182/365 What is a book?

What is a book? Fifty years ago that would not have been a question. Books were books: pages bound between hard or soft covers. You held it in your hands. You turned the physical pages. It had a smell — old books had their particular fragrance and new books had another.

Now we have a bigger choice in how we read books. We can read physical books, we can listen to audio-books or we can read e-books on Kindles, tablets or phones.

Back in the 1990s I listened to a lot of audio-books (then called books-on-tape) and people challenged my reading/listening, telling me that listening to audio-books didn’t count as reading.

Now I mostly read e-books and now some news articles are citing studies that tell me my comprehension of e-books is less than if I were reading a physical book.

I am reading more now because of e-books. Doesn’t that count for something?

I read a variety of all three formats, sometimes two at the same time. I think, no matter how I read, I am reading a book. I know others have different preferences, but we’re all reading.

Maybe the question should have been, “What is reading?”

6 thoughts on “182/365 What is a book?

  1. I have a daughter with dyslexia who can listen to an audiobook and write a high school paper on it. She struggles through the physical act of reading but that doesn’t mean she isn’t well read (she read Brave New World and Catch-22 and Slaughterhouse 5 on a whim last summer, in large print on her Nook with audio alongside). I’ve had fellow special ed teachers (back when I was gen ed) say that they worried that students who didn’t physically read the books would somehow become illiterate. I would argue, “They can READ. But when they have to tackle a gigantic novel, it is physically exhausting for them to do it that way. What is the point of reading? Decoding or meaning?”

    • Exactly. I worked really hard to get a student of mine with dyslexia access to Talking Books back when it was really only for the Blind. Her mother refused to let her use the machine and, therefore the books. Pissed me off so much. Parents had the same attitude about using computers for writing. Of course this was the late 1980s. I would hope things have changed.

  2. I have just (six minutes ago) posted on exactly the same topic, minus the audiobooks (which is going to be another post).
    And yes to the two or three books of different versions at the same time.

  3. Interesting question (and comments): I generally use the verb “listen” when referring to the consumption of audio books, but I never really considered the activity as anything other than “reading.”

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