'None of Your Business' by Anonymous
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 I’m not online.
What’s interesting from a publishing viewpoint is that I’m more likely to buy or read books on my Kindle that I wouldn’t buy in a bookstore. For example, I downloaded Mitt Romney’s free Kindle book Believe In America: Mitt Romney's Plan for Jobs and Economic Growth. I wouldn’t have taken it if someone handed it to me on the street -- I don’t want the book lying around gathering dust, and I don’t 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 wouldn’t 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, “get a new book without leaving your beach chair AND not having to share what you’re reading with the woman lying next to you…” Well, that’s 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…