362 downloaded; 900+ in all

My Kindle Addiction

I’m coming down from a summer of excess. The typical addict reaches for a bottle or unscrews the childproof lid of their prescription pain pills. My drug of choice is the 6.4” x 4.5” x 0.3” Kindle Voyage; technologically enhanced to enable 24/7 reading pleasure.

Book reading used to require effort. Drive to the book store; wander the shelves; grab some books to sample at the attached coffee shop; reshelve the no gos; stand in the checkout line, and finally arrive home to settle in with my new purchase. Now a daily email markets seven or more deals, $1.99 or less. With just a couple of clicks I can read a sample and purchase the book without ever leaving my recliner. My thirty plus clicks over two and a half months seemed a little low until I added in the ten paper books I’d also consumed in an effort to break my kindle dependence.

At what point does reading transition from a past-time to an all-consuming passion? Can reading be an addiction?

A web search for “am I addicted” turns up primarily drug and alcohol questionnaires. First question: “Do you ever use alone?” Well, yeah. I’ve never been invited to a let’s sit around and read party. Even book club gatherings are for talking, eating, and drinking; the assigned book dutifully brought along as a prop and only rarely read out loud.

“Have you ever substituted one drug for another, thinking that one particular drug was the problem?” Is that like switching from one genre to another? Because, yes I’m guilty of promiscuous genre-hopping whenever I’ve overloaded on one particular style of writing.

Since the quizzes aren’t helping, I take another track. What makes me read?

I love the escape; the feeling that the world inside my head is so much more than the world outside the glow of my Kindle. I pilot spaceships through endless universes, interacting with AIs, aliens, traitors and heroes. Alternate realities of urban fantasy make me BFFs with sword wielding women, powerful shapeshifters, and magicians, frequently twisted but not always.

What real world man can compare with the tall, handsome, wealthy, well-built men of romance novels complete with incredible sexual expertise and large…members (not multiple members, one per man). With mysteries, it’s empowering to be a tough PI or a brainy detective, figuring out and then taking down the bad guys.

Would I be as worried if I spent copious amounts of time reading literature instead of NY Times best sellers? Literature is somehow good for you, teaching you lessons or giving insight into the plight of humankind. Ilona Andrews and James Butcher, among many others, build fantastical worlds and intriguing characters, but probably aren’t ever going to be assigned in freshmen English. Luckily, I recall that drinkers who regularly over imbibe on small batch bourbon or high-priced Pinots are just as addicted as the stereotypical guy picking up a 12 pack.

It’s not that I like to read, it’s how much time I spend doing it. “In just a minute, after I finish this chapter” can easily stretch to 30 minutes or an hour before I look up to see my husband and son getting out of the pool. Or that I’m running late for an appointment. Or the laundry, dishes, bills, etc that are undone.

Instead of complete denial, I could always blame my heritage. Family lore about my aunt’s burned dinners abounds. In high school, she’d read until my grandparents were about to walk in the door from work, then try to recover by cooking everything on high. She eventually admitted and overcame her reading habit; putting her husband and herself through college while raising two kids and working fulltime. Perhaps that last-minute rush helped her become an amazing hostess — turning out gourmet meals when my uncle would casually mention that he’d invited five to ten colleagues over for dinner that evening.

My great-aunt was a more traditional addict. She died in her early 40s of cirrhosis of the liver from alcoholism. There’s no doubt about how she would have scored on the addiction questionnaires. My grandmother rarely drank, fearing that her same part-Cherokee genetic makeup could predispose her to liking alcohol too much. I steered clear of hard drugs for the same reason, worried that feeling too good could become “oh so” seductive.

Like the imaginary worlds I inhabit via Kindle. Everything is brighter, more intense — just more. And anything real world like deadlines, adjusting to a new city, depression, just goes away. Until the book ends. Then there’s the choice, do something, anything, or start another book. If it’s an interesting series, the new book always wins.

Can I imagine my life without reading? No. But maybe I can manage it better. Today is the end of summer vacation. It’s my self-imposed get back to work deadline.

Luckily intervention is much easier and cheaper than a 12 step program or rehab clinic. My husband hid my Kindle. I’ll get it back in the evenings after the work day is over. Could I do this on my own? Probably, but I’m very good at finding my own hiding places. Having a partner helps. As does a list of daily goals, a kid back in school, and a renewed desire to do something productive.