The Effort Of Reading
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?