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本を読んでいたら。- I just do not understand this grammar.

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本を読んでいたら、いつの間にか五時間も経ってしまった。

I have always hated たら when used in the sense of WHEN rather than IF, but this one is killing me.

Why in this sentence can I not use 本を読んだら ?
what purpose does te PLUS tara serve?

I understand たら well in sentences like this;

ご飯を食べたら、寝ます
朝起きたら、歯を磨きます。
店に行ったら、デイビッドに会いました。

so where does the te form and たら fit in?

In my example, why is 読んだら not used?

Thanks again.
 

Mike Cash

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Five hours passed unnoticed WHILE reading the book (because it was so interesting); the reading and time passing were concurrent, not sequential.
 

Toritoribe

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When the verb expresses "state" in the たら conditional clause, the main clause is an event "while/during" it, as Mike-san explained. That's the reason 読んでいる is used there. The moment five hours passed was sometime while the writer was reading a book, not after they read it (= 本を読んだら).
e.g.
ご飯を食べていたら、眠くなりました。
"The moment I got sleepy" was sometime in "while I was eating". Note that ご飯を食べたら、眠くなりました。 means "I got sleepy after I ate meals" since 食べる is an action, not a state, unlike 食べている.

店にいたら、デイビッドが来ました。
"The moment David came to the shop" was sometime in "while I was in the shop".
 
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