Must. Have. Stuff.

Must. Have. Stuff.


“Hey, Lauro, it’s me, Robbie. Have you seen the new Amazon Kindle?”

“Oh, God.”

“No, no, listen man, this is the one that I’ve been waiting for!”

“Robbie, you said that when the first one came out. Then when the iPhone came out. Besides, I thought you had a Sony e-book reader.”

“It was just a trial one. This is different.”

This is different. According to my parents, this phrase was the second one I declared after “I want this” when I started speaking. They have long since become immune to hearing my justifications for wanting newer, shinier things, but my cousin Lauro hasn’t been so lucky. Since I can’t get any traction with mom and dad, I have to explain myself to hapless cousins.

Now, I know that I don’t need a new $359 device that is the cost of many books, but that’s the thing about marketing: you create a perceived need to own these things because of what they promise. For the Kindle, it’s the long-standing dream of taking any number of books with you everywhere and not having to break your back doing it. Of course, while most people barely read one book during a year, I am one of those folks who is always picking up different volumes and reading them at once, based on the mood I’m in. That’s why, I reasoned to my cousin Lauro, the Kindle is really an ideal device for someone like me.

Of course, in a more lucid moment, you might wonder if the need to read several books at once is just a personality quirk or learned behavior. I can honestly tell you that I believe that most of my inability to do one thing at a time is a total reflection of how society has warped my attention span. For example, I’m writing this and I check my e-mail. There is absolutely no compelling reason for me to do that at all, but it’s become such a habit that not to do it seems a waste of all the intensive computing power my laptop has. Think about it, computers have gotten faster and more sophisticated: you paid all that money for a device and you only have one program up at a time. Are you crazy? Have you gone off the deep end? That’s what computers are for! They are built and designed to multitask and make your life easier and you’re gonna tell me that the only thing you are going to do at one time is use a word processor. What are you, some kind of environmental-whacko-communist?

The same thinking applies to a device like the Kindle. It’s marketing is designed to create the impression that you really, really want to take dozens of books with you but you can’t because who wants to carry all of them around? With the Kindle, you can read one, two or three books all at once. Now who doesn’t want that? Captivated by this idea, you put yourself in the ad photos with smiling, happy people reading books at the beach or some other location that suggests one thing and one thing only: this could be you. How can you resist? (And how many times do you read at the beach or at the park? With kids?)

Now here’s where it gets more insidious. The most underused piece of furniture in my home is the kitchen table. I’m a single guy who spends a lot of his time (unfortunately) near the computer, so I eat my meals there. (Hey, at least I cook and I don’t mean Top Ramen.) In my mind, there would be nothing more homey than reading the morning paper at the kitchen table eating a freshly made croissant with some delicious orange juice. But newspaper subscriptions are expensive and there’s all the paper and ink-stained fingers to deal with. With the Kindle, I can get my favorite newspapers downloaded to the unit, thus making it totally possible to read the morning paper while enjoying the most important meal of the day. It’s both retro (sitting down to eat at a real table, not a computer desk) and going through the New York Times or Le Monde on a single device without the need to kill trees. Wow, I just added a green argument to my entire line of thought. I absolutely must get the Kindle now!

A sane person will understand that none of those things are related to each other. Taking the time to have breakfast has nothing to do with reading the paper which has even less to do with using a wireless device. But marketing has made me create all these myriad scenarios in my mind that removing any part of it makes the Kindle less attractive as well as making something to eat. So, the thinking goes, if I can’t have that fantasy, then what’s the point? I’ll just eat a Pop Tart in front of the computer. You can see where I’m going with this: I can’t eat a decent meal at the breakfast table because I don’t have a Kindle, and I won’t be able to achieve that little bit of domestic bliss until I have it. Are you happy now that I am not eating right and getting fat sitting in front of the computer? (It goes without saying that the television is on throughout all of this as well.)

This is what marketing has done to me: encouraged me to dream up reasons why I need shinier, newer stuff by connecting it to other things that have no relationship with it all, but I’ve convinced myself that this is different, and once I have the Kindle, then all the other things will fall right into place. Can you really deny me that?

I tried to get some validation from my cousin Lauro about this, but he wasn’t going for it. “You don’t need a Kindle,” he kept dryly informing me. “You have more books than anyone I know. What are you going to do, get rid of all of them for this ultra-minimalist décor by thinking they’ll all be on the Kindle?”

“Well, it would certainly cut down on the clutter,” I replied, trying to sound resolute.

“But not the insanity,” he said. “Dude, if you really want one, I’ll get you one for your birthday.”

“But that’s in eight months!” I cried. “I want it now.”

He hung up.