Thursday, December 8, 2011

Reading Between the Lines in the Waiting Room

Tablets. They’re not just for first graders learning handwriting anymore, but for people who want to read on the go. With no heavy lifting required, but instead that sense of confidence that comes from having the world in your hands, in a slim electronic package.

I was in my doctor’s waiting room the other day and I noticed a woman who was calmly reading her Kindle, while the rest of us grumbled about our practitioner running late. So I started talking to her about it, as I’ve been thinking about getting my husband one for Christmas. Her name was Pat and as it turned out, she teaches writing to inmates at a nearby federal prison.

Pat told me she loved her Kindle. Her current reading selection, which she chose because Kindle recommended it: Darcie Chan’s mystery “The Mill River Recluse.” I asked her about the Nook, which is what my mother-in-law has and loves, and she told me people buy the Nook for the color. “But if you just read, you don’t need Nook’s color,” she told me.

Pat’s whole family had Kindles, and they all subscribed to each other’s digital reads online and shared and downloaded books together. Like me, her husband was a bookworm, and had a Kindle but missed the smell of books, she said, and finding out what people were reading by happenstance, like when he glanced at their book covers in subways. “You can see people are holding a Kindle, but you don’t see the title of whatever it is they’re reading,” she said.

A 30-something-year-old guy was sitting a few chairs down from us, and he chimed in: “I’m thinking about getting my daughter a Kindle.” We found out he was a plumber whose company had him drive two and half hours to Washington, D.C., and back every day. “They pay for my gas, though. ... and there’s not much local work in this area for the unions.” He told us how he and several other guys he knew were working around the clock to finish the plumbing for this elementary school that had burned down and was being rebuilt. “We want to get it done by Christmas,” he said. Like Pat, his girlfriend had a Kindle, he owned one, and now he wanted to make sure he got his daughter one. “She just loves to read,” he said.

I told them about how the first time I had seen a Kindle was when I was traveling to China for work and one of my colleagues showed me how his Kindle was wrapped in an medieval-looking leather binding. That leather cover made me think of Melissa Bank’s “The Girl’s Guide to Hunting and Fishing,” whose heroine said hugging her non-committal boyfriend was like embracing the surrogate wire mothers in the rhesus-monkey experiments, “more like the idea of a hug than the real thing.”

But here we all were, killing time in the waiting room, the perfect opportunity to read, and all Pat had to do was pull out her Kindle and let the distractions and stresses of everyday life fade away as she lost herself in a great book. A popular mystery recommended by Kindle readers that she would probably eventually share with her daughter through a download. A story that might help shape an idea to pass along to her inmate pupils, who were struggling to find the words to rewrite their own stories.

However we choose to read these days, it makes me so happy to see people, young and old, love books, want to talk about books and want to see their kids and friends and loved ones read books. That rules. : )


Linda T said...

I also wish you could see the cover of whatever people were reading on their Kindles - I do enjoy wondering about books when I read the titles in other people's hands and the Kindle certainly quashes that opportunity for imagination.

Lisa Byrne said...

Great point on not seeing the book's always a good opener for conversation with a stranger.

Becca Ramspott said...

Hey Linda T and Lisa, I appreciate your thoughts and feedback! Thanks for taking a look at my blog. Relating to this blog post, read a helpful breakdown of e-readers in Mashable today: