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...