What do you think of when you think "book"? Is it words in ink on paper, compiled into bound portable reading units? Is it words on a screen (e-reader or tablet), a file that is downloaded from a seller or from a free site? Is it words spoken into your ear, a printed text read by the author or a performer, allowing you to "read" on your hour-long commute every day? All of these things qualify as a "reading a book" today, and each has its fans and detractors.
The question that frequently pops up, however, is what else a book SHOULD be. Should a book take advantage of today's constant connectivity to allow you to see a video that is relevant to the paragraph you just read? Should a book be something you can jot notes in and have those notes immediately available for other readers to see? Should a book include music inspired by or part of the story or text? Some of these things already appear in "books" aimed at beginning or struggling readers, children, and others trying to connect a printed word with its sound and meaning. (Take a look at BookFlix, part of the POWER Library Network, available to anyone with a Pottsville Library card.) But a number of articles over the years have tried to explain how books for the general adult reader could be made so much better if only authors and publishers would make use of the various technologies and social networking options available to us today. And yet, many of the proposed changes to books just don't seem to catch on.
Do you want to have a video, music, or another reader play or talk to you while you are reading? Do you read to escape interruptions and the constant clicking that we do when using a computer? When does a book cease to be a book, and become a movie, or a game, or a conversation? Maybe the answer lies in what kind of book it is: a biography of a musician might make sense to include samples of songs he or she recorded; a book about birds might want to include the bird songs or videos of birds in flight.
In the meantime, print books continue to be produced and read in large numbers, showing that some people still just want to shut out the rest of the world while they immerse themselves in a story. E-readers serve the same purpose, focusing on the story without lights flashing or bells whistling. And if they want to talk to others about it, readers join book clubs or start conversations with their friends. Here's to hoping we will always have the option to read a book in whatever way we prefer.