Thursday, August 26, 2010

what is a book?

Just what constitutes a book these days. I have shelves full of paper bound with glue and thread, covered in ink... I know those are books. Some of you read on Kindles of Ipads. Are those books? Cheryl and I listen to "books" on disk as we commute back and forth to Santa Barbara from Buellton along the Gaviota Coast. Are those books?

We've read or listened to some wonderful books recently and I've found myself wanting to blog about a few or at least mention them in my blogs but wasn't sure how. Should I say, "we're reading The Things They Carried" or do I say that "we're listening to...?" Frankly, something inside me is a little embarrassed to say that we're listening to whatever book as if that is cheating somehow. And in some ways it must be a different experience. The reader does impose himself or herself into the text and does interpret it with their inflections and tone of voice and somehow that does remove part of the experience we get when reading a bound document, providing the voice, the inflections, in our minds. Clearly it is not as different an experience as watching a movie made from a book, but it is still different in some way.

How significant is that difference? Is that audio book, whether on disk or MP3 or whatever, still a book or is it a different medium altogether? And how about an i-book? What do we lose when we don't hold the paper and flip the pages? What do you think?

1 comment:

Alexis said...

I've been thinking about that as well. My conclusion is that any volume (antiquated word in this info-age) of writing qualifies as a book. So a certain number of words qualifies as a book, just as a shorter number counts as a novella. Still shorter, something between four and five digits in word count may be a short story.

There is definitely a stigma surrounding books on tape, or CD. The thing is, there isn't when you're five and your mother is reading a story to you or you go to an author's appearance where he reads you a portion of his work. In conclusion, it is still a book and how else should you spend your commute? Someone still wrote it, and it is still prolific enough to count as a book. YAY BOOKS!