A couple months ago I saw a girl press onto the subway, give the boy next to her a once-over, and casually tilt her iPhone — accidentally on purpose — so he could see what she was listening to. After a couple tries, it worked. By the time we reached Jay Street, they were talking about music.
As I told Motoko Rich when we spoke last week about book covers in an electronic world, I figure the same kind of thing will be possible with ebooks eventually. The gadgets will develop so that readers can signal their preferences to strangers, or people will find workarounds. True, nowadays I don’t particularly care whether strangers around me know what I’m reading* — this site more than satisfies whatever urge I have to broadcast my literary preferences — but to my college-era self, lurking near boys in coffee shops, it would have been important.
In today’s New York Times, you can read Rich’s consideration of what ebooks mean for cover art and for the social aspects of reading.
* Although I admit I’m just as happy not to have fellow subway passengers know when I’m reading Sarah Palin or extreme Christian fundamentalists on my iPhone.