BTT: May 2008 Archives

From Booking Through Thursday:

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.

Of the formats listed above, I would count everything as reading except audiobooks - that's listening to. Perhaps that's why I don't do it? It is a different experience for different situations, and I find myself very rarely in a situation where I would want to listen to a book (or a podcast, for that matter, I haven't taken to that either). I read novels constantly, comics and graphic novels occasionally, manga rarely, e-books if necessary (rarely for pure reading pleasure, because reading from screen isn't fun).

So yes, if something interesting would be offered as an audiobook, I would skip it. Actually, same goes with e-books - every now and then I see something available that's interesting, but I just won't read it. For example. I had to mooch Cory Doctorow's novels, even though they are available as e-books on his website, for free. So, if I'm honest, in a way I don't count e-books as reading either. Then again, I'm currently reading an e-book on search engine optimization. There I have no options, and I have to read it - it's for work. Thus, I can read an e-book if I have to, but won't do it if I have a choice - and that choice may just as well be to skip the whole book, no matter how interesting it seems.

It's just that I don't find enjoyment from reading e-books and I don't have time or the right situation for audiobooks (and little interest in finding it). Reading from computer screen is not pleasant: the resolution isn't that good and my table is so bad that my legs are hurting as I write this, after I've been sitting here for what, 90 minutes. I do most of my reading in bed and while I can take a laptop to bed, I don't want to.

BTT: Books vs Movies

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From Booking Through Thursday:

Books and films both tell stories, but what we want from a book can be different from what we want from a movie. Is this true for you? If so, what's the difference between a book and a movie?

Yes. There are some things that work better on screen and some things that work better in writing. Movies are much better at making an emotional effect on me. Books rarely touch me at an emotional level, while movies can easily make me scared, sad or happy. Movies can make me cry, but books never do (though that may also be a function of the books I read).

What works better in writing is detail. I love books that involve intellectual entertainment and education. Neal Stephenson's large works are that kind of books, full of all sorts of information that has relatively little to do with the plot, really - and in a movie, they would be the first thing to go. In books, I can enjoy all that detail. Tristram Shandy is another example of something that just wouldn't work on screen: I just love the way Sterne wanders from one topic to the other (Tristram Shandy - A Cock and Bull Story is a movie version of the book, but it takes a different approach).

I do prefer books, but both have good sides and some things just work better in a movie. I'm tempted to say Lord of the Rings works better as a movie, as the movie version has so much more emotion to it - the attack of the Rohan cavalry always brings tears to my eyes, which the book never did... So, I'd say whatever works for the story is good!

BTT: Manual Labour Redux

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From Booking Through Thursday:

Following up last week's question about reading writing/grammar guides, this week, we're expanding the question....

Scenario: You've just bought some complicated gadget home . . . do you read the accompanying documentation? Or not?

Do you ever read manuals?

How-to books?

Self-help guides?

Anything at all?

That's a good one. No, in general I don't read instruction manuals for gadgets, at least not before I start using them. I might browse through them later, as reading instructions usually leads to finding out some interesting new features. Usually, though, I only refer to the manuals when there's a problem to fix and troubles to shoot.

I don't read much self-help either - though I just received a review copy of David Allen's Getting Things Done which I suppose counts as self-help. That's certainly interesting, and I just read Web Copy That Sells, too - so I do read how-to books. I've read plenty of programming language manuals and other computer books.

So, I suppose it depends. Most gadgets are done well enough that using them without reading manuals is easy, and often the manuals are rather dull. Nokia cell phone manuals are a prime example: they seem to just explain the obvious, and if you do have a real problem, they're completely useless. A good manual can be a pleasure to read, but it's a rare pleasure.

BTT: Manual Labour

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From Booking Through Thursday:

Writing guides, grammar books, punctuation how-tos . . . do you read them? Not read them? How many writing books, grammar books, dictionaries-if any-do you have in your library?

Well, actually - I just placed a mooch for the classic writing guide, Elements of Style and am looking for some guides on writing for web, as I'm going to do some work like that soon. So, better get some new ideas! And who knows, perhaps my blogging for fun will profit from some lessons? I don't know, but I'm definitely curious to learn more.

I do like reading grammar books, for example the Eats, Shoots & Leaves was fun to read. I like reading about languages in general, I've read few books of the development of Finnish language and they've been all very interesting.

I don't have a Finnish dictionary, but I do have The Times English Dictionary and Thesaurus - it's a huge book, and I got it for just ten euros or so few years ago. Haven't read it a lot, though, because it's such a pain to go get it from the top shelf just to look up a word. I just type "define:word" in Google to find out how something is spelled and if the word means what I think it means (always best to be sure, especially since checking is so easy when you're online).

Since Trish brought up phone books: I so agree those are a complete waste of good trees. I haven't used one in years, and still I get two of each (no, make it four, since both consist of two parts) every year. Well, at least I don't have to wonder what to use to prop up the crib when our toddler has flu...

BTT: Mayday!

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From Booking Through Thursday:

Quick! It's an emergency! You just got an urgent call about a family emergency and had to rush to the airport with barely time to grab your wallet and your passport. But now, you're stuck at the airport with nothing to read. What do you do??
And, no, you did NOT have time to grab your bookbag, or the book next to your bed. You were . . . grocery shopping when you got the call and have nothing with you but your wallet and your passport (which you fortuitously brought with you in case they asked for ID in the ethnic food aisle). This is hypothetical, remember....

This would be an annoying situation. After all, waiting without reading is a pain. I would likely have my iPod with me, that would help a lot - though with any luck, it would run out of power soon. I don't know, it might get desperate enough to get me to a airport bookstore. I'm fairly sure I'd find some paperback worth reading, some interesting enough mainstream novel I haven't read yet. Some cheap thriller or Dan Brown lookalike...

The other option would be, like Trish said, a magazine (I used to buy thick English computer magazines when travelling abroad), crosswords or sudokus. I don't usually do sudokus, but it might be just the trick for a situation like this. Crosswords depend on the availability of the right level - most crossword magazines sold in Finland are very easy and I find little joy in filling those mechanically. Then again, the hard ones tend to be too hard for me, I get maybe one or two words per puzzle. I'm a fall-between guy there.

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