The New York Times just did a whole piece on the loss of the art of cover art, writing:
You can’t tell a book by its cover if it doesn’t have one.
“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.”
And my favorite tech blog, Geek Sugar, commented on the story:
My feelings are mixed: on one hand, ebooks are good for travel, storage, moving, and general accessibility, but there’s something to be said about the aesthetic of a shelf full of well-designed books. “You can’t tell a book by its cover if it doesn’t have one,” the article says. And it’s true — if I’m going to tackle an ambitious, intellectual book, I’d probably think twice about buying it in ebook form… As someone who has tackled a tough and lengthy read like Anna Karenina , I’d have to agree.
First of all, can we note that everyone is using Anna Karenina as their “intellectual” book? It makes me feel good that I’ve read it and that now I am reading What Happened to Anna K. But back to the question of cover art, I’ve covered this before (Sorry New York Times, I know it’s hard to keep up with Reading for Robin.), and like Geek Sugar’s, my feelings are mixed. I will say that I do miss spying on other people’s reading choices and covers have always played a part in my book buying decisions — yes, I judge a book by it’s cover — but I think all of that is outweighed by the convenience of having all of my books easily stored on one small portable device. When I take a six hour flight to San Fran in a couple of months, I will be less concerned with what the person next to me is reading as I will be happy I could fit plenty of flight-time-and-inevitable-delays-killing books in my most likely already overstuffed carry-on.
My same feelings apply to the idea of missing out on that “old book smell.” Monkey See, a blog on NPR, went on a rant about this argument yesterday, and I have to agree. In general, my books don’t smell nor would I miss the smell if they did. And I certainly wouldn’t be against e-readers because they are nice and free of scent. I get the nostalgia, but listen, one day there will be an app developed for e-readers that will give you the option of that lovely book smell and everyone will be happy. In the meantime, I’m okay with the way things are.
Even my mom, who adamantly refused to get an e-reader for her birthday back in July (“Tell you’re dad I absolutely don’t want one,” she said), could readily admit she changed her mind by December. She thought she would miss the feel of a real book. But in her one month or so with the Kindle never once did my mom complain it didn’t have a nice enough cover or didn’t smell right. Just something to think about in these e-reader crazy days.