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Clash of the Kindles

Amazon, I'll still laud your product to strangers because there's nothing like holding hundreds of books in the palm of your hand. But my husband and I might need separate bedrooms.
04/29/2009 05:12am ET | Updated November 17, 2011
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My husband and I are in love with our Kindles. But the little hand held machines are straining our marriage.

I should start with the arc of the romance: It all began with Kindle One. My husband brought the gadget home and I salivated as he began to wirelessly receive and efficiently peruse three newspapers every morning, two weekly magazines, and all the books he could wish for. In a few short minutes, he'd download any book that struck his fancy, be it a classic novel or a new expose; instant literary gratification.

I've had it with chiropractor appointments to correct the strain of schlepping books, magazines and newspapers in a shoulder bag around Manhattan. I warmed to the prospect of one compact library.

My husband sensed my growing envy and one evening surprised me with my very own Amazon appliance. In an instant (after a brief battery charge) I entered the wide world of Kindleland! So much to ingest on one slim, clean, white object! Never an idle moment without entertainment, edification, culture! Whether I was stuck between subway stops, delayed in an airport, waiting in a doctor's office, I was at peace, because I had so much to read. The Kindle offered this strange assurance: You will never be bored, you will never be caught un-stimulated, uneducated, you have an edifying smorgasbord handy right in your purse.

I also became a walking conversation starter -- strangers asked me about the device and I was suddenly a Kindle spokesperson. I extolled its attributes -- how readable the print, how navigable the controls, how vast its store. I apologized for its $350-plus cost (as if I myself had set the price), quickly pointing out that purchasing books is cheaper than Barnes and Noble. I spread the Kindle gospel as if it were my calling.

What I didn't tell strangers was the one casualty of entering KindleWorld: marriage harmony. My husband and I had taken our beloved Kindles into bed. Why not? For fifteen years, we've read before turning out the lights. It's our nightly ritual, a sweet, quiet tradition. These new contraptions didn't violate our no-laptops-in-bed rule: Kindles earned their own dispensation -- they counted as books of course, completely appropriate for our nightly routine. But suddenly our peaceful rite was not so tranquil at all. It was, in fact, cacophonous. All I could hear was the insistent clicking of his "Next Page" button, disrupting the oasis of our white duvet. I became agitated, anticipating my partner's next button depression every minute or so.

Suddenly I couldn't concentrate on my own Kindle book because my husband was clacking away at my side. It wasn't his fault, but I blamed him. "Can't you click softer?" I'd demand politely. I demonstrated how I'd already found a less obtrusive way to click-pushing the "next page" button more slowly, holding it a touch longer, releasing less abruptly. My husband didn't appreciate my efforts; he wasn't, after all, the one hyper-sensitive to Kindle maneuvers. He questioned why my click-anxiety was any different from anticipating the next page-turn of an old-fashioned book.

But it was. I couldn't focus on the words before my eyes, which required me to keep pressing the "previous page" button to retrace my steps, which contributed my own new rash of clicking. It became a veritable din. And God forbid I ever wanted to turn my light off ahead of my husband and go to sleep. Who can doze off with all that racket going on?

How could Amazon have done this to us? In their meticulous efforts to create the perfect electronic reader, how could they have failed to foresee the clamor of the relentless CLICK, CLICK, CLICK, the test of a strong marriage?

I know we'll survive this. But in the meantime, I'm appealing to the Amazon inventors, now that Kindle 2 is out and louder than the first: Give Kindle 3 a softer touch. Help preserve our unions. We love your gizmo, but we love our spouses more, and we need to protect the hush of bedtime reading.

On one of Kindle's resting home pages, they display the definition of "Kindle": "to become impassioned or excited." I'd rather be excited by what I'm reading rather than by what I'm hearing. Don't worry, Amazon, I'll still laud your product to strangers because there's nothing like holding hundreds of books in the palm of your hand. But my husband and I might need separate bedrooms.