A while ago you may remember Book Camp, a day of bookish experimentation. On the back of that I've been thinking of a bookish experiment and was wondering if it's been done. We are seeing a proliferation of reading formats- from grand, Royal hardbacks to reading on the Nintendo DS. Each of these has a different style, a different tempo to how one reads.
I'm convinced that all reading relies on rhythm in some way, a rhythm that is signified by breaks in the text. Turning the page establishes a certain rhythm, just as swiping a page on the iPhone does, or even the lines between tweets. Nonetheless what remains consistent is that we rely on the relationship between rhythm, break and comprehension for our experience of texts.
Big blocks of text have no break and rhythm, hence they are so intimidating to look at and confusing to read. Ebooks fundamentally work as they effectively recreate, if subtly alter, the rhythm and beat of reading long form texts.
My experiment would be something along the lines of: assemble the same text on every different reading platform, device and print mechanism possible. Get a focus group and then either get them to read the passage on every device and answer a series of questions, or get everyone to read on one platform and answer a set series of questions.
The goal would be to try and work out how our understanding and enjoyment of texts shifts with the platform and the various rhythms established. With that data writers and publishers could then start to think of optimising, adapting and even composing content for different reading experiences.