The Reading Experience (and Digital/Analog discussions continued)

Part the fun of reading a book is the general experience of reading. I think there is more than one kind of reading experience.

First, there is the relaxing reading experience. By this I mean the experience of kicking back in one’s favourite reading chair, beverage of choice to hand, possibly snack of choice to hand, and diving into another world. Many people think of this experience as the only possible one for reading. I don’t think this is necessarily true, but I do like this one. A lot. And in my discussions with various people around reading eBooks, it seems that they don’t really think digital books are appropriate for this setting.

Then there’s the reading to pass-the-time experience, usually done on the subway, airplanes, or in waiting rooms. Of course, for a dedicated reader, reading to pass the time can be relaxing and enjoyable. It is not the same experience, though, as reading in your favourite chair. Here digital books seem more acceptable, especially when travelling long distances. Airplane mode anyone?

Reading for information or to learn something is another experience. This kind of reading can be done in the locations already listed — but there is a different posture of both body and mind involved. When reading for relaxation, I tend to slouch down and put my feet up. No note-taking equipment is required. On the other hand, when reading and studying, I tend to sit up straighter, keep paper and pen to hand, try to tune in to pay attention to the page, and take notes as I go. Some people find it very difficult to adapt the particular posture of body and mind with digital books. Taking notes is possible, but does one want to use the same tablet for notes AND reading? Marginalia is possible, but it doesn’t have the same feel as underlining/writing in a book.

I’m still too early in my digital book experience to decide what I prefer. So far I’ve taken much longer than I would have for a paper book to read the eLibraryBook I checked out. Part of that is because I find it easier to whip out a paperback on transit than to whip out my iPad. Also there’s the whole battery thing — as in recharging. One thing I’ve done with this mystery novel on the iPad that I couldn’t do with a paperback is look up the locations mentioned in the book. The setting is in the UK, and I don’t quite have the geography in my head. So I opened up a map and then I could flip back and forth between the book and the map and get a sense of which highway the detectives were driving down. This may not enhance YOUR reading experience, but I kind of liked it.

How do digital books fit into the idealized reading experience(s) you have in your head?

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