Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Please watch the gap between the train and the platform

by Stephanie

As I ride my commuter train into and out of the city every day, I like to peek at the riders around me and see what they’re reading. And what’s interesting is that now that the Kindle and iPad are vastly replacing physical books, the ability to creep on people becomes complicated. It sometimes makes me wish readers had little thought bubbles floating over their heads, a title & author ticker scrolling by. But that’s a digression. How many of you can admit to sneaking a peek at what others are reading, particularly in a public transportation setting? I know you all have, don’t lie! With that in mind, I enjoyed happening upon this blog titled The Book Spy, in which one blogger documents the books he sees while riding the New York City subway, and includes information such as the location / train line spotted, a physical description of the reader, and other varying assessments on the encounter. The reason I like this blog so much is that it reinforces an important point: the physical act of reading is, in fact, enduring. Maybe I seem a bit negative in thinking that reading risks becoming a diminishing pastime, but it is admittedly refreshing to find people actively reading in an otherwise mp3-player-dominated setting. Anyway, if nothing else, I hope you enjoy the Book Spy’s interesting, sometimes snarky evaluations of his fellow subway riders as much as I did!


  1. I don't just spy on them, I walk up to them and ask them what they are reading, especially if it is an iPad or Kindle. I quickly explain that I am an author and am curious to see what other people like.

    The vast majority of people don't mind telling me, especially if it is a book or author that I have read. We immediately launch into a discussion about the book, or in the case where I haven't read it, other books the author has written that I have read.

    However there have been a couple of cases where it didn't quite work out as I had hoped. In one case the person was reading some kind of erotic novel and was clearly embarrassed by it, and in a couple of other cases I was told it was none of my business. That was true, but the way that they said it did seem a little rude. Hmmm, maybe they were reading something naughty as well.

  2. I've read entire newspaper articles over people's shoulders!

  3. I definitely spy on the bus, but I try to be subtle about it. Sometimes it drives me crazy to glimpse at the book the person next to me is reading but not be able to make out a title/author on the pages. I usually end up leaning more and more forward to try to see the cover. So maybe I'm not so subtle...but no matter what, I try not to actually read over someone's shoulder. I can often tell when someone is doing that to me and it's very annoying/distracting.

    This morning, for example, I was re-reading a friend's manuscript. The woman next to me shamelessly turned and started reading it, too. I had to put it away. (I mean, it wasn't a published book...it was something entrusted to me to critique. Not for prying eyes!)

    Thanks for introducing me to that blog!

  4. I'm happy to know I'm not alone. I also spy on others and not just on public transportation -- at the coffee shop, doctor's office, and while on vacation.

    As a YA lover, I spend a lot of time at the library and bookstores. I not only spy, but have to give browsers my two cents if they pick up a book I know. But then, I also move books around if my favorite read isn't getting the shelf space I think it deserves.

    I may have a bit of a problem...

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