Leah Price’s article, Reading As If For Life, addresses how books have evolved in a sense. Books are no longer viewed as they once were. Price argues that any form of speech eventually turns into a form of reading such as: radio, television, and even gaming. Books hold meaning for both readers and users and not all books are print related. They are not merely physical objects either. Price’s main argument is: what exactly counts as reading?

Three main points:

  1. I think one of Price’s main points is found in the following statement: “Even during its most monopolistic period—after the advent of print, before the triumph of radio—the book has held meaning not just for readers but for users and has acquired value not just through reading but through handling” (page 493). The book is more than simply a physical object and is valued for the information it can hold and how it is portrayed in the eyes of the handler. However, the book is not the only information holder. Many other media can hold just as much information. The form of expressing that information is different, but the concept is the same.
  1. Price talks a lot on Fahrenheit 451. I’ve read the book before and was delighted to see that Price decided to use it because it fits extremely well with her argument. Price adds in a few well-chosen quotes from the book to help prove her point. “It’s not books you need,” one character tells another, “it’s some of the things that once were in books. The same infinite detail and awareness could be projected through the radios and televisors, but are not” (82. Page 491). This is a great quote because it states clearly what Price is also explaining. It is not the physical form of the book that is idealized by culture, but the contents. And content can take any form. Content can be anything from radio broadcasts to gaming chats in multiplayer over the web. It’s the content or information that gives any form of writing it’s meaning.
  1. The last point I want to focus on is one of the last paragraphs in the article: “Bibles make visible a problem that dogs secular books in more subtle ways: the fear that people don’t value books enough finds its obverse in the fear that people value them for the wrong reasons. Those reasons can involve investing the physical object with too many powers (“idolatry”), or investing its linguistic contents with too few” (page 496). Price is saying that society might be idolizing the book as something it’s not. What is a book but reading? This means that reading is any form of writing and finally any form of written word or anything that can be written down such as speech even. Radio and television thus count as a form of reading. Books also hold information, and so does television and radio. I believe Price is explaining that the book is given this special kind of power above other forms of reading, but these other forms are just as effective at delivering information. Books have been around longer than digital media. The reason why books may be held in a higher category could be because many people are afraid of change. This is the “fear” that Price talks about.

Two aspects that were confusing:

  1. I’m not sure if I read the passage incorrectly, but Price lost me a little when she states, “As a result, the way we do use digital media gets compared to the way we wish we used printed books: real apples with ideal oranges” (page 487). I think this stumped me more than it should have, but I really don’t have a clue as to what she means. It’s possible that Price could be using “real apples” as a pun against Apple computers, but unless there is a computer company called oranges, then I’m a little lost by this passage.
  1. To be completely honest, I didn’t really understand Price’s point about the librarians blacking out the sports pages. “This is why, as soon as public libraries were founded in the nineteenth century, librarians began to black out the sports pages” (page 489). This seemed more of a point on the control that librarians had on books more than her main point on what counts as reading. I understand that Price is saying that reading has a great influence on society even on topics that seem to not have anything to do with books, but I’m a little confused by what the librarians have to do with her argument.

Question to the author:

My question goes to the author personally: you say that the Bible doesn’t fit in with “reading for literary experience,” “reading for information,” or “reading to perform a task” when it is all three of those things for Christians. How can you justify that statement for any form of writing? It seems to me that every piece of writing aims to achieve one of those three statements in some form.