Reading ‘For the Sake of It’

The longer I think about what reading actually means to me, the more insoluble situations I encounter. Everything I do daily – communicating via email, research, or production for work – means that I absorb a lot of text and information, but I do not connect that to the concept of ‘reading’. And so I read a lot during the day, just like everybody else, everything that arrives via our countless digital networks: browsing, scanning, searches on Google or Wikipedia. These are pieces of information, texts, or images that are consumed. Not only in the digital field, but also on the city roads. I consider all this as ‘knowledge gathering’ or ‘absorbing information’ – and it doesn’t really matter whether it is text or image.
The concept of reading ‘for the sake of it’ is different. It’s about surrendering yourself in the world of words. That means that language becomes very important. Part of the story is already contained in the way in which something is formulated. Formulating is designing with words. And just as we wish to evoke a message with a visual design, a writer can create an extra dimension with language. Designing with words contains a character, ambiance, or touch of magic that is lost in the ‘fast’ streams of information. If you surrender yourself to reading, you find peace inside, time is absent, a new world is created.
To explain yourself in words and sentences costs time. It is without aim and seems more like a journey. It’s not about absorbing information as quickly as possible, but about expanding your mind with thoughts and words. This form of reading is also an emotional enrichment. Peter Bieri, the language philosopher, writes: ‘An educated person knows how to read books in such a way that they change him… that after reading, he is different than he was before.’
It is easier to read if you shut yourself away. That is why, for me, a traditional book has always been until now the only way to read ‘for the sake of it’. Then there are no options for switching – to other textual sources or additional contextual information. A sentence must carry enough in itself.
The seclusion inherent in a book (although thought of as a limitation) is crucial for reading. The challenge is in creating space in a ‘connected’ world where you are completely limited and can experience an enrichment by language instead of the absorption of information. How you can work with text and typography in the digital domain is still an underexposed area; a way which does not present reading for consumption or for information, but where words and their meaning are placed in a timeless area of tension, so that it becomes a new way of reading ‘for the sake of it’. – Luna Maurer