Friday, 26 June 2015

Under Cover by Julie Sykes

In the good old days if you’d asked me what I was reading I would give you the title of my current book. Ask me the author and I’d know that, too. Ask me the publisher and you’d have yourself a hat trick.

Fast forward to now. Ask me the title of the book I’m currently reading and I would have to think about it. I might remember eventually. Then again, I might not. I would struggle to tell you the author and as for the publisher. No chance.

So what’s changed, apart from my age - and seriously, I’m not anywhere near old enough to start blaming that for a poor memory.

Well, I think it’s the way I’m reading. In the good old days I bought books. Lots of them. My guilty pleasure was to have a stack of books, lying horizontally on the shelf, all waiting to be read.

These days I read on a Kindle. It’s SO transportable. When I go on a journey I can take as many books as I like and all in the one handbag. It’s much easier to buy books. I finish one and can purchase and download the next, immediately. And (I’m VERY ashamed to admit to this – probably a post for another blog!) e-books are cheap.

And here lies the problem with my poor memory. When you put a book down the cover is there, waving. Goodbye. It winks each time you pass it. Remember me? We were having such fun together. When are you coming back? It shouts LOUDLY at you when you finally pick it up again. Yay! Knew you couldn’t resist me.

The author’s name plays along. On the cover, nudging you gently. Whispering in your ear. My name’s…..Can we be friends?

The publisher’s name is there, too, a little more discrete, often on the spine, but still a presence. Ahem, excuse me for butting in, but did you know that The Little Fox Paw Printing Press brought you this story?

There are many excellent things about the e-reader, but trust me, the cover isn’t one. For a start, unless you read on a tablet or something similar, the cover is grey. It’s also very shy. You see it once, at the start, and sometimes not even then if the book automatically opens on the first page.

So here’s a challenge to any clever inventors or techie types out there. Design a cover for an e-reader that displays the book currently being read and in colour. Can it be done? Is there a market for it? What do you think?

ps My current reading book is a real one. Bits of its lovely cover are shown here in the text. If you haven’t guessed by now, then it’s I’ll give you the Sun by Jandy Nelson, published in the UK by Walker Books.

I knew all that without having to think about it!


Emma Barnes said...

I hadn't thought of it that way, but you're right. Also explains why I don't seem to re-read e-books (and I am a big re-reader): because it's often the sight of the book itself that prompts me to pick it up again (sometimes to go straight to a favourite bit). When it's one title in a list on my kindle - doesn't happen.

Joan Lennon said...

An excellent idea - surely doable? (Which is of course easy to say when I haven't a clue HOW!)

Julie Sykes said...

I hadn't thought of that, Emma. I hardly ever re-read e-books.

My thoughts exactly Joan - says one who, last week, sat all up night with techie son watching helplessly on while he fixed my PC!

Clare Zinkin said...

I was so annoyed about this on my kindle, that I wrote to Amazon asking them to at least display the title and author in black and white - even as a strapline if nothing else, so that I could remember them.

They paid me no heed. Shame. It constantly irks me.

Susan Price said...

Hi, Devil's Advocate here. I can't say this bothers me a bit. I can tell you that the book I just finished re-reading (without looking) was Jenny Alexander's intriguing 'Writing In The House of Dreams', self-pubbed, with a beautiful lilac cover showing a dreamer sleeping under a tree, with shamanic birds peeping down at her. And I read it on a Kindle.

It was a Kindle Fire, though, which displays covers in full colour. And, as I often close the book to play games, read documents, check emails, look at photos, use the calculator, look at the UK map etc, I often see the cover.

It goes to show how powerful visual memory is, though, doesn't it?

I think your Kindle cover that displays the current book cover might be done. It would need to be connected, either wirelessly - in which case, your Kindle would need wi-fi - or by a cable or plug-in. It would need some kind of programming to pick out the cover file of the book you were actually reading, and display it. I'm guessing this could be written, but know nothing about how.

Either way, I think it would be an expensive bit of kit, just for a cover. Cheaper and wasier to get a Fire?

Richard said...

I have this problem too. It's a significant fiddle to find out the title and author once you are inside the book. A simple strapline at the top of the page would be so easy to put in, but they don't.

The cover idea is good. I would love that. The "screensaver" thing on Kindle is boring and meaningless anyway. Assuming they have pictures of a suitable resolution it would be trivial to implement. There's no need for WiFi if the images are downloaded with the file. A Kindle file includes the cover graphic so it should be usable, but images are limited to 63KB so colour is probably not going to work.

Katherine Roberts said...

I have always thought that the screensaver on the Kindle would be the ideal place to display the cover (and author/publisher) of the ebook currently being read... and if you're one of those people who have several books going at once, then maybe a collage of small covers made up of all the ones in progress to shame you into finishing or deleting some of them? Or - at the very least - a way of selecting one of your downloaded books as the screen saver? (I suggested this to amazon once as I feel it must be possible, but probably trickier than it sounds!)

Julie Sykes said...

There are lots of great ideas here. Katherine, I really like the collage of covers one. I've got far too many unread books on my Kindle and I keep buying more.

It seems that I'm not the only one that misses seeing the book cover.

So, over to you Amazon!

Dianne Hofmeyr said...

OK Im going to have to admit it... I've never read an entire eBook whether on a Kindle or an iPad. Actually I probably have only spent at the most an hour on an eBook. And I know why... I need to page, I need to smell the paper, I need the cover and its blurb, I need to look back at words that I love. And now you've reminded me why. A real book takes me on a journey that is sensual... where I'm enveloped by paper and print.

And now I'm dodging tablets and Kindles that are being thrown at me... get a real life – you're saying! Sorry Susan, Katherine, Anne Rooney and everyone! Maybe it's an age thing... and I'm holding on like people held on to horse drawn carts in the age of petrol! Forgive me all you racing car drivers!