On the subway or in a cafe, taking a peek at what others are reading has long provided a convenient way to judge them on the spot: a mindless crime-novel fan? A Joyce-toting member of the intellectual elite? But with the Kindle, we’re left guessing, observes James Wolcott in Vanity Fair. No more will we be able to spot a “literary soulmate” across the aisle.
Books are clothing, helping us “brand our identities.” But “at the rate technology is progressing, we may eventually be traipsing around culturally nude in an urban rain forest.” The same is happening to record and CD collections, collected and cultivated over many years, as the iPod takes over. So what can refill all the empty space? Most likely, after the recession, we’ll collect stuff “to show off not our personal aesthetics or expensive whims but our ethics—our progressive virtues.”