A Reading Experience

During the bus ride home I re-read the first part of Wide Sargasso Sea, an unofficial prequel to Jane Eyre that follows the life of a minor but pivotal character from that book before the events of the latter story.When I pick up the book I’m currently reading again I often briefly revisit previous scenes or dialogue between characters. Sometimes I find myself revisiting these scenes in their entirely before I begin the next part of the book.

I had started the book before I came home for Thanksgiving and although it is a short book I wanted to read the second part while I was at home on break. I also choose to do this, because this story follows this character’s life up to her appearance in the world of Jane Eyre, and I wanted to gradually follow this journey.

“Home is not a place it's a feeling

Ceceilia Ahern

My house is basically an extended library; almost every room has its own collection of books, from my Mom’s vast collection of cook books the kitchen to the books on shelf and in boxes in my room.

While I enjoy reading in my room, sometimes I prefer doing so in a room on my first floor fondly known as “the den”. The den is probably the closest room at home that fits my mental imagery of what a “reading room” or library is supposed to look like The room at feels somewhat more formal; some of my Mom’s antiques are on top of some pieces of furniture and there are two replica Tiffany lamps, however it is mostly a pleasant, relaxed cozy space.There are shelves of book and a large dictionary propped up on a stand next to the room’s window. Next to the door is a large, cozy, plush, leather chair. On the desk is a kaleidoscope that I loved looking through when I was younger. Near the desk is a large globe that I loved to spin around and find different locations on as a child. The light from the window in the room illuminates the shelves of books, and the room in general creating the vibe of a pleasant, peaceful place. Although it is a private space there are multiple distractions in the room. There is a T.V. in front of the chair, but at a distance, and a photocopier, along with a replica of an old time telephone on the desk that’s ring is a grating noise. For the most however it is a quiet room where most of the outside sound cancels out.

Reading in my bedroom can sometimes feel isolating because it is more of my personal space than any other room in the house and it is easier to become closed off from everything else. Going to the den is a way of staying connected to what else is going on in the house while still maintaining some privacy because it is on the first floor and is connected to the “public” spaces in the house like the kitchen and the family room, and because it is not my personal space and is used by everyone.

I prefer not to read within large groups of people, especially if they are in close proximity to me; the presence of too many is a distraction. Reading for me is partially about mentally and physically separating myself from reality and immersing myself into the ideas, concepts or worlds of others. When there are large numbers of people around while I am reading, it feels like there is an intrusion into my temporary bubble. If there are a few people around ie. I’m studying with a few of my friends, or sitting in the wait room at a doctor’s office, I have no problems reading. Also, if there is some sort of barrier between others I have no problem, ie. reading on the Greyhound bus. I consider reading a more private experience where I become immersed in the story, or information on my own, and will share the experience once I have re- entered reality.

Twenty minutes of sustained reading in the den was not difficult to achieve, because I generally do long periods of sustained reading when I read physical literary material. It was quiet and I felt very engaged with the reading. Reading print material is more of an immersive experience than reading digitally. The physicality of the book or reading material personalizes the experience, and the text better imprints in your mind. Reading print material romanticism of the experience retain the information better. Online reading sometimes feels more impersonal. Physically holding the book or other reading material encourages a more active relationship with the content because by holding or touching the aforementioned, you are more actively separating yourself from outside distractions like a cellphone, and are more actively immersing yourself in what is on the page. Although there are different ways of reading, reading print material fits my visual imagery of what reading has traditionally looked like.While I was reading, I did have my phone nearby and usually do if I’m reading print material, but I seldom reach for it because I am more engrossed and engaged. Plus I had my text alerts on silent so I could not be distracted by any incoming messages.

However, I feel like I read faster on my computer and Iphone because what I am reading is presented as a continuous flow of words that I am scrolling through to move on to what is next. This format sometimes makes it easier to go back to revisit certain parts of the reading because all I have to do is scroll up or down with my house, or punch in the page number if what I am reading has the function to return to a specific page.

Despite the differences between reading digital and print materials, I feel that reading on a laptop screen more closely resembles print reading since the screen is bigger and the information is physically closer to me; I can more easily divert my focus to what is on the screen rather than what is up in the other tabs. Also, I think the medium you choose to read on depends on often depends on what you are reading. Some things are difficult to read on a mobile device, and other things may be more convenient to read on a mobile device. For some of my business classes I have had to look at financial reports from companies, and there is a hierarchy of preference in terms of what device would be best to view the material; it is better to examine and read it on a computer screen instead of a smartphone, but it is even better to print specific pages out and mark them up manually.

One of the great benefits of digital reading material and using the internet to read is that you have almost instantaneous access to the content , and there are a wider variety of reading options. While I love libraries and bookstores, sometimes I don’t feel like driving or walking to them and I do not feel like waiting a few days for a book ordered through Amazon or another site. There are great websites like Project Gutenberg and Open library where you can search for and read books digitally and for free. The downside with a website like Open library is that because it is still a library, certain books may be checked out and you might have to wait a while to have access to them. Smashwords, a self publishing e-book distributor, is a great site because you can access a lot of great stories that have not been published into paperbacks or hardcovers and allow authors from all over to publish and share their stories without a lot of hassle.

With the internet there is an almost infinite amount of written material that is easy to access. The internet to an extent, is also an open forum where people can express a wide variety of opinions. Since there are lower barriers to entry, there are many ways people can “self publish” their ideas or content. The beauty of reading online is that the reader has almost instantaneous access to the latest news stories and other information as well as opinions that might not be expressed otherwise. Also some types of writing like fanfiction is primarily read and shared online on sites like Archive of our Own and fanfiction.net. Reading on a digital device like an Iphone or a computer can also be more convenient because there is a built in light, so if I am reading at night I don’t have to position myself around a desk light or turn on any other lights.

A major downside to reading digitally is that the reader is surrounded by many distractions that can be difficult to resist. With reading on a mobile device or a computer, it is easy to get distracted because you have access to other things besides what you are reading; it can become harder to focus on the one thing because there are other things going on. If I’m reading on my phone there is the temptation to interrupt whatever I am reading to check an incoming text, or my email. When I am reading on my computer, I often have many other tabs open and will often interrupt my reading to view whatever is in the other tabs.

With both print and digital reading materials it can be quite easy to take notes. With digital file programs like Adobe PDFs, there are digital highlighters and note inserters which make it easy to take notes while you are reading on a computer. Microsoft Office Suite also has its own notes program, plus smartphones have their own notes program. If I am reading something for a class on my phone I will sometimes opt out of taking notes on paper and just use my Iphone’s notes feature. Ebooks also have highlighting and notetaking tools within so the reader can take notes or highlight as they go along. With print material you can obviously manually take notes, or highlight and underline the text. However, I feel that there is a difference in experience with highlighting, underlining, and taking notes digitally versus doing so manually. The reader seems to be engaging more with the material if they are highlighting, underlining, or taking manual notes in a notebook or within the text. Highlighting, underlining, and taking notes digitally feels more impersonal, and less authentic because it just requires clicking buttons to access and use the tools. In this day and age where typing is the norm Generally using a pen or pencil versus the keyboard feels more genuine.

While there are obvious benefits to taking notes, If I am reading for pleasure, I prefer not to underline, highlight, or take manual or digital notes. I think it's because doing so reminds me of doing readings for class where it is often a necessity to mark up the readings because I am actively conducting a deeper analysis of the reading in order to identify themes and connections When I’m reading for pleasure I’m trying to escape the drudgery of homework and other assignments.

I feel that there is a fantasy of retaining information just like that and the more you go over the information or what has just been read in your mind the more you will retain it. I liken it to watching a documentary on television. Most people aren’t taking notes if they are watching it for pleasure, but they still retain information from it events or scenes from it. Obviously, one can argue that watching television versus reading uses different processes in the brain. Finding meaning in a book is often about thinking about the meaning or content behind the scenes or dialogue and unpacking it to discover greater significance. However, reading to me is not always about identifying certain themes. Sometimes it's about getting lost in a dialogue and a world that is not your own.