By its cover (DOG EAR)

By its cover (DOG EAR)

My wife and I share a strange little habit, one carried over from my bachelor days. We like to go to dinner and read. We usually go this at fast food joints, quiet places during off times when we can sit in our corner and read our respective books. Then, over desert frostees or brownies or whatever, we’ll chat about what we’ve read.

Last time over at Wendy’s, an old lady got up and said how nice it was to see people reading. She even mentioned how nice it was that I was reading The Three Musketeers. We chatted with each other a bit and then she tottered off. Sweet.

And that’s one of those side benefits of books that eReaders don’t share, the ability to see a cover and know what the person is reading, and perhaps strike up a conversation with them about it. Had be both been hunched over tablets, she’d probably not said anything (we could be watching videos or scanning email or anything else). But books invite conversation.

I remember when we visited the bookstore Slightly Foxed in London, and were chatting with the owner. He confirmed this very thing, pointing to the recent phenomena of David Nicholls’ One Day. This was just a tiny run of a book initially, but it had a simple yet distinctive cover, two white facial profiles against a red background. The thing was, London commuters on the tube would see their fellow passengers reading it, their eye caught by the cover. They’d chat with the reader and go get their own copy. Soon enough, everyone was reading One Day, to Mr. Nicholls’ profit.

The point is, no one ever inquires about what you are eReading. If someone asks you a question about your reader, it is about the device and not your contents. eReader users generally center on their devices, not their current passion in print. And that’s sad, really, because it’s just another aspect of reading that is slipping away in the ongoing digital revolution.