Our Gadgets, Our Lovers

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The latest Barnes and Noble ad campaign for the new Nook Simple Touch with Glowlite speaks to that special, intimate relationship in our lives. No, not the one between us and our human loved ones. Rather, the almost romantic and at the very least physical attachment we have with our gadgets.

"Sorry, Kindle, you're just not that good in bed," reads the print ad (set to debut this weekend in The New York Times Book Review, according to Mashable's Lauren Indvik), which is accompanied by a TV spot all about getting in bed with the e-reader. As we spend more intimate time—in more intimate places—with our electronic things, we have started looking to them for a more intimate type of comfort. Our devices have become like surrogate lovers.

Even before e-readers, reading has had a psuedo-romantic image, as reading is a very solitary activity that often happens in intimate places, like beds, bathtubs, or couches. When we say, "curl up with a good book," we're hinting at the one-on-one,  cuddly love we have for literature. 

The Nook ads play off of that, but go one step further by explicitly connecting the device to a lover. Rather than just showing a reader "curling up" with a good book, Barnes and Noble wants us to know how good the Nook is at pleasing you in bed. We get the sex reference in the print ad, and in the TV spot we see a lot of readers getting intimate with their Nook's in lieu of their "bedmates," as the spot describes the people with whom they should be having sex.

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But, like we said, books have always had some sort of inherent ability to woo humans into romantic affairs. This gadget-lover-replacement phenomenon, however, extends beyond e-readers. Just this morning, we learned in her Atlantic Wire Media Diet that New York Times tech reporter Jenna Wortham sleeps with multiple gadgets. "I rarely use my iPad. I often bring it into bed with me and it's bad enough that I sleep with my phone, my laptop and sometimes my Kindle," she told Adam Clark Estes. And that's not the first time we've heard this. Both Awl founder Choire Sicha and Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian bring their gadgets into bed with them, too. "I sleep with my iPhone under my pillow or in my hand," Sicha told Erik Hayden. And, Ohanian grabs his phone first thing in the morning. That's romantic, right? Like, imagine if he had said that about his significant other. Cue: aww. 

Tech writers have been calling gadgets "sexy" for years. Google iAnything + sexy and you'll get a lot of non-porn related results -- articles just talking about specs or apps or design. Believing that an inaccurate and lazy way to describe things that can't perform sex, Gizmodo's Mat Honan asked for a moratorium on using the term last summer. "'Sexy.' You see it applied to non-human objects all the time, but especially electronics," he writes. "And the thing is, those writing it almost never mean it. When a writer unleashes 'sexy,' more often than not what is meant is 'desirable.'"

But maybe these writers really do mean "sexy," to suggest our actual (complicated) attraction to our objects. We don't just desire them, we lust for them. Lust: Isn't that what you call wanting to hold someone all night or grab them first thing in the morning? And we also love them: Who would sleep with someone they didn't love? Our gadgets have turned into our lovers—until we upgrade for new ones.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.