Consumer Anxiety

“…I wonder if online shopping has produced its own form of rabid consumerism, that endless search for a better price elsewhere. Is that type of independence the very force eroding the communal space of a bookstore?”

Author: Michael P. Thomas in a Letter to the Editor (NY Times, June 29, 2011)

I came across this quote yesterday whilst engaged in an activity that has claimed an obsessive amount of my time lately. In the other room, Luke was engaged in a similar activity, equally obsessive and time-consuming. We were questing, as it were. Trawling the internet Rolodex of big box store websites, popular auction sites, discount retail outlets, and the omnipresent, rarely reliable but occasionally helpful, review sites for evangelists and complainers to give their two cents.

And this complex ritual is being performed in homes all the world over and together we make up “rabid consumerism.”

As it happens, I’m in the market for a new laptop. (Luke is looking for a bike.) And as is always the case, the task was originally a straight-forward one. I wanted a tool for writing. Something portable, no frills. Basic. At one point, in the heat of a particularly frustrating battle with my current laptop I even decided to go old school and buy myself a retro Corona typewriter. No internet, no apps, no games, no spell checker. Read: no distractions. Sounded like a plan! It will come as no surprise to anyone that this fantasy soon ceded to reality and I decided I’d probably want some way to save my work, browse the internet, play games, have spell checker, etc, etc.

Enter simple task #2. I’d get a netbook. All I needed was a bare-bones computer anyways; a small, portable device that allowed me to write/edit anywhere I wanted, with light internet browsing capabilities. But then we went to the store. And in this store they had the latest gadgets: iPads, Android Tablets, Motorola Xoom. After playing around on those deliciously fluid touch screens the old mouse pad felt sticky and archaic. Why would I ever want a netbook, thought I (which are becoming obsolete anyways, and who wants to be obsolete?) when I could have a… tablet?

Reality Sets in Phase 3. But after soul-searching (these are weighty matters!), I thought, “No, tablets are not the best option for someone who just wants to write and browse the internet. How would I print? Where would I store my documents? Would I ever get past round 3 of Angry Birds? And, in any case, tablets are more of an accessory. What I need is a home base. I know! I’ll get a new laptop and then buy a tablet for mobility.”

So, in a matter of days my wish list went from:

  • Working Typewriter w/ Ribbons — $300

to

  •  MacBook Pro $1,138.99 + Asus Tablet $499.99 = $1,640

Today I’m back at, “Yeah, but do I need any of this?”

I don’t even know if it’s possible to buy electronics from local independent stores anymore. Is it? Which makes me seriously question the ethics behind electronics consumerism. I say that as a blogger and lover of technology… oh, the irony!

Does anyone else find it confusing to be a consumer in this transitional time for books, technology and the economy as a whole? Have you bought a tablet/iPad? Or do you prefer the simplicity of a pad and pencil, typewriter or even *gasp* a PC?

(It’s like Luke and I were talking last night about what we did before cell phones. Nowadays I wouldn’t know how to make plans without one. And yet we must’ve gotten by just fine….)

(Photo from RAMtech)

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