what was a book
3

A Week of Watching People Read in the Subway

Books on the subway are increasingly like birds in the jungle: colorful, hard-to-spot, and of obsessive interest to the lonely and peculiar. Here are one week’s worth of sightings and speculations.

Monday, 5:20PM, Brooklyn-bound C train, 23rd Street:

Facts: Thin man with bushy black beard, in his late twenties or early thirties, wearing a tight shirt buttoned all the way to the throat, purple and yellow striped socks. In his lap are Cloud Atlas and The Stranger, both closed. They remain closed, almost defiantly, for twenty minutes. He’s not even looking at his phone; the empty space in front of his eyes is, apparently, preferable to reading these books.

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2

Hostage Situation Ongoing

It has been more than a full moon cycle since one was able to purchase books published by Hachette in a reasonable manner from Amazon, which—despite selling books largely as an accident of history, and now essentially vestigially—has a forty percent share of new book sales in the U.S. But this hostage situation will apparently see only one resolution: the complete and utter capitulation of Hachette to whatever Amazon is demanding. Russ Grandinetti, a Kindle executive, told the Wall Street Journal that Amazon "was willing to suffer some damage to its reputation and was simply doing what is 'in the long-term interest of our customers.'" Books were [...]