Bookscan - relationship version. 11/07/2011
A disturbing aspect of e-books has just occurred to me. If most books are distributed in electronic format, how will you check people out?
Back in the day of my not terribly flaming youth, (more one-ring gas stove than flaming, really) the fact that someone did, or didn’t, have a book collection was a pretty big pointer. No books at all? They might be hotter’n a smoking pistol, but I knew any relationship was doomed from the start. But if ereaders become the new shelves, how will you know if potential partners have anything more on there than the owner’s manual?
Ah, the moment of entering someone’s territory, being left to peruse the bookcase while they went to the loo or put the kettle on. Running a quick eye over the titles, one ear open for the returning footstep. Fantasy? Good; that much in common (but if there’s more than one Gor novel, run.) SF? Also good. SF but no fantasy…hmm. Potential arguments over the worth of stuff not based on Real Science. Classics? Good; again, depending. Only classics? Was this person going to tell me that SF and fantasy weren’t Real Books and I shouldn’t be rotting my brain with them? Because that was never going to end well. Crime? Yes, a good sign –as long as it wasn’t a serial-killer novel lying on a table with a notebook next to it and Post-its on all the grimmest pages. And if there was nothing but Mailer, Hemingway, and some magazine with guns on the cover? Oops. Sorry, bye.
There was more to check out than just the titles, too; were the books worryingly pristine? Either a bibliophile, which meant the relationship could end over a marmite fingerprint on a formerly spotless page (plus, I’ve never been able to get my head around the idea that the physical book is of more import than the story within) or the books had been purchased mainly for show, or as gifts, and never actually been read. Lots of books, all ordered on the Library of Congress system – with spine labels? And a catalogue? There might be an issue or two there. Nothing wrong with being organised, but there’s organised, and there’s obsessive.
Without such an early warning system (even though, on at least one occasion, I ignored mine completely) I can’t help feeling that us book-loving folk will lose a massive, secret advantage in relationship decision-making.