The theory was Book Cover Shame. The idea that it's embarrassing walking around with a book whose cover is pretty much the equivalent of you SCREAMING:
"I'm reading a bodice-ripping romance novel because I need more passion in my life!"
In contrast, an e-book is completely anonymous. You could be reading about Proust's remembering his pastry (Remembrance Of Things Past) or Orwell's dystopia (1984) - nobody knows what you're reading except you.
And I think that there's an amazing upside to this idea.
See, there's this parallel concept in Children's and especially Teen publishing that boys won't read books that they don't want to be seen with. Hence, boys won't read any books that "look" girly. And thus most of the marketing and promotion of Teen books - especially any books with female protagonists - skews towards girls, because they are the "readers." This makes "girl book" covers look even MORE girly, to appeal to girl readers.
Boys, if they read, are seen as reluctant, and only willing to read about boy protagonists on "manly" adventures. Boy book covers are macho.
Much of the time the cover art pretty much conveys to everyone if the book is considered a "girl book" or a "boy book." Look for yourself:
But enter e-books. If I'm a 15 year old guy, I may LOVE vampire stories, but I don't necessarily want the other kids at school seeing me walking around carrying "Twilight." Especially after the movie and all those sparkly-in-the-sunlight Edward moments. Now I can read it. If I want to read "Wintergirls" or "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants" - well, now I can. And nobody has to know, unless I tell them.
Think about what this means for GAY books. Boys AND girls can now carry around and read the amazing GLBTQ titles here on this blog anonymously.
Nobody will know if you're reading "The God Box" or "Gravity." Nobody will know if you're thinking about "can I be Gay and believe in God?" or if you're thinking about which Jonas Brother is cutest... err, most talented. If it's on your e-book, you could be reading ANYthing, and no one across the cafeteria would know.
E-books allow everyone access to stories and information in a way that's private. And there are moments as a teenager when I would have LOVED that level of privacy (After all, I read Anne McCaffrey's fantasy novels with girl protagonists!)
So while I love paper books (or as I recently heard someone call them, "the dead tree versions of books") I think there's quite an upside to this whole e-book transition.
And sure, I look forward to the day when anyone can carry around ANY book and not be embarrassed or made to feel bad about themselves because of what that book is. But for right here, right now? E-books mean that boys and girls are going to read more. Without fear of Book Cover Shame.
And that's a great thing.
What do you think? Have you ever experienced or seen Book Cover Shame in action? Do you think e-books might change that?