Should strangers get to know what you are reading?
“I ended my night at Lolita, on Broome Street in SoHo, recommended to me by friends. It’s a languid, sprawling space, with an excellent pink cursive neon sign in front, where most of the women looked like extras from an episode of Lena Dunham’s HBO series, “Girls.” I would report to you the books they were carrying, but the only readers in the bunch were grasping Kindles. When it’s no longer possible to tell what attractive young women are reading, part of the romance of Manhattan is gone. It’s time to move to Sheboygan and open a deli.”
One of my readers alerted me in a private e-mail to that quotation, which is in this
by Dwight Garner.
Honestly, my first reaction was that the author seemed like a creep.
It felt like an invasion of privacy. That writer wanted to tell the public what people were reading?
That’s like telling people what other people are thinking…or whispering to each other…or who they are dating.
Reading can be a very private thing. What if the book was one to help you through a time of grief? What if it was to help prepare you to do something deeply personal?
This is a bit of a head-spinning change of perspective for me.
After all, I’ve actually met people because of what I was reading.
I was in a park once, reading a specialized magazine. I had someone tentatively approach me who was part of a non-profit involved with that issue. That led to a long and significant part of my life, where I ended up sitting on the Board of that group for a period.
That wouldn’t have happened if the magazine wasn’t apparent.
However, as I think about it, weren’t we largely acting as unpaid advertisers for the publisher?
After all, the cover not only attracted us in a store, it probably sold the book to others who saw us reading it on public transit as well.
Some people don’t like reading ads on their Kindles…I wonder how they felt about being an ad with a paperbook?
Yes, some readers put p-books in slip covers. Some tried hard to obscure the cover. Some even put one book inside another one.
Now, none of that is necessary.
You can read a book without what is effectively an intimate relationship being exposed to others.
Naturally, I don’t have any objection to you sharing if you want to do that. People tweet the books they read, and post them on Facebook. The old opening like, “Read any good books lately?” still works.
Let me ask you, though: if you could have the title of the book you are reading displayed on the back of your Kindle (on the outside of a cover, if you use one) so other people could see what it was, would you do that?
Wouldn’t that feel like egotism?
What if you had an app that would broadcast the title you are reading on your Kindle Fire to other people around you? Maybe just to people in a certain group to which you belong?
Eventually, information about us will flow pretty freely, I think. We may wear “Google glasses”, or the equivalent, that do facial recognition. They’ll search the web for you, find a tagged picture of the person in the opposite seat on the subway, and tell you their name, and their likes and dislikes.
It’s going to be hard to avoid that…and if you do, it may make you seem strange and dangerous. You know how you can get weirded out when you see someone who always wears impenetrable dark glasses, or when a limo with tinted windows is parked near you? What if you looked at someone, and instead of the normal background information your “datacles” (I just made that up…data spectacles) gave you, you saw nothing about them? Would you hold your things a little tighter, and maybe move to another seat?
Bottom line…should strangers get to know what you are reading?
Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.
Thanks to my reader for the heads-up!
This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.