Thanks to Norm I got directed to Karen over at Cornflower books, pondering a life without reading. I think Norm's thoughts - that it would be about missing the ability to enter other worlds, ways of thinking, is very true but I wanted to add my own thoughts on this.
Short term, I would manage by revisualising and recalling favourite quotes, passages and the pure texture of books (I love the hard copy and as much as I love my iPod I wouldn't want to feel I hadn't got the physical object of anything - too tactile I guess).
But long-term loss of reading: that's a harder one to envisage managing. I would miss the sight of book spines, the pleasure in taking one down, browsing, scanning, remembering where I first read it, when I bought it and why (or, if a gift, who bought it for me). The physical object of the book, turning of pages, the shape and size of fonts and layouts, all of these things mean something to me -- and that's before we get to the actual content: the words, the narrative on the page.
I'd be devastated to not have words in my life: would I manage if there were other means of 'reading' available? Audiobooks, text-readers? I don't know - maybe. But I would still miss my interaction with the written word.