My daughter Ava (13) is an avid reader. I bought her a Kindle (2nd Generation) for Christmas two years ago and it has been her constant companion since. It helps her to read constantly because there is no pause between finishing one book and moving on to another. Unlike her analog-generation parents, she doesn't miss the tactile sensation of turning pages and holding a book. She loves the size and convenience of the Kindle. We all give her Amazon gift certificates (via Facebook) as gifts. And we love talking books with her. She has even managed -- through persistent mocking -- to guilt her father into reading more and watching less television.
She is such a Kindle fan in fact, that when I got in a Kindle Fire to review, I could see no reason not to let her take it for a spin.
It was love at first sight. She turned it on, disappeared into her room with it and came out only to tell me how much she loved it. “How long can we keep it?” she asked, worried. “Do we really have to send it back? Can I have one of my own?” From that moment on, she had it with her at all times. She tossed through my box of “Cases and Bags” for a nice outfit to dress it in. I think I even saw some vignettes with her and her Fire holding hands and spinning around in a beautiful field with romantic music playing. It was a love story. And it was adorable. Who doesn’t love to see a teenager love reading this much? I was looking around for holidays to justify buying her one.
But then the dark side raised its head.
After about two weeks of love and adoration between her and this Kindle Fire, she handed it to me (lovingly zipped up in its pilfered case) with a look of shame and self-reproach on her face.
“Don’t let me have this back,” she told me seriously. “Until I have read at least three books.”
This came only as a slight surprise. I had suspected that the Fire’s ability to run Netflix movies and Amazon Instant Video was playing a larger role in her strong affection for the device than she had previously admitted.
“You can read books on the Kindle, you know,” I told her.
“But I don’t,” she admitted, sadly.
She looked at the Fire with longing and pushed it toward me, shaking her head. “Give it back when I have finish three books. Please?”
I agreed and set it down on my desk. But by the end of the day, she had stolen it back and was parked happily on her bed watching reruns of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (wearing headphones so no one else could hear it).
“What happened to reading?” I asked her.
“I know!" She wailed. "I’m weak!” I took it back. She went back to reading.
Sometimes a more capable product is not the best one for the job. The cheaper, smaller Kindle ($79 to $109) is great for jamming hundreds of books into a slim girl's purse. It gave her ready access to entertainment she felt good -- superior in fact -- about. But the Fire brings all those books and a limitless supply of TV and movies to her every moment. And that was more temptation than my young teen could handle.
Will I buy her one? Probably. (Not right away though.) I buy her candy sometimes, too. But, as with candy, I’ll have to keep an eye on how much of it she is consuming. I certainly won’t think of it as a replacement for books or even a less capable Kindle. But she is getting an awful lot of enjoyment out of one $199 device that fits easily in her everyday bag.