Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Bathroom reading

Has there been any research into reading ebooks on the toilet? Serious question.

What I want to know is how many people read while taking a dump, and whether that's been affected by ebooks. At the risk of the TMI zone, I always kept books in my toilet, mostly cartoons or humour, or else I'd take New Scientist or Private Eye in with me. Now, I don't. I have a phone, which means I have my entire Kindle library and the whole Internet to read.

Teach 'em young.

Look, I know I'm not the only one. Henry Miller maintained that reading in the toilet was the only way to appreciate Ulysses. Saint Gregory, way back in the Middle Ages, declared that the toilet high in a castle turret provided the best place for uninterrupted reading. There is research on reading paper books on the toilet, though it's mostly about hygiene. One survey I found a reference to (but no link) said that the New Yorker discovered in the 90s that people who read on the toilet were more likely to be graduates than people who didn't. And whenever I'm out in a public place and have to visit a restroom, I can hear the clicks and beeps of people reading, texting, or browsing on their phones emanating from the cubicles.

However, what interests me is to find how e-books have changed people's bathroom reading habits. We know that people read more often in lunch breaks than they used to, and are now more likely to read e-books than magazines while waiting for buses or trains. It's now easy to use those small snippets of time for reading, and there's plenty of research to support that. But there's precious little about what happens in the smallest room. Has it affected the market for bathroom books? Is this why the short short story is set to make a comeback? Do publishers now need to think more about the toilet as a normal reading environment if they want to understand their readers? Or are we all posting on Facebook or reading Twitter while we poop?

It's a subject crying out for research, and it has real commercial implications.

It's okay, I'm an anthropologist. I'm allowed to think about these things.

(And no, I'm not writing this in the toilet, but I could have. For all I know, you're reading it there.)

1 comment:

BiggsTrek said...

I, for one, have never read in the toilet. Not with a paper book, magazine, or my kindle. (I guess I've got more important things to do...)