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Our psychological attachment for books means we shouldn’t predict the Kindle’s future

Posted by Hannah Wright on 9th April 2014

The hotly debated topic surrounding the “death of the eBook” is fast approaching a death of its very own, with those such as Tim Waterstone beginning to overegg the statement that eBooks are looking at an early grave. Yet as an avid reader myself, I can’t help but wonder – is this really a standoff with technology? Or a standoff against ourselves?

As Andy Warhol once famously said:

When people are ready to, they change. They never do it before then, and sometimes they die before they get around to it. You can’t make them change if they don’t want to.”

With something that’s so typically embedded within our lives – including ‘variations’ such as magazines, manuals and even dictionaries – it’s tricky to even imagine a time when we’d need to accept a technological replacement over these treasured goods. After all, why change something that we’re all so comfortable with?

These questions almost lead to the assumption that we are scared of technology – a “technophobe” perhaps. But I can’t really bring myself to think that extreme, and instead, I see it more as a psychological attachment. “Consumer product attachment” is a credible theory coined by psychologists and could provide one explanation as to why some of us are still reluctant to give up paper books in favour of Kindles.

Just like when we are children, we form attachments with items, such as a toy, drinking beaker or blanket. And this doesn’t change when we’re adults, as memories and enjoyment contribute positively to our degree of attachment, with studies showing products owned for more than 20 years will obtain the highest level of attachment.

However with new products, the theory has found it’s the level of enjoyment that’s more important to form an attachment. But with people so fiercely loyal to paper books and having been surrounded and immersed with them for over 20 years, it’s harder to ensure consumers can enjoy a Kindle and form an attachment if they are still not even attempting to try it out.

As a Kindle owner myself, I once experienced the same feelings and doubted whether I could imagine myself not being able to feel paper beneath my fingertips or smelling the dust on an old favourite novel. Yet now I own a Kindle, I’ve fallen head over heels with its ease of use and simplicity.

And it’s not just eBooks, but all consumer technology products that we will have strong bonds with – look at the success of the Super Mario Bros Nintendo game – still popular and still played in the same 2D format. Once we have built such positive attachments with products, we find it hard to truly let go.

It’s certainly something worth bearing in mind with tech products – never underestimate the attachment that consumers have with tech that served them well for the last decade or saw them through their childhood. Their love for it will be burning as bright until the day it breaks. Or discontinued…

So I believe, we should give up with the predictions of when Kindles will die a prolonged death, or at what point we’ll be piling our books onto the bonfire, and just remember that all we truly need is time. Time to embrace the transition, experiment with something out of our comfort zone and just come to terms with the fact our attachment to books, and consumer tech products in general, is more embedded in us than we might realise.

photo credit: kodomut

Hannah Wright

After joining in 2011, Hannah brings a wealth of experience across both consumer and B2B PR.