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Tech-Unfriendly Cafes Say No Kindles Allowed 375

theodp writes "At the risk of pulling-a-Groupon, I have a dream that one day my children will not be judged by their e-readers, but by the content of their character. The NY Times' Virginia Heffernan complains that many indie New York City cafes now heavily restrict, or ban outright, the use of Kindles, Nooks and iPads. Evidently, she says, too many coffee shops have had their ambience wrecked when itinerant word processors with laptops turn the tables into office space. Full-dress computers are one thing, says Heffernan, but banning devices the size of books is going too far, and it's anathema to the character and history of cafes. By contrast, Starbucks offers free, one-click, unlimited wireless service to their patrons, making it in Heffernan's eyes 'a flawed franchise that is squarely in the public good.'"
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Tech-Unfriendly Cafes Say No Kindles Allowed

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  • by guyminuslife ( 1349809 ) on Saturday February 12, 2011 @12:34PM (#35186740)

    That's not the point.

  • by confused one ( 671304 ) on Saturday February 12, 2011 @12:35PM (#35186742)
    You've hit the nail on the head. If Cafe X bans the tablets then they'll see their customers walk down the street to Cafe Y, which welcomes them. There's nothing that says you have to do business with the cafe that bans the devices.
  • Starbucks advert? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by fantomas ( 94850 ) on Saturday February 12, 2011 @12:36PM (#35186752)

    To summarise the article: indie cafes bad, but on the First of Some Month Starbucks will give you free internet for as long as you want. Not "a major chain of coffee houses" but STARBUCKS.

    How much was this person being paid to plug a company's offerings?

  • Do they ban books? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hawguy ( 1600213 ) on Saturday February 12, 2011 @12:37PM (#35186764)

    As long as they ban books, magazines and other reading materials that's a good policy - I hate going to my local coffee shop for a quick drink and snack only to find that half of the tables are taken over by 3 person study groups who pushed 4 tiny tables together to make room for their books and papers, or rows of people on their laptops (some working, some just idling browsing the 'net, and that guy in the corner browsing porn).

    But to ban a Kindle or Nook just because it's electronic seems like a stretch -- browsing is not a joy on either of those platforms, so it's not like someone is going to be spending hours answering his work email. Though he may spend hours reading an eBook, just like he would do with a paper book if he didn't have a Kindle.

  • [citation needed] (Score:4, Insightful)

    by StDoodle ( 1041630 ) on Saturday February 12, 2011 @12:37PM (#35186766)
    Now, I'm not saying I doubt that there are cafes banning such devices. But cafes -- especially indie establishments -- have a long history of having their individual, quirky policies. Is this one or two cafes that have banned said devices, and only said devices? Have the cafes in question banned all extended table-takeover "loitering" (for whatever that means in such a place)? I just find it rather difficult to get worked up over a post with so little information behind it. (Ok, a small amount of info on cafe history... but without the present situation clarified, what good is that?)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 12, 2011 @12:39PM (#35186774)

    Imagine, people just maybe reading paper books, having good conversations with friends, being on dates, or just soaking up the smell of roasted coffee and the light perfume of the pleasant woman in the sweater next to you. No clickety-clack, no heads down and eyes glued to a screen, no thumbs frenetically moving over a tiny unearthly rectange, more people over 60 feeling at ease and not alienated, etc.

    Nothing wrong with full-on hardcore technology style cafes, either. It's just a choice.

  • by newcastlejon ( 1483695 ) on Saturday February 12, 2011 @12:43PM (#35186804)

    I can understand people wanting to avoid the sound of spiders scratching behind earbuds, or bright flashing colours in the corner of one's eye but why ban silent, monochromatic book replacements? This sort of café sounds to me like a gathering place of pompous poseurs (possibly goateed) sat there with tattered - by their previous owners - copies of Milne spouting neo-luddite claptrap.

    Here endeth the rant. If these places want to alienate paying customers then that's their right; it's just a shame there probably won't be another article on their inevitable going out of business. Of course, collecting all this sort [] just makes it that much easier to avoid them, so I'm at best ambivalent about the whole thing.

    P.S. I figure if the only source is a paywalled opinion piece then it shouldn't count as news...

  • Turn off the wi-fi (Score:5, Insightful)

    by qwerty shrdlu ( 799408 ) on Saturday February 12, 2011 @12:43PM (#35186806)
    If they don't want these people hanging out, why go to the trouble of luring them in?
  • by commodore6502 ( 1981532 ) on Saturday February 12, 2011 @12:44PM (#35186812)

    Yeah, it is.
    - In a free country the Citizen owning the shop can ban any damn thing he wants to ban, just as I can invite your into my home, but ban you from wearing shoes.

  • by iceT ( 68610 ) on Saturday February 12, 2011 @12:52PM (#35186886)

    I'd wager it's not the device... or the table space that a laptop takes up... It's way more physical than that...

    It's about CHAIRS and WIFI.

    No one wants to go sit in a coffee shop and when you get there, there are no seats because people have 'set up shop' and are there for the long haul. They want you to enjoy your coffee, and LEAVE. Same goes for WIFI. What once was a sales feature to get you INTO the store: Free WiFi, is now something that KEEPS you in the store, but doesn't make any more money for the shops. How many people drink cup after cup of coffee the entire 2-3 hours they're sitting there? nope. they got one $2 cup of coffee, and then tie up the seats and the wifi for hours. And their WiFi is probably over taxed because of it...

    Books don't consume WiFi, and most people don't read a book for hours.

  • by Rude Turnip ( 49495 ) <[valuation] [at] []> on Saturday February 12, 2011 @01:01PM (#35186980)

    It's a cop-out and intellectual laziness to just say the cafe/shop owners can do whatever they want--we already know that. The discussion of weighing the benefits versus the disadvantages is nonetheless an interesting one. And, perhaps such discussions will give cafe owners food for thought in making their business decisions.

  • by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Saturday February 12, 2011 @01:05PM (#35187002) Journal

    When has "indie" not connoted "pretentious"?

  • by boguslinks ( 1117203 ) on Saturday February 12, 2011 @01:07PM (#35187014)
    Would it have been too much trouble for the author of the Times piece to actually name a place that is prohibiting Kindles? She managed to get in her Charbucks plug without naming any of the villains.
  • by Dcnjoe60 ( 682885 ) on Saturday February 12, 2011 @01:10PM (#35187036)

    What about disabled people with their large clumsy wheelchairs? Or non-white people? Or Women? What about Muslims? What they have one down the street?

    I know the Nazis burned the books, so modern fascists burn Kindles?

    Still feel like a free country?

    That's a stupid argument. For one, disabled people in wheelchars, non-blacks, woment, Muslims, etc, have rights that are enforced under law. Nobody has the right to read a kindle or use a laptop or cell phone wherever they want to.

    Second, the coffee shop, being privately owned is perfectly within its right to say if you don't wear shoes or shirt we will not serve you. If you smoke, we will not serve you and yes, if you use a kindle, we will not serve you.

    The said coffee shops in the articles are doing this for very good business reasons. They have found that when people camp out at a table or booth for hours working on their laptop or reading a kindle, they don't get much revenue. They way the potential for lost revenue by kindle customers getting upset and going elsewhere with the actual loss they were experiencing.

    If you don't like it, you are free to frequent other coffee shops or even start your own that caters to kindle users. That's what it means to live in a free country.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 12, 2011 @01:17PM (#35187088)

    hypocrite: When I do it it is okay but when other do it, it is unnaceptable

  • by Runaway1956 ( 1322357 ) on Saturday February 12, 2011 @01:20PM (#35187124) Homepage Journal
    Alright, I won't cop out. Cafe owners are in business for the same reason most other people are in business: to make a living, or money. Having been a truck driver for years, I spent MANY an hour in truck stop diners, reading the news, reading a book, or just killing time in some other manner. Uncountable hours. But - I wouldn't DREAM of sitting in the diner during their lunch rush hour, taking up space, while I read another chapter or six of Asimov's Foundation. As friendly and chummy as most truck stop waitresses, managers, and owners are toward truck driver's needs - THEY NEED THAT SPACE at rush hour! The average cafe desperately needs all the space available during meal times. And, between meals, many cafes are frantically busy with cleaning up, and preparing for the next onslaught. That is to say, unless the owner makes a policy of welcoming the idle into his establishment, his business space is BUSINESS space. Of course, I know how valuable it is to court those idle people with time to kill, reading a book. Make them welcome today, let them slurp coffee as long as they want, and they'll come back when they are hungry. Some places, anyway. All the same - if you want them to welcome your little distractions, you should take the time to educate them about how your distraction might benefit them in some way. I mean - do you stop at that cafe 3 or more times a week? Are the waitresses familiar with you? Have you ever TALKED to the manager? No, no, and no? Well - this seems to to indicate that you have little, if any value to the store owner. Hey, I'll bet that if you eat at the same restaurant every week, at least twice, the manager WILL remember you before long. Then, ban or no ban, if you pull your reader out for thirty minutes during non-rush hours, he ain't gonna say a WORD to you about it. In short - stop expecting a free ride. You gotta give a little to get a little in this world.
  • by Travelsonic ( 870859 ) on Saturday February 12, 2011 @01:55PM (#35187394) Journal
    I know this is difficult, but ability to patronize another facility =/= no right to remark about the perceived stupidity of such a decision.
  • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Saturday February 12, 2011 @03:01PM (#35187806) Journal
    It's a difficult balance. No one wants to go into an empty cafe, but no one wants to go into a completely full one either. There have been some psychological studies on this, and I forget the exact number but I vaguely remember somewhere about 60% full being optimal for encouraging people in. This means that when you're less than half full, it's a good idea to encourage people to stay - give free refills to regular customers or don't complain if they stay and read without ordering anymore. On the other hand, once you're more than about three quarters full, you want to start encouraging people to leave (although not in a way that discourages them from coming back).
  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Saturday February 12, 2011 @05:08PM (#35188684) Homepage

    "Many indie New York City cafes now heavily restrict, or ban outright, the use of Kindles, Nooks and iPads."

    That sentence should have been followed by the names of some cafes, and an interview with an owner. But no. So it's just blithering.

    The Times is slipping.

  • by PCM2 ( 4486 ) on Saturday February 12, 2011 @06:03PM (#35188894) Homepage

    One of the things San Francisco is doing now is that, when developers want to put up big new office buildings, they have to include a certain amount of "public space" in their designs. I know a couple of buildings that do this, and the result is a really nice, large, open space in the lobby, surrounded by glass, with lots of tables and chairs and some plants, where anybody can go in and sit for free. So if the local coffee shop really wants me to buy my coffee and get the fuck out, then by all means... I'll take it up the road.

    Ah, but that's just the thing. Most coffee shops don't just want you to buy your coffee and get the fuck out, because a coffee shop with no people in it seems cold and uninviting, and it makes you wonder whether there's something wrong with the coffee. The traditional coffee shop atmosphere is one where people sip, read, quietly talk, study, and maybe do a little work. So they need a certain number of people doing just that.

    When I hear about coffee shops making up rules to kick those people out, though, I can only assume that it must be because times are flush. Lucky you -- enjoy it while you can. Cuz you opened a coffee shop in NYC, pal. Hipster trends come and go -- by definition -- and I guarantee you, your coffee won't taste as good as the next guy's in a couple years' time, no matter what you do. You might start wishing you still had some of those customers you alienated, back when it was still cool to pretend people didn't want Nooks and Kindles.

  • by Duradin ( 1261418 ) on Saturday February 12, 2011 @07:18PM (#35189232)

    But, in the name of Freedom, we must force every business to adapt to every customer's wants, whether it is profitable for the business or not!

    If you don't force Ford dealerships to sell new Chevys you must hate freedom.

    Not conforming to every customer's wants is censorship!


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