With popular e-readers like the Amazon Kindle now starting to sell for as low as $79, major publishers are rightly terrified that physical books may lose their place under Christmas trees around the country. (Lugging a suitcase full of giftable books to Granny’s house is back-breaking work, after all.) Their solution has been to prettify books, make them more of an objet d’art (pardon the snooty Frenchsim). The Times’ Julie Bosman lists off a few big hits like Haruki Murakami’s translucent-sheathed 1Q84 and Jay-Z’s gold-Rorschach-ed memoir Decoded as a few examples. But just walk into any bookstore and you can almost do your shopping by feel, what with all the embossed covers.
This is great news for cover illustrators, surely, and people who like to ostentatiously display their oh-so-erudite reading lists — a Kindle may be great for traveling, but not so great for bragging about your shelf worth of Man Booker winners. Whether this will save the print publishing industry or relegate it to fancy special editions remains to be seen. But with the holidays approaching, this may be as good a time as any to think about what’s really at stake here. Are you an “ooh, pretty books!” kind of person or an “all I want for Christmas is Amazon gift cards” kind of person?