The Effort Of Reading

Reading & Writing

Since the launch of Ether, the iPhone app that lets customers download short stories and other short works onto their phone, publishers and PR have been quick to point out how easy it is to have a coffee, sit down and read a story. ‘But’, argues Anna Goodall in the Independent, ‘it’s already easy to sit down and read a book, so what’s the big deal?

She studied the hunched, stressed figures at the London Book Fair as they read electronically and concludes that when reading becomes another screen activity, it ceases to be time out from the world and joins the ever-growing list of office activities. Although epublishing is set to become huge, I think it’s fair to ask when reading stops being a simple pleasure and starts becoming a mere activity. This isn’t Luddism so much as questioning why we read – perhaps it’s not just about the words but the experience as a whole.

This morning I read a book in bed. It was incredibly bright at 6:00am, far too bright to see any kind of a screen. The book was disappointing, and as I began to skim I folded the paperback in half, a tea in the other hand. An iPad is too big to do this, an iPhone too small, so I actually started thinking about the Kindle. I’m always puzzled about American popular design. With the exception of Mac products, which look and feel European, it seems to evolve in an entirely different way to the rest of the world. I thought I could buy one on Amazon and download, but then I looked back at the stack of books beside my bed and tried to come up with one other reason apart from portability that made me want one.

But there will be another reason, hopefully soon. As a reviewer I’m sent some 20 books a month to look through. Often I’m out and they can’t be delivered. Once publishers start sending them electronically, I’ll use an eReader.
But that will then become a work chore, won’t it?

5 comments on “The Effort Of Reading”

  1. Alan Griffiths says:

    Maybe it’s something tactile?

    I spent maybe half an hour, with the cash burning in my pocket, playing through the various e-book options. I mean – 100 books as a beginning package?


    But – yeh – Luddite. A book is a thing – it extends in space, responds to touch and smell – one can tell a book and contents has been well-loved, down to the coffee stains on the page edges.

    I didn’t bother with the e-book. Maybe the next time I travel trans-siberian – but until then, I’ll just pick up some good old honest paperbacks.

  2. Anne Fernie says:

    It’s just reduced to stark, impersonal, de-contextualised text innit??? At the risk of sounding like a real saddo, I love checking out the names of (now defunct) old British publishing houses in the old books I acquire such as ‘Eyre & Spottiswood’ etc. There were so many and now there are so few……..

  3. Have you seen this article? iPhones have given dyslexic readers a new lease of life:

  4. I.A.M. says:

    In the next little while, I’m going to review the Kobo eReader that I’ve been loiving for the past couple of weeks.

    One thing to note, however: any device that uses the so-called “e-Ink display” bears as much similarity to a computer screen as it does a radish. Honestly, there’s no comparison: the most important difference is that there’s no backlight, therefore no eye-strain as with an iPad / iPhone / laptop / desktop monitor. None! It requires reflected light, rather like… paper!

  5. Mike Cane says:

    In the States, there’s NetGalley, which makes all those galleys downloadable e-things. No more stacks next to to the bed, in theory.

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