A few years back, a lot of papers were bought, not for their content, but to look at the want ads. Craigslist showed that you didn’t need the newspaper part.
It used to be that if you wanted to know what was going in the world, you would wait until the 6 pm news. If I wanted to know the traffic report, I would tune in to a certain radio station that promised reports at certain times. Now you go to the Internet at any time for news. You can get live traffic updates on your GPS device. Weekly news magazines are trying to re-imagine themselves in a wold where no one waits a week for anything, which is how you get Newsweek selling for a $1 (literally) and Tina Brown putting a story on sadomasochism (basic premise: if you’ve fooled around with velvet handcuffs, you’re a wannabe - you really need to be beaten) on the cover.
And for a long time, a book was a unit. I didn’t think about how it was made of paper and had a cover and maybe those things weren’t necessarily part of the book itself. Heck, I remember when trade paperbacks were a crazy new idea.
As that Atlantic reports A digital book has no cover. There's no paper to be bound up with a spine and protected inside a sturdy jacket. Browsers no longer roam around Borders scanning the shelves for the right title to pluck. Increasingly, instead, they scroll through Amazon's postage stamp-sized pictures, which don't actually cover anything, and instead operate as visual portals into an entire webpage of data (publication date, reader reviews, price) some of which can also be found on a physical cover and some of which cannot.
Read all of The Atlantic’s story about the future of book covers.