Typologies of reading

Lorcan Dempsey pointed me to an interesting essay by Evan Schnittman about different kinds of reading. Evan distinguishes between extractive reading (as in consulting reference works), immersive (“the exercise of deep reading that is dominated by narrative prose and requires a significant investment of time and concentration”) and pedagogic (“designed to train, not immerse. It is designed to move a reader through a series of deeper understandings of a topic, by building on a fairly specific sequence of learning objectives”).

To this, Lorcan has added a fourth type: interstitial reading (“reading in the interstices of our lives. The bathroom comes to mind, but I am in particular thinking about reading and travel.”)

The iPad seems an ideal device for interstitial reading, supporting social networking, immersive reading, extractive interaction with the web, and so on. However, it does not have the portability of the magazine, newspaper or paperback. For this reason, rumours about the smaller iPad seem to make a lot of sense. The Kindle on the other hand is eminently portable, and, importantly, can be held with one hand. But it is less well able to support the full variety of interstitial reading and network interactions. For this reason, it is not surprising to see it open up as a platform to other apps, although one imagines its niche will continue to be the immersive reader, albeit one that fits such reading into the various interstices of his or her daily routine.

This echoes my own recent experience. I have an iPod Touch and was initially sceptical about eBook software for the device. But then I started to use Stanza and Eucalyptus and have become totally converted — especially by the latter, which hooks directly to Project Gutenberg. So downloaded onto my iPod is a nice little library of books that I love re-reading (like Joyce’s Ulysses), or have wanted to read for ages.

Because I do a lot of ferrying of teenage kids around, I’m often waiting for people to turn up. In the old days, if I didn’t have a newspaper with me, that was dead time (I rarely remembered to bring a physical book in the car). Now, this ‘dead time’ is often a delight. In recent weeks, for example, I’ve read two E.M. Forster novels. And large chinks of Mr Bloom’s adventures.