According to Amazon, their e-reader Kindle has outsold hardcover books for the last three months. This reminds me that I was at my bookbinders the other day (these are the grizzled ancients who piece books together with leather and glue and thread) and spotted an interesting item on the counter. It looked like a cool, designy book cover for some rare, antique manuscript. What’s this? Oh, that’s a case some designer created for a Kindle, they replied. It was one of those moments where time stops and irony prevails. The substitution of the thing mimicking the thing itself. A modern jolt of das ding on sich: we cannot appreciate the shock of the new without some whimsical foothold in the past. It is the reason why electric cars need to look like gas-powered automobiles. Why Magnolia Bakery cupcakes have swirlies that mimic Hostess cupcakes. Why computer keyboards once had typewriter sound effects. As we move forward, we hearken back. As handheld reading devices like the Kindles and iPads replace that handheld information device of the 15th century—the printed book—we remind ourselves that as we shed book designers, book illustrators, editors, proofreaders, and all the other old-style technologists, Kindle cover designers remind us that holding something in our hands that speaks to our brain is an ancient and holy rite. It feeds us. Whether it is a potboiler, social critique, economic analysis, or scientific journal, our gray matter requires readable stimulation. And whether the device is covered in leather, or varnished paper over bookboard, it’s a concept that no one can put down.