading a book within 60 seconds or so of buying it. And as long as it can find a Wi-Fi signal like we have here in the house, you can browse or search for any book you want right from the tablet.”
If thirty years of marriage have taught me anything, it is that she responds well to instant gratification. That and to apologize when in doubt.
“Reeealllly?” I couldn’t actually see the gears turning in her head as she considered the virtual bookstore in her hand but I could hear them in the way she drew out the word. It was more of a statement than a question.
I knew I had her hooked when I didn’t get the Kindle back. I bought it to hold software manuals so I use it in my work from time to time. When I went looking for it later that day, I found it on her desk hooked up to her phone charger. She barely remembers to charge her phone, but she’s charging the Kindle? I filed this curiosity away in my brain as I climbed the stairs and crossed the landing to my office, Kindle in hand.
Later that evening as I was finishing up for the day she stuck her head in.
“Have you seen my Kindle?”
I came to full alert like a prairie dog spotting an eagle. Didn’t she mean “your” Kindle? Or perhaps “our” Kindle? She had in that moment staked her claim. Marked her territory. Drawn a line in the sand and dared me to cross it. I no longer owned a Kindle and had unwittingly trespassed on hers.
“Umm… I’m sorry.” I tried to look sheepishly apologetic as she stepped in and reached for the Kindle. ”I thought you were done with it.” Outwardly I looked properly chagrined but inside I was fighting back a massive grin. It was now “her” Kindle and not because I tried to sell her on the idea.
If thirty years of marriage have taught me anything, it is that any good idea is her idea. That and she responds well to instant gratification, plus apologize when in doubt. That last one is especially important.
“You know,” I said holding the Kindle out to her, “I do use this in my work.” At this point she took hold of the Kindle but I didn’t let go quite yet. Still holding her gaze and her Kindle, I continued. “If you are going to keep this one, I’ll need to get a replacement. The new Kindle Fire models are on sale,” I said in my most mater-of-fact deadpan.
“I’ll order that tonight,” I called after her.
I’m so happy this was all her idea.