In September I added 10+ hours of commuting to my weekly schedule. I’ve been filling the time with podcasts (This American Life and Radiolab are even better than all the hype I’d heard) and more recently with an audiobook: David Foster Wallace’s The Broom of the System. It was funny. At times I didn’t know what was going on. Entire chapters are nothing but dialogue and you have to figure out who is speaking from context (this is probably much easier when listening to an audiobook, since the narrator uses little voices for the different speakers).
I liked the book. A lot. But the big thing that I took away from the experience is that the novel is its own beast and experiencing it in a different format changes the experience. I feel like I somehow missed out on or even perverted the true nature of the book. The book itself dealt with themes of language and words and ideas, so it was especially true for this novel, but I think it holds true in general.
A few months ago I read For Whom The Bell Tolls on my iPhone, and I had a similar sense of perversion. Only being able to see an iPhone’s screen worth of text at a time, rather than the two open pages of a book, changes the experience.
And it’s not that it is harder to pay attention to what you’re reading/listening to in one of these formats, it’s that by changing the intake process the experience is fundamentally different.
This probably all goes without saying though, and I’m sure I’ve heard this elsewhere, but it really struck me as true just recently.
I haven’t read a book on a Kindle or an eReader of any kind, but I wonder if folks who have have experienced something similar to what I’m describing here. I think it’s cool that you can click on a word you don’t know when you’re reading a book on your iPad and instantly look it up. And maybe I’m just feeling sentimental, but it is sad for me to think that one day, and maybe one day soon, novels won’t be primarily experienced in physical book form.
In conclusion, I’m going to return to the exquisite radiotastic podcasts of This American Life and Radiolab to get me from Point A to Point B (and then, in the evening, from Point B back to Point A). Other podcast suggestions are welcomed.