Reading the Rails – Part 3: Books vs. Magazines

Magazines are disposable, have a lot of variety, and tend to be short, which works for commuting. But do these benefits outweigh those of books? Books hold their own in the competition for the commuter’s choice.

1. Variety

There’s a lot more variety in books than in magazines, obviously. This variety comes not only in the type of reading material, but also in book size and length.  Books typically come in 6×9 inches trim size, however, some come much smaller, while others come much larger. They also come in different lengths from epic tomes to slim editions. Readers can choose a smaller, lighter book for a shorter commute. If the commute is longer, a larger book may seem less burdensome because time spent reading is longer than time spent just carrying the book around.

2. Portability

The portability of a book depends on which of the above varieties you’ve selected. The complete works of Margaret Atwood would be more of a burden to carry around than a play by Tomson Highway. Reading material will therefore have to be chosen based on the following ratio: amount of room in purse, briefcase, knapsack : desire to read what you want to read. The greater the desire, the larger the book can be because the reader will be more willing to carry it around. The smaller the desire, the more likely the reader will leave the tome at home and opt for a lighter, space efficient selection.

3. Preference

When it comes to bringing a book along for your commute, it really only comes down to preference. Books aren’t typically picked up as an impulse purchase along with your morning coffee and muffin. Magazines have successfully bogarted that demographic. Where books find advantage, however, is in their ability to completely consume readers. Commuters aren’t likely to tote along their favourite books because they think they might have a chance to peruse through them, killing time. It is because they know they will find time in their day to devour the next chapter of their new favourite book.

Every commute has its own requirements for reading material. Take the benefits (and drawbacks) discussed in this post and the last and go out to experiment with what works for you and your daily commute.

This Week’s Commuter’s Choice: Eunoia

This little volume of poetry has garnered a lot of publicity as an avant-garde work of art so precise and structured it borders on a science experiment. Eunoia—the shortest word in the English language with all five vowels—is comprised of five chapters, each chapter telling a complete story using only one vowel. Perfect for commuting, you can read only a couple page-long verses or an entire chapter. I recommend Chapter E: a retelling of the Iliad.


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