This is a few days old, and probably doesn’t really merit reporting as “news” at any rate, but on the Guardian Books blog a little while ago Sarah Crown wrote that the problem with the Kindle is that it makes it impossible to see what the other people on public transportation are reading.
Spying on what everyone else on the bus is reading is my main source of entertainment on the way into work in the morning. Train journeys are enlivened by trying to sneak a look at the cover of the book the person opposite is buried in, without them spotting what I’m doing. One of my favourite internet destinations is the People Reading blog which posts pictures of the denizens of San Francisco, with their latest reading material; a prize, meanwhile, to anyone who can reunite me with a blog I used to visit a few years back written by a woman somewhere in north America, who used to clock not only the title but the page of books bypassers were reading, nip into the nearest bookshop, track down book and page and transcribe what she found there.
I’ve covered this very point before, and I imagine other TeleRead writers have as well. I’m a bit ambivalent about it. On the one hand, yes, there’s no God-given right to be able to tell what other people around you are reading. On the other, it does kind of bring you closer to the people around you to know what books they are enjoying.
And, of course, it provides free marketing for the publishing industry for their books to be seen in public—which is something they’ll lose with e-books, unless and until someone makes a two-faced tablet that can display the book cover on the back.
But things change. And just because it’s “the way things have always been done” is not sufficient reason to cling to the past. Perhaps the people who used to enjoy passively spying on their fellow passengers can instead work up the nerve to strike up a conversation: “Pardon me, but could I ask what you’re reading?” The worst they can say is “No.”