Is it impolite to ask someone what they are reading if they are reading it on an e-reader?
On walking into the staff room at work to use the printer I met a colleague reading an e-reader, I hesitated at first wondering whether I should interrupt her bliss, but I couldn’t help myself.
“What are you reading?” I asked.
She stuttered a little and started to turn pink and do you know what she said? She said
“I can’t remember.”
She couldn’t remember the title of the book right there in front of her. Would this happen with a paper book? Does this happen when all your books are in cyberspace and you can take them anywhere? Does your book’s title become that unimportant that you forget what you are reading? No, she didn’t want to tell me. Why? Who knows?
The e-reader: Kobo, Kindle, iPad and others; technology to store about 3500 books and take them everywhere you go. Since this growth in popularity I have noticed my interest in what people are reading more than I did before. It was obviously always there, but I just didn’t notice because it is easy when someone is reading a paper book in your company you can see the book, the title and you can peep over their shoulder and read the title on the top of the page, you don’t have to ask. I started to think about why people would choose to read an e-reader. Personally I do like to read a proper paper book, there is something satisfying about holding the book in your hands and turning each page, seeing the picture on the front cover; the blurb, all of what is meant by book contributes to the whole experience of a book, even going to the book shop to buy a book and, close by second, waiting for book to arrive from the famous online bookstore.
Do you think that the book you read tells people something about you; almost like a fashion statement?
The middle aged man reading ‘Harry Potter’ may think people see him as ‘down-with-the-kids’, the student reading ‘Pride and Prejudice’ may think people see her as an intellectual and either one could be correct, but I think the book you read is a lot like the clothes you choose to wear, in some respects, as they give signals out as to who you are, but then you can hide behind your clothing. When you see someone reading a particular genre of book, this might be just me, but I think you form an opinion about that person; what they are like, friendly, exciting, boring, intelligent, how much money they earn, etc. etc. Think about it for a second; you would think differently of someone who was sat reading ‘50 Sheds of Grey’, (yes Sheds) compared to someone sat reading ‘Bravo Two Zero’, both very good books, but we will leave that subject there.
Maybe some people don’t want you to know what they are reading. This could be because they are reading a self-help book; quit drugs, trying to beat depression etc. As you’d imagine this would be a very private thing. They may be reading a book that they think people will judge them wrongly for; for example, reading a book written by an infamous convicted child killer; you wouldn’t want to draw attention to the fact that you had spent money on a book written by such a high profile, hated person.
All-being-said, I do read books via Kindle iPhone as I find that if I spot an interesting book in a magazine I have to buy it immediately. They are good for reading from any angle, on your back, on your side, on your front, in the dark; you get the point. You can take all your iBooks everywhere you go and have a sneaky read at the traffic lights; although, this is not recommended and is illegal.
What do you think? Do you think people use them to read otherwise embarrassing subject matter in public or with family? Do you think they are just a convenient way to carry your whole library around? But most of all: Do you think it is impolite to ask someone what they are reading on their e-reader?