Thursday, May 29, 2008

Booking Through Thursday: What is Reading, Fundamentally?

This week's BTT topic:
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.

Oh, my. I think Booking Through Thursday may be getting too profound for me. And so early in the morning, too!

So, what is reading? Well, I'm assuming we're not going for a dictionary definition here. Or anything clinical. Still a thorny question.

Of all those examples mentioned, I guess I personally consider them all reading, except audiobooks. To qualify as reading I think there has to be a visual component. I suppose if I were blind, I'd feel differently, but I'm going on my own experience. So I'd probably put audiobooks in the same category as listening to music or the radio. You're still experiencing the written word, but you're not reading it.

Now about my own personal preferences. I'm not an audiobook enthusiast. Nothing against them, from a philosophical standpoint – I just prefer to hear my own voice when I read (even if it's just in my head). And I don't read many e-books; I don't own a hand-held device for reading, and I've only read a few online books. I'm such a freak for books as objects and icons, it's hard for me to let go of that enough to accept the idea of reading electronic texts. So I guess the answer to that question about whether or not format affects my desire to sample something would be yes, it does.

As far as graphic novels and manga go, while I haven't had much experience with them, I do find them interesting. I've always loved illustrated books, and graphic novels are really just an extension of that form. And some of my fondest reading memories come from the comics I read as a kid. I considered that Little Lulu and Superman and Bugs Bunny and Katy Keene and their ilk were the subjects of legitimate literature when I was six or so, and some of that enthusiasm has stuck with me all through the years.


  1. Someone in another post equated their definition with reading = story and I hadn't really thought of it that way. I don't really think of audiobooks as reading either, but that definition made me stop and think about it more!

  2. jan--
    Yes, that's an interesting point. And I agree there are many ways of telling a story besides writing/reading - songs, dances, paintings, sign language, etc. I guess I just don't consider it reading unless it involves eyes on print.

  3. "I'm such a freak for books as objects and icons, it's hard for me to let go of that enough to accept the idea of reading electronic texts." Exactly what I MEANT to say on my post and couldn't quite spit it out!!

  4. I do consider audiobooks as a form of reading, because when I read I both hear the words in my head and see the scenes and characters etc. I'd rather have an actual book though.

  5. I want to try graphic novels and manga!

    Here is my say!

  6. 'A freak for books as objects and icons', yes, that's my position as well.

  7. It was quite a profound question. My answer, unfortunately, wasn't. :)

  8. Your comment about preferring your own voice is true for me too. I prefer to do the reading rather than be read to when it comes right down to it.


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