Monday, April 20, 2015

Never Buy Grandpa a Kindle

Despite marketing towards younger demographics, e-readers are finding their way into the hands of senior citizens. ♦
I pride myself on my gift-giving abilities. I’m basically the Santa Claus of the Kaiser family. The only person who has ever been a challenge for me, even with my super power, is my Grandpa Carl. A strong believer in saving money, using 30-year-old appliances (because they mostly still work) and never buying something you can build yourself for free, Grandpa has always been difficult to buy for on holidays and birthdays. There have been years when he needed or asked for something, but being a non-outdoorsy kind of person, I’m not exactly comfortable with going into a store and buying him that new axe blade he’s been hankering for. So this generally left me with one option: books.
     My grandpa has probably read more books than most Ph.D. candidates, but he never made it out of Canada with a high school diploma. He didn’t drop out because of a lack of intelligence or desire to learn; it simply wasn’t necessary for him to continue with schooling to be successful. He spent his life working with his hands and doing hard labor, but in his free time he was reading anything he could find. A passion for books and reading is not uncommon in my family, so as I grew older Grandpa and I would share books and recommendations. Once I had my first Kindle, I was hooked, but being the sentimentalist that I am, I continued to buy hard copies of books as well. Nevertheless, I raved about the ease and convenience of my Kindle to my grandpa, but as ever, he was stubborn and insistent that he didn’t really need it.
     He was also adamant that he was too old to learn new technologies, and even if he did learn how to use it, chances are he would break it faster than I could blink. I disregarded the first concern — the man can fix just about anything made before 1985! As for the second concern, I assured him that Amazon had great customer service and would be happy to replace it for him should something go wrong. Still, he wouldn’t even consider buying it for himself. Which brings us to Christmas, 2013.
    My mom, despite many years of buying gifts for her father, came to me for advice. I had just finished my nearly daily perusal of Amazon and noticed that the most basic Kindle was on sale. She bought the Kindle, and I bought the protective case for it. Now all there was to do was add gift-wrapping and some mental preparation for the ordeal I would face on Christmas day when I would try to teach him how to use it. When he opened it, he wasn’t exactly thrilled. He maintained a carefully neutral expression while both I and my mom assured him that I would help him get used to it, and he would figure it out in no time. I think some of the leftover Canadian politeness of his youth was the only thing that kept him from chucking it out the window and asking for new tractor parts instead. Skeptical and nervous about getting used to it, the only thing he managed to get excited about was that it fit comfortably in the chest pocket of his favorite denim jacket.
     By the time I left later that day, he had about five books downloaded and was able to figure out how to download more, even if it did take him twice as long as it would for most people. My mom and I were pleased that he was being open-minded about it, and if nothing else, he was trying. Little did we know that this would be some kind of a Great Book Awakening for Grandpa. The next time I saw him, about three weeks later, he was a regular Kindle pro. He knew the ins and outs of downloading both the free books and the library books. He exclaimed, “I can get the new James Patterson book for only $7.99 if I want! But I think I’ll just wait for it to be available at the library. I have at least 100 books in my archive from the free section. Hey, that doesn’t take up space does it? Are they going to go away? Can I take them off?”
     I encounter questions like these every time I visit my grandparents and it’s been over a year since the Kindlepocalypse. My grandfather isn’t alone in his enjoyment of e-readers, even among those in his age bracket. According to a Pew poll, people over the age of 65 are more likely to own a tablet or e-reader than a smartphone. With this kind of popularity, there should be a more targeted marketing strategy to the elderly. After all, if they have already indicated that they use the Internet on a daily or semi-frequent basis, wouldn’t it make sense to capitalize on their interest?
    Currently, e-readers are marketed in the way that much technology is: to the youthful population. Amazon came out with several ads that showcased their Kindles being used by a bikini-clad twenty-something girl on the beach, but, as far as I can find, have never used ads where someone is visibly over the age of about forty-five. Kindles are consciously marketed towards the young and active, with many of their ads showing their devices being used outdoors. Along with this, Kindles are marketed towards families, with many of their product pages showcasing pictures with children using the devices. Amongst all of their product pages, Amazon never uses any kind of imagery that contains the elderly population.
    Tablets and e-readers could have the potential to make up for the gap in sales that companies like Amazon and Apple might experience when selling their technology, especially when marketed properly to older adults. Maybe all the executives of Amazon and Apple got their parents or grandparents Kindles and iPads for Christmas and went through the ordeal I did while teaching them how to use them and decided it wasn’t worth the trouble.
  • About the Author
    Kaitlin Kaiser is a junior at Miami University, where she studies Creative Writing. She speaks only in movie quotes and has an appreciation for the finer things in life, such as perfectly carbonated Diet Coke and books that don’t necessarily end happily.

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