Thursday, April 1, 2010

With an ebook, no one will notice that you’re reading Tolstoy over Tori Spelling (a lesson for pretentious readers)

Yesterday, there was an article in the NY Times about how the social aspects of reading might change in the digital age – mainly, book covers and the ability to browse/snoop on what others around you are reading. Attractive book covers not only help attract potential buyers at bookstores and patrons at libraries, but they also facilitate book discussions among total strangers in the park or on the bus, and most importantly, bring comfort to librarians with low self-esteem who like to show up in the staff lunch room with giant hardback copies of Crime and Punishment for pleasure reading while they scowl at their coworkers with their latest Janet Evanovich paperback.

As someone who likes to spy on observe others, not being able to see what someone is reading is a bit of a disturbance. How else will I pass judgment on them for their inferior reading choice (ahem, Wuthering Heights)? How will I know when to clap someone on the back and shout “Huzzah!” for their decision to read John Hodgman’s The Area’s of My Expertise, aka “The Greatest Book Ever Flippin’ Written”?

This matter is actually more important for me personally because I make a lot of my reading choices based on the book’s cover (THAT’S RIGHT! I’m a librarian who judges books by their cover, how do you like them apples?!). Like a child, I am drawn to bright graphics, bold fonts, clever art concepts, and intelligent photographs. I like my literature’s packaging to basically resemble the box of a kid’s cereal that is high in sugar (more candy marshmallows, please!). I would like to say that it is overwhelmingly successful, but admittedly only works probably 50% of the time (read 40%). When a book I have selected based on its cover and perhaps interesting dust jacket blurb disappoint me as a reader I feel betrayed, maybe a little abused. I suppose someone judging my reading material by the cover art would come to the conclusion that I have the attention span of an insect and that I will read anything bound in a design reflecting pop art. They might be right…

However, since I am famously slow to upgrade to new technology (yes, I actually own a rotary phone), absent covers from ebooks most likely won’t be a problem for me…for now. I will continue to pick out books based on their covers that I can hold in my hot little hands, but I’ll probably have to come up with new ways to spy on what my coworkers are reading. And, of course, that is what the internet is for.

1 comment:

  1. yes, but the device is the status symbol, no longer the book. people will meet because one has the "cory doctorow" edition iPad... what you are reading will never matter again.