Do you like reading or do you like books?

There’s a very interesting article in a recent issue of ‘The Chronicle Review’. In it, Ann Kirschner compares the experience of reading ‘Little Dorrit’ in her old paperback edition; in an audiobook edition on her iPhone; on a Kindle eReader; and in an electronic text version on her iPhone. If you’re as interested in this as I am you should read the whole thing (Reading Dickens Four Ways) but I can skip to the chase for you now and tell you the Kindle didn’t win – the iPhone did, although the audiobook version scored highly because of its versatility in reading situations (you can listen while walking around/driving/applying makeup/cooking/in the dentist’s chair).

Ann Kirschner’s friends derided her experiment and her conclusions; the worst accusation being that she wasn’t a serious reader. “Not guilty!” she responds. “I love books as much as anybody. But I love reading more. It is the sustained and individual encounter with ideas and stories that is so bewitching. If new formats allow us to have more of these, let us welcome and learn from them.”

I’m especially interested to hear how much she disliked the Kindle – due to launch in the UK later this summer. From what she says it’s not as good as the Sony eReader – and nowhere near as good as the iPhone. Maybe we should all just hang about waiting for the Apple Tablet to emerge from rumour into reality – but in the meantime I’m getting more and more used to using the eReader. I still use it only for typescripts at present, but the next time I make a long journey I’ll be very tempted to discover what’s available to download. Especially since Sony are releasing a Mac version of the eReader software soon.

So I’d say I like reading AND I like books. I’m surrounded by books most of the time: I write ‘em, read ‘em, love the smell and the feel of ‘em. But I also love the versatility of different formats and I’m excited by the available choices. So I guess that if I ever HAVE to get off the fence, I’m more of a reader than a bibliophile. At least, that is, until I take another glance at my bookshelves …

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