That view between the train seats of somebody reading over the years: hints of cover and colour, the lurid picture, the design-led author scheme, the age of the book, its size...all clues that later in a bookshop, I might use to pick up at that book and read the blurb (to be honest, I never read blurbs, I am a lot more likely to google the author or check out the reviews in the paper). But end result is the same, if I like the look of it from those commuting hints, I will buy the book.
Which brings us to the provenance of the Kindle, what are the hints?
Here's the situation, I had a silent argument over the blind's position on the train with the woman in front. She kept tugging it down so that she could read her Kindle. I, three quarters of the way through a trip from Lewes in Sussex to Carlisle in the Borders, wanted to distract myself with the view . No words were spoken: we didn't even look at each other. Just five minutes of disembodied hands pulling at the blind. How could I then ask her what she was reading? So I peeped between the seats when the half-view of the Lancastrian countryside we had settled on had palled, but what does a Kindle tell you? Not much. I admit from behind you can't tell that much about a real-world book either. But the things I might have gone on were absent. No cover colour. No chapter headings or useful name of the book or author at the top of the page. All I could glean were the words Harry, Helena and Perryman. I think the latter may have been a doctor. A doctor was certainly mentioned.
The font and the business-like arrangements I read at first suggested Graham Greene or maybe Le Carre. But that trip was two or three weeks ago and I have had no joy there. In the meantimes, I have discovered Jo Nesbo's Harry Hole which initially had the right feel but no Perryman in the book I read (not a bad cul-de-sac to go down though). Not sure where to turn next, I was so confident that those three words would be enough to pull up an author or a title...I'll keep you posted.
So here is my idea. And it is kind of based on the popular playground pet Tamagotchi. Kids can sync their Tamagotchis and pull details of the other one's character over to be friends. Can someone design me a phone app that allows me to get the name of Kindle books read by people that I don't want to talk to on trains? I don't mind if you even give a little Kindle notification to them saying "An iphone user asked what you are reading". It is sure to bolster their confidence. Who knows? A whole new set of commuter romances could start this way...just don't give them the power to say no.
btw if you know the name of the book with Harry, Helena and Perryman, get in touch - I am still looking.