> All I'm saying is that the experience of "reading the book" is
> adequately approximated by the sum of reading the reviews, reading
> the jacket, talking with friends about it, and checking out Web
> pages about it.
I completely disagree with this.
You'll have learned enough about the book to discuss it with people,
and to explain to someone what it's about. You'll have learned how
other people reacted to the experience of reading it. You'll know
details about the plot. But unless you're extraordinarily empathic,
you won't know what it felt like to experience the book.
The pacing, the presentation, the phrasing, the background, the
organization.. These things all add to what you would get from the
book. This is especially true of fiction, which I'm guessing you mean
to include since you also mention movies.
One thing missing from a review is enjoyment. I enjoy experiencing
well crafted communication in many forms. I enjoy a well written
review. A review of a good movie would tell me it was good, but I
wouldn't have enjoyed the presentation of it at all. I might enjoy
some of the plot twists, but probably not as much as I would have had
I learned of them in the intended context.
Hearing about, reading about, and discussing the book might give you
more value per unit time, but not linearly. You can get a little
indirectly, but if you want to closely approximate the value of a good
original work, I think it would take at least as long as reading it
yourself. There is no substitute for personal experience.
Of course, for books with only one or two noteworthy features, it's
probably not worth getting the full value out of it for the time it
would take to read. But anything worth reading more than two reviews
of is probably worth reading yourself.