From Wayne: I’m a reader. I read a lot. I learned to read early from comics and children’s books and have never really stopped. Books have been my most constant companions and best friends. I grew up in a very rural place, with few opportunities. We never lived in poverty, but we also never really travelled very far from the hollow. Except, I did travel, to other cities and worlds and planets and time periods and wherever books could take me. They were my TARDIS, bigger on the inside, a portal to other places. They still are.
I’m a visual learner. I have a tough time paying attention to the spoken word. I would rather read an article than watch a video of the same story. I can absorb it at my pace, or scan it to see how much time I want to actually spend with it. A video traps me in their pace. I can’t really do audiobooks. A couple of minutes in and my mind wanders and the speaker becomes the voice of an adult in a Charlie Brown cartoon. The same is true of spoken word albums, and lectures, and yes… most podcasts.
The question has arisen of whether or not listening to an audiobook counts as having read the book. In spite of my preferences, I still say yes. We tend to privilege the written word, or at least we did until the overwhelming availability of other means of consumption. Even within reading we tend to privilege certain types of reading over others. There are always the lists of ‟Books That Must Be Read” if you wish to consider yourself well read. This brings us back to the ideas of high vs low culture. Is the experience of reading Moby Dick really more important than reading the new Reacher novel by Lee Child? Is reading anything better than not reading at all? Is even that assumption a mark of privilege?
We want to talk about reading habits on this episode. Do you prefer reading or listening? Why? Does it make a difference in the way we process information? What kind of things do you read? Should there be a ‟Must Read List” or should we just follow our interests?
Looking forward to reading what you have to say.
From Mav: I’m also kind of looking forward to this episode. Like Wayne, I read a lot…. in a very real way, reading is pretty much my job. But even before that, I just have always really enjoyed absorbing information, and reading has always been a big part of that. Unlike Wayne though, at least for me, reading is just one of those ways of absorbing content. I’m the guy who has an audiobook on his headphones while he goes running. I listen to podcasts when I mow the lawn. Even when I’m sitting on my couch reading a book, I quite likely have CNN running on the TV so I can passively absorb the news at the same time.
There was a Howard Stern show argument years ago… they were talking about some book (don’t remember which one… it doesn’t matter). And Gary, the producer, says “oh, I read that…” so they talk about it for two minutes and then some other producer comes in and says “Howard, I want you to know that he didn’t read that. He listened to it on tape” and then he was like “well, yeah, I listened to it on my drive over like two weeks” and then they argued about “well then you didn’t read it!” vs “I have all the same content as you!” Eventually someone asked “would you let your kid listen to an audio book instead of reading?” and he basically answered “no, my kid is 10…. he’s still learning. I’m 50 years old.”
Point is, people totally see it in a different way and we have a weird cultural privileging of reading in an “interacting with the page” kind of way… and some of that really is part of the experience… I know I feel different reading a physical book than I do reading a kindle book. There’s just something different about the feel of the paper vs the screen… the act of flipping the page…. even though it doesn’t substantively change the content… this is as opposed to reading a comic on screen… which actually does slightly change the content (it’s a visible space kind of thing… how much of the surrounding pages can you see. And listening to an audiobook does this too. It frees my eyes to focus on something else, but as Wayne says, it locks me into someone else’s pacing. Reading becomes more linear and time-based than it is when I am controlling the pages myself. It’s harder to hop around. There is a modification to experience.
And if we really want to go far, this also extends into the privileging books over movies or TV or whatever… they’re different experiences, but we (at least traditionally) tend to pretend that the books are somehow blessed with a natural betterness… but that’s mostly because they’re old technology. I know WE know this, but I expect a lot of listeners don’t know that once upon a time people said this about books….. the novel was garbage pop culture crap for the unintelligent (read, women) because smart people read poetry. And now we like to say that reading is somehow “more important” than movies… and novels are “more important” than comics. Not just different, but “more important!” Or at least that’s the insinuation. But is it right?
So that’s what we want to know? What are your reading habits? What do you count as literature and how do you consume it? What else should we be thinking about on this episode?