A few examples:
- If you are looking at a graphic novel--that does not have any text on the page--are you still "reading"?
- If you are listening to an eAudiobook, are you "reading"?
- If you find yourself in a digital collection of photos, a museum or historical society and you visually absorb "realia" items, would you consider it "reading"? (Passively) "Looking"? Do you become a "looker"!?!
I find it quite an important question -- one that may impact on the role of libraries. Libraries and librarians often pride ourselves as champions of the reading habit. How libraries and librarians define and understand "reading" would determine what we do and how we see the profession developing.
Personally, in the context of today's Information Society, I think of "reading" as: The act of an individual transferring ideas and concepts , encrypted in some commonly understandable code , and which is contained in Information Containers , via their eyes to their conscious brain .
Just to clarify:
 - Ideas and concepts: This would mean more than text. It includes images, audio, or a combination
 - Commonly understandable code: Just my complicated way of saying a common language or common context (i.e. images, sounds)
 - Information Containers: This could be a printed book, an audio tape, a DVD, a webpage etc. Whatever materials, tools and technologies used to store and render the "ideas and concepts" in useable form.
 - Eyes to conscious brain: What I mean is that the "reading" is a conscious behaviour. The individual has to be an active participant. E.g. I sit down to watch a TV show, or listen to a CD, or read a book, or surf the net.
Of course realistically speaking, this is too broad a definition for libraries to adopt. Or is it?
Libraries in developed countries today are already providing their users access to more than just books (which is just one type of "Information Container"). They are helping customers get access to the Internet, to audio-visual materials. Just that right now, the "ideas and concepts" or information that the library chooses to acquire (for various reasons) use the printed book as the predominant format.
Alice also asks, "Can we still call our information consumers 'readers'". Well, I for one tend to use the term "Library Customer".
I think the real issue is one of "measurement" if we adopt a wider definition of "reading", but that's for another post.
Tag: role of libraries