February 20th, 2011
In December I started a list of all the newspaper comic strips which had already mentioned the Kindle. Frank and Ernest had swapped the word Kindle into the phrase “book ‘em, Danno,” while Ziggy complained that his Kindle was getting spammed by the public library! I even discovered a whole five-day series where the grumpy bus driver in Crankshaft finally discovers the advantages of Amazon’s reader.
But last month the Kindle turned up in the strangest place of all: the daily soap opera comic strip Mary Worth!
And I think this comic strip actually set a new record for just how long they talked about the Kindle. For eight consecutive strips, I stared in amazement as Mary’s enthusiastic boyfriend (Dr. Jeff Cory) continued thoroughly explaining all the benefits of owning a Kindle.
I love it! It’s light and easy to carry! And buying books is an almost instant process!
I can easily read several books at the same time without anything have to lug around.
What about bookmarking pages?
It does that! See? What do you think? Do you want one?
I don’t know…
“I love Mary’s ‘Hmm…’ in the second panel,” someone noted online. “You just know she’s going to find a way to disapprove of instant books, and someone will wind up having a drunken rant in a library or Barnes & Noble about it…”
But it still felt like a milestone, as the Kindle crashed it’s way into the stodgiest newspaper comic strip of them all. (Mary Worth was first created over 70 years ago, according to Wikipedia, and in Amazon’s Kindle discussion forum, someone suggested that by now her character must be over 140 years old!) Suddenly in local newspapers all across America, one of the most traditional comic strips ever was launching a detailed debate about the pros and cons of reading ebooks on a digital reader. As a Kindle lover, I was delighted to see the Kindle finally getting some new attention!
And by the end, they’d spewed out over 350 words about the Kindle, all spaced into short little bursts throughout the two-panel comic strips…
Sorry, Jeff! A portable reading device is not my cup of tea!
What? Why not?
I like the way a real book feels…holding it in my hands, flipping its pages with my fingers…
You’re just not familiar with this yet!
I can’t believe you wouldn’t want an e-book reader too! I love it!
That’s great, Jeff! It’s just not the same experience for me!
Maybe you just need to use it for a little while! You can borrow mine if you want!
No. I know myself! I like reading something that doesn’t rely on batteries of electricity!
Fortunately, I found another great way to laugh about it – and without having to read Mary Worth! One of my favorite blogs is now available on the Kindle — and it’s all about newspaper comic strips. “Why is Mary resisting the 21st century so strongly?” teased The Comics Curmudgeon “Does she fear that she might accidentally subscribe to this very blog, read about her adventures, and implode into paradoxical nothingness when she realizes she is fictional, and ridiculous?”
And ironically, I was reading that blog on my Kindle — so I was seeing Mary’s stern face staring back at me, from within the Kindle’s screen — as she looks out over a picture of a Kindle. (I wonder if she’s afraid now?)
Maybe this is another small moment when our culture suddenly makes another tiny shift forward. But if so, it’s really fun to see that moment being dissected by hundreds of funny comments from the blog’s online readers.
“Today in Mary Worth…oh, snap, it’s ON!”
“Go, Mary, go! Save Dr. Jeff from the evils of new technology!”
“Using the e-book reader would require Mary to put down her coffee, and dammit Jeff, that just isn’t going to happen.”
“That night, Mary discovered that the Kindle is, indeed, sturdy enough to bludgeon someone to death…”
What I love about that web site is that it takes ordinary daily comic strips, and gives them a really fresh perspective. And of course, it’s also a place where you watch other comic strip readers as they share their own personal reactions to the strangely old-fashioned funnies page. After a few minutes on the site, it makes me feel like I’m part of an invisible club of smart-allecks who are all reading the newspaper comics page together. It’s one of my favorite things about the internet — and it adds a whole new level of interest to reading Mary Worth’s final speech about the Kindle.
I’m not afraid! I just prefer the traditional method of reading books!… instead of from a screen!
Suit yourself!…your Luddite self!
I am not a Luddite, Jeff! I use a computer!… I have a cell phone!…
Then why not an e-book reader too?
Because I like what I like! And reading regular books works for me! I like manually flipping pages and sticking a bookmark in between them! I like looking at the books lined up on my shelf!
I still think if you gave it a chance you’d love a portable reading device like this!
No thanks, Jeff!
Alas, Mary, resistance is futile…