I'm sure that by now many of you have heard Amazon's announcement last week that ebooks are now outselling traditional books. While this is one giant step forward for technology, (and I love technology!) this recent Slate article did bring up an interesting point: In a soon-to-be world where everyone is using a Kindle or Nook, how are we possibly going to be able to judge each other by our covers?
I don't mean that in a bad way, either. It's just that back when books had actual covers, it was a lot easier to glance over at the person on the train or the treadmill or at the table next to you and peek at what they were reading. I'll admit it. I do it all the time. I'm interested to know what other people are reading, and if it looks enticing enough, I'll make a note to put it on my own reading list. I've found some great books that way.
Plus, if eyes are the windows to the soul, books are the windows to the personality. What better way to get a feel for someone you just met than to take a peek at their bookshelves? Is this potential new acquaintance a fan of popular who-done-its or Ancient German Philosophers? Sci-fi or poetry? Seven habits or chic-lit? (Or all of the above?) Books make great conversation starters. ("I see you have a copy of X over there on the coffee table. What did you think of the main character?") Bookshelves can tell you how someone feels about something, and what you have in common, and is still less intrusive than peeking in the medicine cabinet.
I suppose we'll find other ways to connect over books though. I'm a member of a website that allows me to keep a virtual bookshelf of books I've read (and want to read). The site allows me to rank how much I like a book, and even have discussions and join special online reading groups of other people with similar tastes. (Although to be completely honest, I don't really do much discussing there...I use it mainly to keep track of what I've already read so I don't make the mistake of trying to read something that I already read a year ago. I do follow other people's recommendations though, and it's a fabulous way to discover new authors).
So I guess "Hey! You're reading that? I read that! What do you think of it?" will always live on in some way...we'll just do it with booklover914 from Sydney rather than the woman on her lunch break at the table next to us.