Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Welcome to Kindle Anonymous

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As recent purchasers of Kindle, my cousin, Sally, and I quickly saw the addictive properties of this technology and we saw the future. Yes, the next big thing will be Kindle abuser support groups. The instant gratification of downloading a bestseller is too much for some people. They will put themselves on the road to bankruptcy and physical disabilities. I envision a rash of doctor visits for finger paralysis , the Kindle equivalent of gambler elbow or wrist, from pulling the one-armed bandits or pushing the spin button on the newer models. Mother always preferred the older models, because, she said, at least you got some exercise.

For book lovers, Kindle has let the gratification genie out of the bottle. There you are, lying in bed and you finish a great book. No problemo. In seconds, you've downloaded the next book in the series without so much as disturbing the snoring rhythm of your husband, dog, cat or whomever it is you sleep with. No waiting in line for the surly clerk at the megastore to stop talking to the girl with the plunging neckline, or lurking in your front yard while your mail carrier finishes eating his lunch under the elm tree and delivers your parcel of new paperbacks.

"Hello, I'm Katharine, and I am a Kindle abuser." We must get a jump on the problems inherent with Kindle as with any new technology. A caring community, we must help the Kindle abuser cope with her inability to control her, eh, thumb. Below, I humbly offer twelve steps to safer Kindle use. I hope these suggestions will prove beneficial, if you are starting a Kindle support group in your area.

1. Turn the Wireless Feature Off. Turning the wireless connection off on the Kindle not only extends battery life, it can give you that extra few seconds to get control of yourself and just say no to excessive book buying.

2. Never Kindle During or After Alcohol. We know that imbibing liquor lowers inhibitions. Never drink and Kindle simultaneously. Besides, you don't want to spill a Martini on your device.

3. Avoid Keeping Up with the Jones. Book buying is not a contest. The building of larger and larger McMansions has been a destructive phenomenon in our society. A McLibrary trend would be equality devastating, albeit, tempting. You are an individual. Read at your own pace and according to your own tastes.

4. Understand Your Buying Patterns. Analyze the type and timing of your purchases. You will quickly learn your weakest moments and the genres you are powerless to resist. Knowledge is power!

5. Establish a Book Buying Budget. Decide how much you can afford to spend on books each month. If you have to wait three days at the end of the month to download the new Evanovich, think how proud you will be of your newfound discipline.

6. Read Reviews Before Buying. Make a pact with yourself that you will read at least three reviews of a book before buying it, or talk to three friends before you download. We often do this for movies, why not books? This behavior will slow your purchasing down a bit, but it also may improve the quality of your library.

7. Establish Purchase-Free Zones and Hours. Pick certain places in your house and certain times of the day when you do not permit yourself to make purchases. Try this for several weeks, then expand the purchase-free zones.

8. Set Up Kindle Swap Meets. I haven't read all the fine print in the Amazon terms, but I don't see why I can't loan my Kindle to a friend just as I loan my print books. For example, I could swap my Kindle with my cousin for the weekend and she could read some of the titles I have and she doesn't, and I could read her stuff.

9. Join Kindle Book Clubs. Book club members put effort into selecting the books they discuss. The selection and meeting discussion process will slow you down and make you savor your purchases more. The club will help you move away from the "slam bam, thank you Mam" way you may be reading now. Borrow a page from dieters and become a gourmet rather than a glutton.

10. Use Free Book Interstices. For every purchased book you read, commit to reading a free book before making your next buy. You'll find yourself reading great literature from the past and thanking yourself for it.

11. Support Other Addicts. Be there for others who need reinforcement in weak moments. I know I will have to be there for my cousin. She has a late night book binging problem.

12. Enforce Healthy Kindle Reading Habits. A major problem with addictions is what they do to the health and well being of the addict and also to the addict's family members. For yourself, try reading on the treadmill so you don't turn into a bloated coach potato in the first six months of owning your Kindle. Also, read aloud to your kids or grandparents or commit to reading aloud at the local nursing home. Don't let your addiction separate you from family and community.

And my bonus step . . .

13. Keep Reading Regular Books. I for one, have about four years worth of reading material, a significant investment. Just because I love my Kindle, I should not abandon the stack of novels and short story collections in my office, bedroom, bathroom, etc. Besides, I have not lost my love of print books, I've just found a new friend. It's like welcoming a new baby into the family. I will find opportunities to read print books, perhaps by the pool when I am slathered in suntan lotion.

One thing is for sure. I will not be able to deal with my Kindle addiction by going cold turkey. Abstinence is not an option, so I am just going to have to find ways to use my Kindle responsibly.

I hope you find this helpful. If you have other suggestions for the growing number of Kindle addicts, please add them below.

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