As I sit in bed beside my wife I find I feel somehow halfway between a human and a machine. She, of course, is the human, and her Kindle is the machine in question.
She speaks and I’m not sure who she is talking to. Some comments are clearly internal musings: the “Now what page did I get to?” kind of thing, delivered in a quiet tone, and that’s fine, we all do that from time to time. Sometimes she is clearly speaking to me, requiring a response of some kind: the “Did you turn the heat up?”, “Is today Tuesday?, or “Do you want a cup of tea?” sort of thing. After over thirty years together I think I can spot most of these.
The more difficult ones to handle are the conversations she has with her Kindle. These are often of an exasperated nature, occasionally bursting into expletives, usually, but by no means always, interrogatory. The problem is that they echo some of the conversations she has with me; both in tone and content!
“NO! Why did it do that?”
“I DON’T WANT ALEXA!”
“WHERE HAVE MY BOOKS GONE?”
“OH! FOR GOD’S SAKE!”
These are often unexpected, abrupt explosions of anger and can be quite disturbing until I recognise who they are directed at.
Now these conversations often roll on in the background whenever my wife is dealing with any kind of technology, ranging from her sewing machine, the Sky TV service, Netflix, and so on, so they require half an ear because they sometimes involve sporadic forays into my real world. “How does that work?”, “What does that mean?”, “Why does it do that?”. All of these require some kind of response over and above the standard “I don’t know, it’s that Kindle crap – they do whatever they like and usually bugger it up”.
I single out Kindle because they really are special. I suspect they and their Amazonian owners manage to generate more consternation across the nation than any other single source of irritation – apart from thrush maybe.
Sky make a valiant effort to break into the market of eternal electronic dystopia by “improving” their service every few days, apparently in an effort to ensure that any of the features you have spent the past few days learning to depend on, are no longer available. But even they cannot compete with the mighty Amazon!
Amazon seem to be able to download Kindle titles that have not been requested : – “Where the bloody hell has that come from? ” ; “Why have I got that?” ; “Look, there are loads of them!” ; Look, they are all in Chinese!” ; “WTF?”.
They sometimes withdraw titles that were present and correct the night before : – “Where the f*ck has my book gone? “; “What have they done with it?”; “No, I don’t want to buy it again!”.
They can mysteriously do a sort of Groundhog day impersonation : – “Why does it say I haven’t started reading it?”; “Where did I f*cking get to?”.
As if this was not enough, they have cunningly overlaid the speaking service. You no longer have to actually read the books; someone else can do it for you.
This brings its own sets of issues. I hear (literally, I sometimes really do hear) that some readers are brilliant. Conversely, some are anything but. In fairness, it would seem that the primary listener generally gets what they pay for. I think this applies to the cost of the headset being used too. Generally, a bit more of an investment in whatever goes on the listener’s head or in their ears, results in a reduction in the shared nature of the experience felt by their partner.
So, when it is all ticking over nicely, apart from the early morning scrabble to find out where the listener/reader ended up the night before, the experience shared by a partner should not be too intrusive.
However, when things go awry, as they all too frequently do, it becomes clear why the bloody thing has been named AUDIBLE!
Now, where did I put my phone?