We’ve noted before that when you’re reading an e-reader in public, no one knows what you’re reading — it could be porn or Proust. (Well, for some people Proust is porn, in a way.) Thus reading in public becomes a more private activity. Things magazine puts another knot in this cord:

You wouldn’t just pick up someone’s telephone and start fiddling with it – just as you wouldn’t pick up a wallet or handbag and start rifling through the compartments or click around somebody’s desktop without their permission. Presumably the same technology etiquette applies to the iPad, creating another layer of difference between the device and the media it is starting to supplant. However, you would feel pretty confident about picking up somebody’s copy of Wired and casually flick through the pages, probably without even asking for permission, as the very act of picking up a magazine, be it in a shop or from someone else’s coffee table, is not an infringement of privacy. Will this make electronic books and magazines more personal and intimate?
I think so — though it’s possible to imagine people becoming less protective of their iPads. But of course, while someone could pick up my paper copy of Wired and browse through it while I read another magazine or book, or checked my email, or looked something up on Wikipedia, if you’re reading Wired on my iPad then I just get to sit there and twiddle my thumbs or look out the window. Not that that wouldn’t be a valuable spiritual discipline, but not many of us will choose it voluntarily.