You may have noticed a striking similarity in recent book cover designs. That is, if you’ve even noticed them at all. There are a number of a reasons for that, which The Atlantic looked into in this post Book Cover Clones: Why Do So Many Recent Novels Look Alike? It may be because of the proliferation of e-readers, they suggest. This pattern, book illustrator Duncan Long says in the piece, “results directly from the advent of the e-reader. Thanks to the small size and reduced resolution of e-reader screens, book jackets have become less complex in order to preserve the integrity of the cover art onscreen.
It’s an issue that they’ve examined previously, asking Has Kindle Killed the Book Cover? I wasn’t really aware of this shift myself, because who even knew they made book covers anymore? Much like mp3s did for album art, it seems entirely likely that the book cover is something that will continue to decline in prominence as more and more of us turn to e-readers for our lit fixes. You can’t judge a book by its cover if you don’t even know it’s there. But that’s not the only way that e-readers are changing the game. Herewith, a few other suggestions for how our reading habits, and quite possibly the entirety of civilization, will be forever ruined by the seemingly innocent device.
Who wrote this thing?
Unlike with traditional books, the name of the author isn’t printed at the top of every page on an e-reader. With a paperback, it’s always there right in your face every time you put it down. An e-reader simply inserts you right back in to where you left off, so the author’s name isn’t being reinforced into your memory at every pause. Expect no one to ever know the name of authors anymore in the near future, leading to a decrease in perceived social capital and value in becoming a writer, meaning fewer people going into the field, and eventually no more new books. The nation’s literacy rates will plummet as young writers are no longer inspired to take upon themselves the once noble literary burden. Then again, that means fewer smug douches elbow-patching around twiddling their carefully affected beards, but overall a pretty big loss. Besides there being fewer writers, there won’t be a next generation of readers around to read their work anyway, as more and more parents have started reading bedtime stories to their kids on e-readers, as this Wall Street Journal story points out.
Wait, what’s going on in this book again?
It used to be you could just look back ten or so pages at a time with a regular book, to see a paragraph that would jog your memory as to where you left off chronologically in a story. Now hitting the scroll button multiple times is like a whole laborious task, so you just kind of have to wing it as you go and hope you catch up to the plot, or even worse, actually pay really close attention to what’s happening from the get go. That sounds like a lot of work, especially for summer reading, plus there’s a bunch of stuff you’ve been meaning to get to on Netflix. E-readers have therefore have made us all stupid. Speaking of which:
Quitting a book is too tempting now.
The ease with which you can abandon a book that you don’t immediately engage with is problematic, too. Now that we don’t have to go to a store to get a new book like a goddamned neanderthal, or even wait for the Amazon delivery, it’s way too tempting to jump ship on a non-starter. It’s too bad, because some of my best reading experiences over the years have come from pushing on through a book that my brain was begging me to quit on, in what I refer to as the Stephen Stills reading corollary: If you can’t be with the book you love, read the book you’re with. Not anymore. Don’t like the second sentence of the preface? NEXT.