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NYC cafes ban e-readers, hipsterdom implodes

Posted: Sun Feb 13, 2011 7:23 am UTC
by Hawknc
NYT link

Spoiler:
No Kindles in cafes? You’ve got to be kidding. This is an affront, not only to readers and gadget lovers, but also to the spirit of cafes!

Many indie New York City cafes now heavily restrict, or ban outright, the use of Kindles, Nooks and iPads. Evidently, too many coffee shops in town have had their ambience wrecked when itinerant word processors with laptops turn the tables into office space. Sure, that phenomenon can be depressing — whether you’re a scornful lady who lunches or the nomadic freelancer who fields glares. And full-dress computers are perhaps too much personal furniture for cafes to accommodate. But banning devices the size of books, like Kindles and iPads, is going too far, and it’s anathema to the character and history of cafes.

Unwholesome things have always happened wherever people drink coffee together. They gossip and complain about powerful jerks; they read, write and scheme about their own comebacks. On the sidelines of those conversations — muttering, silently judging, chiming in — have always been loners who loiter with books and newspapers all day, ready to be recruited into conversation. This might come as hard news to would-be restaurateurs looking only to taste that sweet margin of coffee markup, but loiterers and readers must be part of the cafe equation. People who sit at bars are going to make out and brawl; people who sit in cafes are going to read and talk.

And often what they’re reading and talking about is unsavory. Coffeehouse patrons have always been a little bit . . . wired. This has been true at least since 1555, when the world’s first coffeehouses opened in Istanbul. High on caffeine and impromptu colloquy, 16th-century coffee­house patrons denounced the government. Sultans didn’t like it. Later, in 1675, Charles II described the coffeehouses in England as “places where the disaffected met and spread scandalous reports concerning the conduct of His Majesty and his Ministers.” In 1721, Montesquieu wrote of the coffeehouse scene in France: “Were I the King, I would close the cafes, for the people who frequent those places heat their brains in a very tiresome manner. I would rather see them get drunk in taverns. Then, at least, they would harm only themselves, while the intoxication which coffee arouses in them causes them to endanger the country’s future.”

But what the powerful disdain, the bookish and garrulous adore. Well before Jean-Paul Sartre made Parisian cafes the headquarters of Western literary life — saying he wrote in cafes because the clamor helped him concentrate — coffeehouses were a place to try out ideas. Jean Chardin, a French visitor to Istanbul, couldn’t get enough of the curious Turkish brew: readers, writers, populists buzzing with class rage and even dervishes (real dervishes) reciting poetry. But what he appreciated most about cafes was not that you got to express yourself in them. He was delighted that you were not required to listen to anyone else express himself. “No one is forced to give up his game or his conversation” just because another coffee drinker is trying to hold court. Amen.

Knowing how to tune in and out, by turns, has long been a skill of cafe people. Now headphones facilitate that practice — both symbolizing and enforcing public solitude. That works for cafe novices, but in the long term, it’s the job of anyone in a public space to learn the fine art of ignoring people.

Not long ago in Brooklyn, a man with an iPod, whose headphones were whining, pulled off his headset. He asked two gossiping women nearby to talk more quietly. “Why don’t you turn your music down?” one of them asked. “It’s turned up so loud to drown you out!” shouted the man, in full 16th-century mode. Tempers spiked but, by cafe common law, both parties were wrong. There are all kinds of freedoms in cafes, but you can’t tell other people to turn it down. (The caffeine-induced irritability was a nice traditional touch, however.)

You also can’t tell cafe patrons to stop reading — even when e-readers don’t look (for now) as classy as paperbacks, newspapers or pamphlets. Sure, e-readers are dangerous: someone reading on one might make a note or check Facebook or play Scrabble. Sorry, proprietors — if they can find the Web with their tablet or phone, you shouldn’t be stopping them.

On July 1, Starbucks locations all over the United States started offering free, one-click, unlimited wireless service to their patrons. “We want to provide you with a great digital experience to go with your great cup of coffee,” the chain explains. Starbucks has long seemed to me like a flawed franchise that is squarely in the public good. In my eyes, this seals it.

As for the fancy tech-unfriendly cafes that shut out writers and readers like infidels in Ottoman times, maybe they should just style themselves as restaurants, with tablecloths, silverware and full service. If you have to bus your own table, history teaches, you’re in a cafe — and you can read and write what you want.

Most of the piece is opinion and largely irrelevant, but gosh I just can't pass up the opportunity to laugh at this move.

Re: NYC cafes ban e-readers, hipsterdom implodes

Posted: Sun Feb 13, 2011 7:39 am UTC
by Iulus Cofield
Why are they banning electronics? That just seems like a good way to alienate some of their primary customers.

Re: NYC cafes ban e-readers, hipsterdom implodes

Posted: Sun Feb 13, 2011 8:01 am UTC
by BlackSails
They arent banning electronics. I havent seen a single place that bans anything of this sort.

Re: NYC cafes ban e-readers, hipsterdom implodes

Posted: Sun Feb 13, 2011 8:28 am UTC
by jestingrabbit
HelveticaBooks.jpg

Re: NYC cafes ban e-readers, hipsterdom implodes

Posted: Sun Feb 13, 2011 8:43 am UTC
by Iulus Cofield
BlackSails wrote:They arent banning electronics. I havent seen a single place that bans anything of this sort.


And yet the New York Times is reporting that cafes are banning (some) electronics.

Re: NYC cafes ban e-readers, hipsterdom implodes

Posted: Sun Feb 13, 2011 9:23 am UTC
by Bluggo
Eh, behold the market in action.

People who care about "ambience" and think that it e-readers and laptops damage it will tend to go to the cafes which ban them, and people who want to use them instead will go to the ones which allow them. Nothing worrying here - the second demographics is probably far bigger than the first one, so it's not like we will run out of cafes which allow electronics.

Re: NYC cafes ban e-readers, hipsterdom implodes

Posted: Sun Feb 13, 2011 9:24 am UTC
by joek
BlackSails wrote:They arent banning electronics. I havent seen a single place that bans anything of this sort.


That does however seem to be what the article is claiming.

To be clear: they allow reading physical books and writing essays on paper, but laptops and e-readers aren't allowed? Is that right?

Assuming so, as much as I personally dislike the Kindle (It's not a *real* book, damnit!) I don't see the logic behind this. Surely it'll just make customers more likely to go to places like Starbucks.

Re: NYC cafes ban e-readers, hipsterdom implodes

Posted: Sun Feb 13, 2011 9:30 am UTC
by Bluggo
joek wrote:Surely it'll just make customers more likely to go to places like Starbucks.

An Internet connection is not worth having to drink that shoggoth happy batter that Starbucks calls coffee, though.

Re: NYC cafes ban e-readers, hipsterdom implodes

Posted: Sun Feb 13, 2011 10:50 am UTC
by sourmìlk
I'm going to quote Mr. Krabs: "Who comes into a restaurant for atmosphere?!"

Re: NYC cafes ban e-readers, hipsterdom implodes

Posted: Sun Feb 13, 2011 12:03 pm UTC
by TheKrikkitWars
Bluggo wrote:An Internet connection is not worth having to drink that shoggoth happy batter that Starbucks calls coffee, though.


You're clearly not a true geek, if it contains caffine in significant quantities, It's adequate sustainance!

Re: NYC cafes ban e-readers, hipsterdom implodes

Posted: Sun Feb 13, 2011 12:18 pm UTC
by bigglesworth
Not at that price.

Re: NYC cafes ban e-readers, hipsterdom implodes

Posted: Sun Feb 13, 2011 12:59 pm UTC
by Bluggo
TheKrikkitWars wrote:You're clearly not a true geek, if it contains caffine in significant quantities, It's adequate sustainance!

I am a bit of a coffee geek, and not all sources of caffeine are created equal - far from it!

I will grudingly concede that a cup of fine tea can be an acceptable way to get one's caffeine fix, but apart from that... well, it's probably better if I do not get started with my usual "caffeinated sodas are evil and taste like oversugared sewage water" and "instant coffee is a crime against humanity" rants.

Now excuse me, my coffee is just about ready ;)

Re: NYC cafes ban e-readers, hipsterdom implodes

Posted: Sun Feb 13, 2011 6:21 pm UTC
by iChef
In other news the city of New York is banning all automobiles. The return to horses will bring back that classic New York charm.

On the coffee front try a blind testing with some friends the results might not be what you expect.

Re: NYC cafes ban e-readers, hipsterdom implodes

Posted: Sun Feb 13, 2011 7:03 pm UTC
by Jahoclave
Bluggo wrote:
joek wrote:Surely it'll just make customers more likely to go to places like Starbucks.

An Internet connection is not worth having to drink that shoggoth happy batter that Starbucks calls coffee, though.

Look, if all non-starbucks coffee shops banned electronics I need a loan, a few barristas/english majors, a wireless connection and an empty room that meets the bare minimum for code.

We'll see who gives a shit about aesthetic. We'll also see me with a lot more money.

But I agree, New York should switch back to horse based transport.

Re: NYC cafes ban e-readers, hipsterdom implodes

Posted: Sun Feb 13, 2011 7:07 pm UTC
by Zamfir
iChef wrote:In other news the city of New York is banning all automobiles. The return to horses will bring back that classic New York charm.

On the coffee front try a blind testing with some friends the results might not be what you expect.

I never saw the point of that. Suppose it turns out that Starbucks coffee only tastes bad when you drink it in a Starbucks, but tastes good in a blind test. Then what? Still no reason to go to Starbucks. Unless you ask them to sell you a blind test.

a few barristas/english majors

Instead of barristas, why not buy a coffee machine?

Re: NYC cafes ban e-readers, hipsterdom implodes

Posted: Sun Feb 13, 2011 7:57 pm UTC
by Griffin
I never saw the point of that. Suppose it turns out that Starbucks coffee only tastes bad when you drink it in a Starbucks, but tastes good in a blind test. Then what? Still no reason to go to Starbucks. Unless you ask them to sell you a blind test.

Welll, it is a good way to see whether your telling the truth about not liking the taste, or lying to yourself so as to reinforce preconceived notions that you hold more dear than the harsh truth of reality. At the very least it lets you know whether your problem is actually the taste of the coffee, or some other factor of Starbucks that drives you away (in which case you could, perhaps, still enjoy their take home stuff).

Re: NYC cafes ban e-readers, hipsterdom implodes

Posted: Sun Feb 13, 2011 8:41 pm UTC
by Jahoclave
Zamfir wrote:
iChef wrote:In other news the city of New York is banning all automobiles. The return to horses will bring back that classic New York charm.

On the coffee front try a blind testing with some friends the results might not be what you expect.

I never saw the point of that. Suppose it turns out that Starbucks coffee only tastes bad when you drink it in a Starbucks, but tastes good in a blind test. Then what? Still no reason to go to Starbucks. Unless you ask them to sell you a blind test.

a few barristas/english majors

Instead of barristas, why not buy a coffee machine?

I don't trust robots. They don't handle oppression very well. When's the last time a proletarian uprising was successful in a movie? Now what about robots?

Re: NYC cafes ban e-readers, hipsterdom implodes

Posted: Sun Feb 13, 2011 9:30 pm UTC
by Arrian
Griffin wrote:
I never saw the point of that. Suppose it turns out that Starbucks coffee only tastes bad when you drink it in a Starbucks, but tastes good in a blind test. Then what? Still no reason to go to Starbucks. Unless you ask them to sell you a blind test.

Welll, it is a good way to see whether your telling the truth about not liking the taste, or lying to yourself so as to reinforce preconceived notions that you hold more dear than the harsh truth of reality. At the very least it lets you know whether your problem is actually the taste of the coffee, or some other factor of Starbucks that drives you away (in which case you could, perhaps, still enjoy their take home stuff).


No, actually, it's not. Professional sommeliers and wine tasters often confuse high end wines for cheap dregs in blind tastings, that is true. But they don't _consistently_ do so: The guy who confuses Chateau Petrus for Two Buck Chuck once, the next three times he gets them right. Blind tasting is notoriously tricky because it's not just flavor and aroma that affect our perceptions, but our mood, company, they way things are presented, and a million other variables at the moment. Unless you're very, very good blind tastings are a parlor game. And even when you are very, very good they're still pretty inconsistent. If you like the coffee from the indy shop down the street better than you like Starbucks, not being able to tell the difference between the two in a blind taste test is meaningless because far more than just flavor and aroma go into your drinking experience.

Back on topic, I wonder if banning electronics is catering to luddites or just an attempt to keep people from turning the shop into their living room? This would be a good example of efficient discrimination for an intro econ class.

Re: NYC cafes ban e-readers, hipsterdom implodes

Posted: Sun Feb 13, 2011 10:13 pm UTC
by Jahoclave
Arrian wrote:
Back on topic, I wonder if banning electronics is catering to luddites or just an attempt to keep people from turning the shop into their living room? This would be a good example of efficient discrimination for an intro econ class.

Which, I imagine the latter is more likely. If you've got people taking up seats, using your wireless and electricity, etc... And they haven't ordered anything in the past two hours, then you're not really making much on them. Whereas, because they're taking up space, other people may go elsewhere.

Re: NYC cafes ban e-readers, hipsterdom implodes

Posted: Mon Feb 14, 2011 12:51 pm UTC
by juststrange
Meh, its thier place and they can do what they want. I can honestly see the appear. Sometimes its better to just unplug for a bit, leave all the battery powered stuff behind. This could be a result of my outdoor oriented upbringing, but so be it. Mountain men enjoy no thrills coffee and a place to sit just as much as anyone else. I wish them the best of luck, but no more than anyone else. Heres hoping theres a market for it.

Also, on the subject of test influencing, I think this is appropriate:
http://questionablecontent.net/view.php?comic=1856

Re: NYC cafes ban e-readers, hipsterdom implodes

Posted: Mon Feb 14, 2011 1:00 pm UTC
by Zamfir
juststrange wrote:Mountain men enjoy no thrills coffee and a place to sit just as much as anyone else.

And their sensitive souls cannot handle the presence of electronics when they drink their coffee?

Re: NYC cafes ban e-readers, hipsterdom implodes

Posted: Mon Feb 14, 2011 6:21 pm UTC
by Hawknc
The EM radiation messes with their beard-growing.

Re: NYC cafes ban e-readers, hipsterdom implodes

Posted: Mon Feb 14, 2011 7:25 pm UTC
by Endless Mike
I don't see the big deal here. As was pointed out above, just as there will be shops that don't want laptops, there will be ones that don't care, or even embrace it. Certainly in a city like NYC there's plenty of room for both.

Re: NYC cafes ban e-readers, hipsterdom implodes

Posted: Mon Feb 14, 2011 10:03 pm UTC
by Magnanimous
My local indie coffee shop has a few tables/chairs in the front and an area with couches in the back. People who want to read/hang out pretty much stay in the back, while people with laptops stay in the front... It seems to maintain the ambiance pretty well.
Jahoclave wrote:Which, I imagine the latter is more likely. If you've got people taking up seats, using your wireless and electricity, etc... And they haven't ordered anything in the past two hours, then you're not really making much on them. Whereas, because they're taking up space, other people may go elsewhere.
Which is why some places only give you wifi access after you buy something. But it's customary to buy a drink or a scone or something, anyway.

Re: NYC cafes ban e-readers, hipsterdom implodes

Posted: Mon Feb 14, 2011 10:34 pm UTC
by Amora
I'm game. Getting back to writing my paper or finishing that reading would be rather simple without Sporcle/Facebook/other time-sinks to distract me.

Re: NYC cafes ban e-readers, hipsterdom implodes

Posted: Tue Feb 15, 2011 10:40 pm UTC
by Jahoclave
Magnanimous wrote:My local indie coffee shop has a few tables/chairs in the front and an area with couches in the back. People who want to read/hang out pretty much stay in the back, while people with laptops stay in the front... It seems to maintain the ambiance pretty well.
Jahoclave wrote:Which, I imagine the latter is more likely. If you've got people taking up seats, using your wireless and electricity, etc... And they haven't ordered anything in the past two hours, then you're not really making much on them. Whereas, because they're taking up space, other people may go elsewhere.
Which is why some places only give you wifi access after you buy something. But it's customary to buy a drink or a scone or something, anyway.

Yeah, I get that. It's just, at some point they've bought their morning coffee and it's now two in the afternoon. Little extreme, but I remember an article a few months back about the same topic and one of the shops that had done this was basically complaining about that problem more than it destroying ambiance.

Re: NYC cafes ban e-readers, hipsterdom implodes

Posted: Wed Feb 16, 2011 2:02 am UTC
by juststrange
Jahoclave wrote:Yeah, I get that. It's just, at some point they've bought their morning coffee and it's now two in the afternoon. Little extreme, but I remember an article a few months back about the same topic and one of the shops that had done this was basically complaining about that problem more than it destroying ambiance.


I thought there was all sorts of genius market research and engineering study where they made seats that were plenty comfortable but only for 30-60 minutes max. Good for the food service industry because people that sit in there forever are taking up seats for other paying customers. This tells me that I should put my degree to work making similar sofas.

Off to file a patent, if you'll excuse me.

Re: NYC cafes ban e-readers, hipsterdom implodes

Posted: Wed Feb 16, 2011 5:28 am UTC
by folkhero
Amora wrote:I'm game. Getting back to writing my paper or finishing that reading would be rather simple without Sporcle/Facebook/other time-sinks to distract me.

When I go to the coffee shop, usually one of my main goals is to get away from distracting glowing screens. What I do is not bring a computer, and somehow the other people working on their own computers is no distraction at all.

Re: NYC cafes ban e-readers, hipsterdom implodes

Posted: Tue Feb 22, 2011 8:17 am UTC
by meatyochre
I would think the reason they're banning these devices is actually because they can freely access wifi, no?

Re: NYC cafes ban e-readers, hipsterdom implodes

Posted: Tue Feb 22, 2011 3:14 pm UTC
by gmalivuk
How does it make sense to ban the devices rather than just stop offering free wifi?

Re: NYC cafes ban e-readers, hipsterdom implodes

Posted: Tue Feb 22, 2011 3:28 pm UTC
by BlackSails
I still havent found a cafe actually banning these.

Re: NYC cafes ban e-readers, hipsterdom implodes

Posted: Tue Feb 22, 2011 4:26 pm UTC
by Endless Mike
gmalivuk wrote:How does it make sense to ban the devices rather than just stop offering free wifi?

Because it would be hilarious to offer free wifi but not allow anything that uses it? I guess?

Re: NYC cafes ban e-readers, hipsterdom implodes

Posted: Tue Feb 22, 2011 4:27 pm UTC
by jestingrabbit
BlackSails wrote:I still havent found a cafe actually banning these.


That would be consistent with two very different hypotheses: the article is nonsense or; you are profoundly uncool. Of course, these hypotheses are not inconsistent.

Re: NYC cafes ban e-readers, hipsterdom implodes

Posted: Wed Feb 23, 2011 11:26 pm UTC
by IcedT
joek wrote:
BlackSails wrote:They arent banning electronics. I havent seen a single place that bans anything of this sort.


That does however seem to be what the article is claiming.
Yeah, without naming a single place that does it or interviewing a single person who's encountered it >_>

joek wrote:...as much as I personally dislike the Kindle (It's not a *real* book, damnit!)..
It's not quite a *real* book, but it is several thousand *sorta* books that you can easily carry around with you. I have a Nook and I'm a pretty huge fan (it helps that a lot of classics, primary sources, and other miscellaneous old stuff are available for free on the thing).

Re: NYC cafes ban e-readers, hipsterdom implodes

Posted: Thu Feb 24, 2011 12:22 am UTC
by Endless Mike
I rather like my Kindle, and it helps a lot with my quest to reduce clutter in my life.