In Need of a Paper Bag Book Cover


In middle school, I remember some kids bought or made book covers for their text books. The purported purpose of book covers was to protect the text books over the course of the year so the students could return them unharmed. The covers, however, were just blank canvases begging for doodles. Never having book covers myself, I often wondered how the students who did knew which book they were grabbing out of their bags and lockers.

Fast-forward to today’s Kindle vs paper book debate. There are the paper-feel arguments and the but it’s so much lighter/cheaper arguments. But the complaint I find most interesting, and people are most surprised by, is that the Kindle robs other people of seeing what other people are reading Literary voyeurism curtailed by technology.

I’ve also heard that the reading of bodice-rippers in public has gone up, thanks to the modern-day book cover.

What makes books publicly readable?

I wouldn’t want to read a non-fiction book about serial killers on the train, but I’d have no problem pulling out Silence of the Lambs. I’m OK with reading a light romance, but would never let my fellow commuters see me reading anything with Fabio on the cover.

The last one I think it pride. I would much rather be seen as a smart reader than a trashy reader. And real serial killers are just too creepy…but I’m not sure why fictionalized ones are cool to read. If I saw someone else reading Silence of the Lambs, I’d remember how much I liked the book. If I saw someone reading about a non-fiction book about serial killers, I wouldn’t think “oh, he must be researching for a book,”  I’d think “time to move train cars.”

So, books are just an extension of us and how we want to be perceived in the world?

2 thoughts on “In Need of a Paper Bag Book Cover

  1. bethfinke

    Never thought about that: the Kindle *does* rob other people of seeing what other people are reading! I’ve been reading audio books for years and have myself convinced that the reason I can never remember what book I read last month has nothing to do with old-age memory loss. It’s just that I don’t see the book cover on my bedside table and am not reminded of the title night after night…!

    • I’d guess that it’s an unmemorable book and not your memory that was at fault.

      A month or so ago on the train, I noticed that two people, several seats apart, were reading the exact same hardcover. I felt this overwhelming desire to tell them that they were A) reading the same book and B) should sit together and discuss it. I refrained.

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