One Huge Bummer About e-Books: No One Can See How Smart You Are

TwilightJust admit it. You know this is what you’re reading.

Ah, the good old days.  When you lugged that copy of the Brothers Karamazov everywhere, people saw that you were reading it and quietly approved of you.And, now, these days, with Kindles, you could be reading anything!

Like porn, for example.  Or trash.  Or Twilight.

And what good is that?  Half the point of slogging through all those Books You Should Read was the societal boost you got from being seen reading them.

And then, of course, from the publisher’s perspective, there’s the loss of all that free advertising.

Motoko Rich, NYT:

“There’s something about having a beautiful book that looks intellectually weighty and yummy,” said Ms. Wiles, who recalled that when she was rereading “Anna Karenina” recently, she liked that people could see the cover on the subway. “You feel kind of proud to be reading it.” With a Kindle or Nook, she said, “people would never know.”

Among other changes heralded by the e-book era, digital editions are bumping book covers off the subway, the coffee table and the beach. That is a loss for publishers and authors, who enjoy some free advertising for their books in printed form: if you notice the jackets on the books people are reading on a plane or in the park, you might decide to check out “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” or “The Help,” too….

In the bookstore, where a majority of sales still take place, covers play a crucial role. “If you have already passed that hurdle of having a customer be attracted to the cover, and then they pick up the book,” said Patricia Bostelman, vice president for marketing at Barnes & Noble, “an enormous battle has been won.”

(Well, then, maybe books will be worth less.  Which means we can all pay less.  Which seems fair, given that e-books are just a bunch of bits with no marginal cost whatsoever.  Are you listening, publishers?)

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