Thursday, May 29, 2008

Booking Through Thursday- What is Reading, Fundamentally?


What is reading, anyway? Novels, comics, graphic novels, manga, e-books, audiobooks — which of these is reading these days? Are they all reading? Only some of them? What are your personal qualifications for something to be “reading” — why? If something isn’t reading, why not? Does it matter? Does it impact your desire to sample a source if you find out a premise you liked the sound of is in a format you don’t consider to be reading? Share your personal definition of reading, and how you came to have that stance.

(Two weeks late for Reading is Fundamental week, but, well…)

I think all of these qualify as reading. I've never been successful with audiobooks- I downloaded "Brokeback Mountain" from iTunes and then fell asleep listening to it, and never tried another. Maybe it was the solemn pacing, maybe it was Campbell Scott's soothing voice, or maybe I just couldn't concentrate when I wasn't using my eyes to read, but it just didn't work. Would I try it again? I don't know. I'm not that interested in electronic forms of reading like Kindle or whatever- I'd just rather have a paper book. Reading isn't defined for me by format or genre and if you read my blog you know I read lots of comics, zines, graphic novels and manga and believe that they are important forms of literary expression, so I wouldn't exclude them from what counts as "reading".

One time I was volunteering at the Perkins School for the Blind's library, where I spent a morning rewinding returned audiobooks. They have an amazing collection- hundreds more titles than are available commercially- and rewinding them helps get them back circulating to new patrons. The team leader kept referring to them as "books" and at first it was a little jarring for me because I didn't think of the tapes as being books in the same sense as paper books, being an audio rather than visual format. Nowadays I try not to be so narrow minded!





9 comments:

devourerofbooks said...

I cannot concentrate to an audio book either, unless I'm doing something else. I guess not enough of my sense are stimulated. However, I do enjoy them for car rides (well, while I'M driving, I read real books in the passenger seat, otherwise I'd still get bored), while cleaning, cooking, and doing hair or makeup. Basically, whenever a paper book isn't really feasible. I've tried reading books while doing most of those things and it never seems to work very well. Audio books let me squeeze in a little more reading time.

BooksPlease said...

I have to be doing something boring to listen to audiobooks and can only listen when I'm driving if I know the route, otherwise it's too distracting. I would really appreciate them if I was blind.

Table Talk said...

I have the same experience with audio books, they send me to sleep. I actually find it easier to listen to dramatisations of a book. I think this may have something to do with the fact there are different voices at work. When I read a book I don't have just one voice in my head, but a different one for each character.

Alea said...

I too feel the same way about audio books! I think it would be fun to try a Kindle but I feel like it would be not so great for my eyes, just like reading a whole book on the computer, but who knows! I can't wait to hear about some of the comics and zines you read, that's right up my alley!

softdrink said...

I've never tried audiobooks, but that's because I know I couldn't concentrate on it. I can't even listen to music lyrics without spacing out.

Alea said...

I do the same thing. In fact I have a stack of zines to add to my lt account, I was waiting to read them first though hehe. It sure takes more effort to put those in compared to your regular everyday book! Someday I hope to have the covers in there as well!

kbookreviews said...

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Lisa said...

I don't mind being the oddball - I adore audiobooks. They are very practical for me - I have a long commute and I can only listen to so much NPR. Audiobooks also allow me to engage in my favorite hobbies at the same time: I can load up a few cds in the changer, settle on the couch with my knitting and have a very pleasant time.

There are times when listening to a story can really enhance the experience (I talk about that in my review of Winterwood). I listened to an unabridged version of "The Odyssey" read by Ian McKellan - his reading was fabulous and I discovered things about the work that I had never noticed while reading it on paper.

Literary Feline said...

I'm with you in that while I have my preferences, I don't discount formats or types I don't necessarily gravitate towards as reading.

I worry that I would fall asleep listening to an audio book. Or be distracted easily. I sometimes think it would be a great way to pass the time while I exercise, but I don't have an iPod or other device to make that possible.