A few years ago I did a bit of an experiment. Usually if I'm reading a book on public transport I concentrate on actually reading the book. As you do. But I'd read somewhere or other about whether what you read on the train makes you more sexy, or some such fluff. So I chose various books and sort of read them while peering over the top to see how people reacted. The one that worked best was a book with a very sexy cover, a 2006 Penguin paperback of Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita. I remember getting a whole lot of male attention, which was nice except for some reason all the men who were interested in Bulgakov had beards. And I'm not really into beards.
Anyway, on Friday I read a piece on the very good German lit-blog litaffin, which was about some kind of conference on bookselling and publishing in the future. Or something along those lines that didn't really rock my boat all that much. Except for the comment that online bookseller René Kohl made: "The sex appeal that an eBook reader lends its owner on the table in a bar is about the same as that of an insurance policy." Now come on, I thought. I've just bought an e-reader and all my poverty-stricken bookish friends are really impressed. Surely the kudos of owning such a natty device that simply does what it says on the tin is translated into public transport sex appeal? And surely tech freaks will show an interest in a woman reading a book by electronic means?
Hence experiment two, for which experiment one served as the control run; i.e. I had previously established that a book can lend its reader sex appeal on public transport. In experiment two I dressed in an attractive manner and positioned myself on a station platform with my eReader device in my bag. While waiting for the train I gauged my sex appeal to be about eight out of ten (judging by the admiring glances, friendly hellos, etc. Of course, that might have been because I was staring at all the men on the platform, but who said I had to be strictly scientific about it?) On boarding the train, I deliberately placed myself in the vicinity of various male subjects who appeared to have a technical affinity, i.e. were talking on expensive phones, etc. I then whipped out my device and adopted the reading position.
At which point all male interest instantly ceased. I swear, it was like I'd just donned a cloak of invisibility. Despite my frequent sidelong glances, not one of the men sitting or standing around me paid me the slightest bit of attention from that point on. I'd probably have got more interest if I'd fanned myself with an insurance policy.
Later in the evening I made a last-ditch attempt to test out the eReader's sex appeal at a literary-type event, by taking it out of my bag and showing it around a bit. Nada. OK, I was standing next to a man with a much larger and shinier device, which also had a teleprompter function for those impromptu speeches and played music and stored photos. But still, I'd have appreciated a bit more than "Oh, yours is just an eReader..."
And so to the conclusion: an eReader is a useful device for reading books and manuscripts you only have on pdf. It will not, however, give you sex appeal. If you want a bookish bearded boyfriend, go for Bulgakov in paperback.
A bonus piece of advice: Don't carry your eReader around unprotected in a tote bag with your keys, purse, sunglasses, etc. all night long when you go drinking and dancing and generally banging it around until the dawn chorus. It may get scratched.