I was amused by a recent article in Business Insider, “No One Ever Wants to Admit the Real Reason to Buy a Kindle.”
The writer, Madison Malone Kircher, claims that reading on an e-reader “lets you peruse guilty-pleasure stories without anybody around you having to know.” She interviewed co-workers who admitted to reading dicey titles like Fifty Shades of Grey on their Kindles because they didn’t want fellow subway riders to see what they were reading.
We’ve all been there. I am enthralled by C. J. Cherryh’s Downbelow Station, a fascinating, angst-ridden science fiction novel, which won the Hugo Award in 1982. (But doesn’t the cover scream science fiction?) Cherryh, who is a classicist, tells the story of Pell, a space station established by a merchant corporation on Earth. It is suddenly overcrowded by refugees of war, many of whom are violent and stole identities to get on the ships. They are locked up in Q, the huge quarantine wing of Pell, and gangs run wild and everyone lives in terror. The ruling dynasty of Pell, the Constantines, are humane, but in addition to the overcrowding problem and displacement of citizens they are targeted by the rebellious colonies at war, because Pell is a crucial station. The Constantines must also manage the planet “downbelow,” which is populated by a workforce of simple, kind native aliens and human beings. They must assimilate some of the refugees.
This is a stunning novel. And yet did I whip out my paperback at the coffeehouse? No, because of the cover. And the cover is not that embarrassing.
Now, mind you, I also had my Kindle, so I was happy to read an e-book. I’m not exactly secretive about what I read (I was reading Lawrence Durrell’s Prospero’s Cell, a travel book), but it is true that there is no title at the top of the screen.
But e-books are not private or secret, because ALL e-book companies track what we read. My real reasons for having a Kindle (and my previous e-readers, the Sony Reader and the Nook) are convenience and low prices. I carry my Kindle in my purse so I can snap it open and read on the go. And e-books are usually cheaper, though I read more books than e-books. There is something magical about finding a book you’re looking for and instantly downloading it on to your device.
Of course you all know that. But I should have had the paperback of Prospero’s Cell with the non-embarrassing cover, and the e-book of Downbelow Station! But that’s not the way it goes.