Two things: 1) I'll admit I take advantage of the anonymity of e-reading when it comes to erotica. Heh heh -- I was reading a dirty book at Disney World last week and no one noticed. (Never mind the fact that most of those books are only published in digital formats...) 2) Of all the high faluting reasons to buy or not buy an e-reader . . . I missed the one about being able to "pass" as a properly literate person. Oh, so that's why I bought a Kindle?! Silly me.
The article was offensive in a lot of ways, but it was also consistent with the snobbishness the Times has demonstrated with regard to fiction. If Jennifer Weiner and Jodi Picoult are right about the hierarchy, male literary fiction authors rank above female literary fiction authors, who may (or may not) rank above male genre writers, who rank above female genre writers, and so forth. Genres are ranked as well: mystery/thrillers over science fiction over women's fiction over chick lit over ... well, romances.
Go look at the Times article: there's no discussion of romance novels themselves, their authors, the sub-genres, or even of the reading experience apart from the whiff of disdain about the covers. No, none of that matters. All that matters is that we, as readers, spend a lot of money on books and now, it seems, we spend a lot of money on ebooks and we do that because we don't want to be seen as readers of romances. Basically, romance novels are a bunch of words with a happy ending and a cheesy cover. No, really -- the article mentions the necessary happy ending twice, as though that's the only thing that identifies a romance novel as such. (Now, if the Times had run an article about the diversity of romance novels, emphasizing that the only universal element is the happy ending but along the way pointing out all the sub-genres, thousands of authors, etc., etc., I wouldn't mind so much. But when "the happy ending" is the only feature they care to mention? No.)
But wait till you see how they describe readers:
If the e-reader is the digital equivalent of the brown-paper wrapper,
the romance reader is a little like the Asian carp: insatiable and
It's the potato chip argument all over again: we'll read anything (provided it has a happy ending) and we're undiscriminating. But easily embarrassed...
Wow. Not only did I miss the memo about how I should buy an e-reader so people can't see that I'm reading bodice-rippers, but I missed the ominous statement, "You will be assimilated," when I first picked up a romance novel over 40 years ago.
This is so obviously ludicrous that if it were anything other than The New York Times -- "the newspaper of record" -- I'd shrug and ignore it. But coming from the New York Times, I have to say it. That's just stupid.
Look at all the debate in comment threads and on Twitter. We don't have a hive mind. Hell, some romance readers are so contrarian that if I say white, you can bet they'll mention everything from ebony to onyx. Complete with footnotes, if possible!
I would like to get huffy and demand how we got here -- to this bizarre notion that 75 million people (the number mentioned by the Times of people who read at least one romance last year) think as one -- but then I realize we're supposed to be happy the Times mentions us at all. We're not only The Borg, we're invisible.
Except when we spend money. Look at how many romances end up on the New York Times bestseller list -- we may have a hive mind, but we're The Borg with disposable income.
Of course, you may disagree.