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When I was in school we had to wrap our textbooks in heavy paper. I vaguely remember the photos or abstract art the publisher chose for the book, but it didn't really matter -- I ended up with a textbook wrapped in a brown grocery sack with the word ALGEBRA scribbled on the front.
Sometimes it was amusing to scribble HISTORY on the ALGEBRA book... It didn't matter what was really inside as long as I knew. And over the course of the semester the doodles on the book cover pretty much made it a moot point for whatever the original title was -- my own, crude artwork was as useful as the publisher meant their commercial artwork to be, but only to me. No one really knew what that textbook was based on the cover.
I thought about this while reading Richard Dawkins The God Delusion in the pub last night. You're likely to end up in an uncomfortable conversation about reading about the pros of atheism and the cons of religion, even in wacky, progressive Portland.
But reading it on my Kindle is like having a generic book cover wrapping a textbook. Every book I read on my Kindle appears to be a small, black notebook. I could be reading the Bible or Fear of Flying.
The Kindle has brought anonymity to my reading list, even when Iím not online.
Whatís interesting from a publishing viewpoint is that Iím more likely to buy or read books on my Kindle that I wouldnít buy in a bookstore. For example, I downloaded Mitt Romneyís free Kindle book Believe In America: Mitt Romney's Plan for Jobs and Economic Growth. I wouldnít have taken it if someone handed it to me on the street -- I donít want the book lying around gathering dust, and I donít want to encourage that use of tree pulp. But downloading it for free from Amazon, and reading it in my little black book free from prying eyes, means I can learn a little bit more about what Romney would do to America if he got elected; and I can form my arguments against the candidate that much more clearly.
The ease of access to these tomes we wouldnít otherwise waste our time on has always been a big selling point for e-readers -- get a new book without leaving your beach chair. But this aspect of, ďget a new book without leaving your beach chair AND not having to share what youíre reading with the woman lying next to you...Ē Well, thatís a bit long for a commercial tagline, but one I think Amazon might be missing out on.
Either that or they just have it under wraps, just like the kraft paper covers on my textbook...
John Bissell: Re: "None of Your Business" by Anonymous
I am so torn over the kindle. You're right that there are books that I would read if it were on the kindle that I wouldn't read for the very reasons you point out. I also like the ability to change text size since I see so poorly. So I want one. Except: Maggie has one - I used to go to my favorite book shop and talk to them about the books Maggie likes and then get her presents. Now I have no Idea what she is reading, and i can't get it at my local bookshop if I did.
Now As I think about it, this is double edged. I love the conversations I get from talking about what I'm reading. I love making that connection with other people. I lose that with the Kindle.
Michael Bissell: Re: John Bissell
The conversations about what to read have just moved online. I never really trusted the opinion of the retail clerk at book stores, you were lucky if you found someone who's opinion you could trust and who knew who your wife was.
And the anonymity of what you're reading is up to you. I don't HAVE to share what I'm reading, but if I wanted, I could turn on a social widget and share highlights and passages with my friends... Of course, they have to have to book, too...
Kristen: Re: Michael Bissell: "None of Your Business" by Anonymous
Then there is the fact that I could go to Powell's or Half Price Books and pick up a copy of a book, pay for it with cash, and read it with no one knowing I'm looking at it. With my Kindle, my purchases or even my Prime "borrows" become part of my record @Amazon, and then I start getting all these recommendations that are annoying, and who knows how my browsing habits are being interpreted and resold? *yes, I'm a bit paranoid about some things.*