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Fahrenheit $199

For the first time in 18 years together, my husband let me know what he wanted for Christmas before December 15th. And whether he meant to or not, he’s already caused me to have my first official nervous breakdown of the holiday season.

(Yes, I know it’s barely November. But I am one of those lunatic nutballs who normally has most of their Christmas shopping done by Halloween. I can’t help myself — the very idea of “Christmas in July” sales triggers something in my primordial lizard brain and I lose all sense of self-control. Although in my defense, it’s nice to not have to rush around at the mall after Thanksgiving, lost among the teeming masses, because I really hate people, and the Internet is a very frightening place after Black Friday. But this isn’t about my Christmas shopping issues, anyway. That will probably be another post.)

So. Anyway. I know a lot of long-time married people who don’t exchange gifts any more, but my husband and I are not among them. We like exchanging gifts, and we sort of use Christmas as an excuse to buy stuff for each other that we would not normally buy for ourselves. Not often anything particularly fancy, but sometimes something expensive. Consumer electronics, small appliances, video games, camera lenses, DVDs, light-up computer keyboards, a BB gun with a compass in the stock and this thing which tells time. That kind of stuff.

This year, I’m getting a new iPhone. The one I have now is three years old and so completely decrepit that it doesn’t have a flash or take videos or run most of the really cool apps that are out right now. It’s not a particularly sexy or exotic present, but it’s a useful one, something that will be used every day, even if it’s just to let my kid play Angry Birds in the car on the way to daycare to distract her from the steady stream of cuss words that involuntarily pours forth from my mouth every time I merge onto the highway because OH MY GOD DON’T YOU [EXPLETIVES] KNOW HOW TO WORK YOUR [EXPLETIVE] GAS PEDAL? GET THE [EXPLETIVE] OUT OF MY WAY YOU [LONG STRING OF COMICALLY COMBINED EXPLETIVES]!

Also: the new iPhone is pretty darned cool. I like cool things.

So does my husband, so after a bit of careful consideration, he also decided to ask for something that he knows he will use and cherish and love and probably take with him everywhere he goes: a Kindle.

Now what’s the big deal, you ask? What could possibly be wrong with a Kindle? Kindles are also pretty darned cool. The version he is looking at, the Kindle Fire, has a color touchscreen and is wi-fi enabled and something to do with the “cloud” and it streams movies and has apps and he can even let our daughter use it play Angry Birds. I understand you can even use it to read books.

And that’s the part that gets me. It’s … a machine … that you use to … read books. Except, are they still books if they’re stored on a hard drive somewhere? Aren’t books those things with the paper and the pages and the words in black and white and the smell of pulp and ink and dust and the fancy dust jackets and the dog-ears and the shelves and the entire physical sensory experience? The act of holding a tattered old paperback in your hand and settling in on the couch under a hand-made afghan on a Sunday afternoon?

I tend to be an early adopter of technology in a lot of ways, but I can’t understand the desire to read on a machine. I know lots of people who have e-book readers, and they love them. Some of my friends actually read more now that they have these devices, because they find them more convenient than browsing the shelves at a bookstore or library. If you don’t like an e-book, you just delete it. You can’t throw it across the bedroom in disgust when you finally finish it, and you’re not stuck staring at a crappy title until you can pawn it off to some random unsuspecting schlub at a yard sale. If you love something you’ve read on your Kindle, you can’t pass it around to everyone you know, like I have many times with paperbacks I absolutely adored.

Maybe it’s a sign that I’m a tragically uncool elderly person that I can’t understand the appeal of a reading machine. I should be 100% behind anything that encourages my husband — anybody — to read, since I am myself an avid reader. I’ve even tried to make an environmental argument on my husband’s behalf, to try to wrap my head around what a cool thing a Kindle really is. No paper! No packaging! No trees! It’s definitely a much greener option than holding a hardcopy in your hand. But it isn’t the same, and no matter how much I try to convince myself that it’s just a different version of a familiar thing, I can’t grasp it, I guess. It just makes me freak out, a little bit.

Plus: what if his toy is cooler than mine? That’s the stuff that revolutions are made of.

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]


[author_info]About the Author

Rachel Gonzales (aka “rockle”) is a regular Lifestyle contributor. She is the actual child in her profile picture, which was taken in 1976, so it probably goes without saying that mistakes were made. You can read more of her here on Prime Parents Club, or on her blog, rockle-riffic. [/author_info][/author]

I am 4' 11½" tall -- my entire life is short. Also loud and crazy. Prime Parents' Club General Contributor.


  1. Crystal Paschal

    November 12, 2011 at 3:53 pm

    I was an English major, and I worked in the library all through college. Books are a very big deal to me. Thanks to an awesome English teacher in high school (shout out to Mr. Glidden!), I write in and highlight most of my books, and I don’t think that would fly with a Kindle. Plus, there is just something about the feel of a book that can be replaced.

    I downloaded the Kindle app to my phone, but it made me feel dirty so I deleted it.

    • rockle

      November 13, 2011 at 7:45 am

      i still have the kindle app on my iphone but the screen is so small i can’t actually read anything on it anyway.

  2. marsha

    November 8, 2011 at 1:40 pm

    In my house we are voracious readers…my daughter a purchaser & myself…a loyal library user. If it doesn’t look, feel & smell like a book…it doesn’t count.

    • rockle

      November 8, 2011 at 2:04 pm

      THANK YOU! i agree.

      • rockle

        November 8, 2011 at 2:06 pm

        although as i understand it, you can now get book-scented candles to burn while you’re using your reading machine.

        • Crystal Paschal

          November 8, 2011 at 7:00 pm

          Of course you can. Of course.

          • rockle

            November 8, 2011 at 8:45 pm

            i don’t know whether to be impressed with ingenuity, or horrified at the lengths people will go to enable their use of their READING MACHINES.

  3. Cate

    November 8, 2011 at 9:20 am

    “and you’re not stuck staring at a crappy title until you can pawn it off to some random unsuspecting schlub at a yard sale” BWahhahaha!!
    I have a nook. I HAD to have it last year for Christmas. And while I totally dig being able to shop for and purchase a book while in bed wearing my pjs – I find myself more often than not going back to the myriad of bookshelves in our home and getting back to that sensory experience you describe.
    I’m trying to talk my husband into thinking that he should have it and perhaps buy me some other cool gift for $249.
    Thanks for the morning laugh!!

    • rockle

      November 8, 2011 at 9:24 am

      oh, you have NO IDEA how many times i have sold books that i absolutely HATED to people at yard sales. “oh, yes, that one is very interesting!” and i take their quarters, and i spend it on something equally stupid.

      my most very prized possession in the whole world is my leather-bound “omnibus” edition of “the more than complete hitchhiker’s guide” which doesn’t even contain all the books but i love it absolutely to death anyway. that book smells like TWENTY YEARS of memories. it’s been my coping mechanism for that long. you just can’t get that with a READING MACHINE.

  4. Prime Parents' Club

    November 8, 2011 at 9:04 am

    Hysterical and yet…equally brilliant.


    • rockle

      November 8, 2011 at 9:21 am

      seriously: as an environmentalist, i kind of can’t defend my love of physical books, and yet … I DON’T UNDERSTAND READING MACHINES. i am a paradox, i suppose.

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