I had a conversation this week that made me sit back and wonder whether I missed a major shift in how people are talking about technology.
My teenage brother, who for various reasons lives on the other side of the country, wants to get an ebook reader. This is neither here nor there, but this past week our mother drafted me to help pick one out and find one that was a good value. Aside from one request, he wasn’t very picky, but my mother made it clear that she wanted to pay as little as possible.
His request? He wanted an ebook reader that could play games.
Now, I’m sure my more knowledgeable readers will know that the Kindle ebook readers can play games, but that’s not what he meant. After I asked a few more questions I realized that what my brother was looking for was a cheap tablet of some kind that could play games.
I ended up convincing my mom to get him a new Kindle Fire HD. The 2013 models are on sale this week at Best Buy for $119 (8GB) and $129(16GB), so it actually cost the same as some of the refurbs on Amazon.com. And since the software other services were more polished than most tablets in that price range I thought it was a good value.
But never mind the tablet we got him; I am more interested today in his request.
While I was discussing the topic with my mother, she told me that it is not unusual for people to refer to a tablet by their primary use for it: as an ebook reader. She also told me that the word Kindle has become the generic term for ebook reader – just like Xerox, Kleenex, Aspirin, and other brand names.
Is this true?
I am not raising this topic in order to argue that anyone is wrong; when it comes to inventing new uses for existing terms the general consensus is what defines proper usage.For example, Aspirin used to be a specific brand, but once people started using it to refer to all competing similar drugs it became a generic term.
And if enough people are using Kindle as a generic term for ebook readers then the same thing could be happening right under our noses. And if enough people are referring to their tablets as ebook readers then that is the new normal.
So is my mother correct? How do you refer to the gadgets in question, if I may ask?