Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Need to Speed Read



I don't know about you, but my internet reading habits are almost always based on speed. I find myself scanning for keywords, slowing down (but only a little) when I find something of interest, and burning up text when I have no coherent focus. It's a bad habit, to be sure, but one born from necessity- there's just too much information and too little time. Now "real" reading- the reading of a proper book, that is a whole 'nother critter.

I've been following the developing Kindle™ and iPad™ conflict with some interest. I have neither, and am probably at least a year away from buying any kind of device which would augment/supplant my laptop. A TV ad for the Kindle portrays a smart, attractive woman (in a swim suit) at the beach blissfully reading her eBook while a frustrated, slightly dumpy man struggles with an iPad. The sexual connotations are not subtle. For some odd reason, I am always leery of an advertisement which alienates half of its potential market. The iPad™ ads, conversely, show people using them in happy, socially positive ways. Not in ways I would probably use, but at least sexual politics aren't a part of the equation. Both devices enable users to read text, but the Kindle™ is limited to a few fonts in a black on gray screen (perfect for the beach) while the iPad™ can do multi-media, internet and video in color (perfect for everywhere else besides the beach.) Both are deficient to a book when it comes to "paging" through content. Although they offer a page-like interface, they are still not (to my mind) as practical as browsing in a proper book.

My recent purchase of The Art Journal- published in London in 1879- provides an excellent illustration of the difference between a traditional book and electronic media. This folio sized (10" x13") volume (pictured above) is meant to be read slowly. Small type, set in two wide columns, printed on heavy paper, supplemented with exquisite steel engravings. It is almost impossible to skim this book. This publication has been scanned by Google; the result is a joke.

There is another way to experience books- aurally. Books on tape are nothing new, those relics of the 90's were followed by CD's and MP3 files. This brings a further change in the experience of "reading." A good reader is capable of giving a work an extra, dramatic dimension, albeit at a much slower rate.

Finally, there is that peculiar step-child of radio: Pod-Casting. In what may be the worst of all possible worlds, the pod-casts I've listened to have been almost excruciatingly slow at delivering information, regardless of how competent the creator is (and usually the presenter is not a very good speaker!) It's as bad as listening to documentaries on NPR. I am sure they fill a need, but not for speed. Still, some people love them.

Perhaps I need more research on Pod-Casts...

By Professor Batty



8 Comments:

Anonymous Jon said...

Besides being a bit technologically challenged, I still prefer a book. One distinct advantage is that it doesn't need batteries. If I want to note a passage or flip between sections (for references, etc.)or even to carve out pages to hide contraband, it would be difficult to do with a Kindle.
No, I never have carved a book, but if I wanted to...


Blogger Professor Batty said...

There have been a few books I would have liked to carve...


Blogger Rose said...

I've been glad to get access to books digitally that I might not have seen otherwise. This is a particularly poorly done one--the quality checker was asleep. My ideal? Having a nice example of the physical specimen--a book--, having the digital version on my digital reader (to keep in my purse if I find myself in line somewhere), and having an audio version to listen to at the gym and in my car. I switch between all three mediums, and often repeat the same passages/pages in different medium, for maximum effect. Sweeeeet!


Blogger Professor Batty said...

I read so few books (about 20 a year) that my "critical mass" is never reached. If I did a lot of long-distance driving, I think I would get into audiobooks.


Anonymous Caroline said...

Very thoughtful post and I do agree with you. I tend to speed read a lot of internet content which recently led me to the conclusion that I shouldn't bother reading it in the first place. I am not tempted by e-book and the like but. 20 books per year? This makes me think that I should considerably slow down my book reading. I wonder what I am chasing...


Blogger Professor Batty said...

I would read more if I had the time (my "retired" wife probably reads over 80 books a year) but I'm still working. I've been trying to cut down on my internet reading, most of the "culture" links I have in my sidebar are really browsing sites, which helps to limit my random surfing.

Leigh Alexander has some good thoughts on the subject of wasted time reading on the internet:

http://thoughtcatalog.com/2011/five-emotions-invented-by-the-internet/


Anonymous Niranjana (Brown Paper) said...

This may interest you--a dude using a box-cutter to rip apart a book in order to scan it into his iPad. the link is from the Globe and Mail.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/arts/books/in-other-words/heartless-tech-writer-destroys-1913-book/article1793619/


Blogger Professor Batty said...

Ah, the joys of digital destruction! The sad part is, that guy thinks he pretty smart.

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