I've been working on preparing an e-book for publication for the last couple of weeks, and so I have e-book matters on the brain. For example: "Why do e-books have little rectangular covers that make them look like tiny paper books?" Almost all e-book sites represent titles this way. The literary world is adorable in its attachment to old forms, which is why (I think) the digital crisis took so long to fully arrive at publishing's door. These little rectangles make a certain amount of sense from a marketing perspective, I suppose, as publishers assure wary customers (and themselves) that it's just like a book, only digital. Still, native digital publishers will want to abandon this convention as soon as possible. The digital switch might have come late to publishing, but it is proceeding very, very quickly. What's on the way is what the advertising business has for years now been calling "platform agnosticism."
Lit snobs will turn their noses up at the mention of the ad racket--even as they bask in the sexy, retro cool of Mad Men--but the advertising business's strengths and weakness are instructive mirror images of publishing's. The good thing about the advertising business? It would jettison grandma in a second if her business model started to flag. The bad part? It thinks grandma (and everything else, for that matter) needs a business model to be worthwhile. Publishing, meanwhile, loves grandma maybe a little too much and is unwilling to let conventions change--thus these rectangular arrangements of pixels. But I could be biased.