So you can read my books

Friday, February 15, 2013


Has endlessly skimming short texts on the internet made us stupider?

An increasing number of experts think so - and say it's time to slow down . . .

I listened to the audiobook of AMERICAN GODS

and was stunned to hear the F bomb nearly
every other word and the graphic sexual description.

I'm not a prude but I try to refrain from the F bomb in my thoughts and hearing it every other word was jarring. 

The sex just made me feel like a Peeping Tom.

Was this the book I had so enjoyed when I read it in prose?

I realized then that I had just skimmed through those sections to get on to the highly enjoyable main
text and story.

If you were to read this article in print, chances are you would only get through half of what I've written.

But reading this online as you are, you might not even finish a fifth. OUCH!

At least, those are the two verdicts from a pair of recent research projects – respectively,

the Poynter Institute's Eyetrack survey, and analysis by Jakob Nielsen –

 which both suggest that many of us no longer have the concentration to read articles through to their conclusion.

So are we getting stupider? Is that what this is about? Sort of.

According to The Shallows, a new book by technology sage Nicholas Carr,

our hyperactive online habits are damaging the mental faculties we need to process and understand lengthy textual information.

Round-the-clock news feeds leave us hyperlinking from one article to the next –

without necessarily engaging fully with any of the content;

our reading is frequently interrupted by the ping of the latest email;

and we are now absorbing short bursts of words on Twitter and Facebook more regularly than longer texts.

Which all means that although, because of the internet, we have become very good at collecting a wide range of factual titbits,

we are also gradually forgetting how to sit back,


and relate all these facts to each other.

"If you want the deep experience of a book, if you want to internalise it,
 to mix an author's ideas with your own and make it a more personal experience,

you have to read it slowly," says Ottawa-based John Miedema, author of Slow Reading (2009).

But Lancelot R Fletcher,

the first present-day author to popularise the term "slow reading", disagrees.

He argues that slow reading
is not so much about unleashing the reader's creativity,
 as uncovering the author's

As authors, we must be aware that our readers will skim ...

missing perhaps a key clue we have left to the mystery of our book's climax.

How do we prevent their skimming?

We make each sentence something of beauty or wit or angst that will touch our reader's
heart and imagination.

Do you skim in your reading?  Do you read in-depth articles or do you just surf the highlights?
Do you agree that slow reading is necessary?  What do you think?


  1. Very THOUGHT PROVOKING post, Roland.

    I must agree to most of it. I agree that readers are skimming like crazy, TIME is so scarce for us that we want to get as much info as possible. BUT, I don't agree that readers are losing their intelligence. Maybe their focus because of THE TIME restraints.

    As for reading fast or slow, readers have their pace. If they are inclined to relish the written descriptions or gloss over for the main point, they will.

    Like you say, if the words are beautifully written, the reader will slow and absorb. But today so much JUNK is written, like the F bomb for instance. With all the media hype for ACTION PACKED, GRAPHIC, and HIGH TECH imagery in movies, it's no wonder beautifully written prose is becoming more obsolete. SO SAD really.

    THANKFULLY for us we have YOU an many others in our blogger community who write memorable words.

  2. I skip bits. Totally, unabashedly. Because I see no reason to ruin the experience for myself with bits and pieces that don't seem exiting, or appear to be gratuitous, or, sometimes, talk about a character that I don't like.

    I did a lot of that when reading George RR Martin's books, going so far as to skip chapters to get one with a particular character's story. I'd go back to read the ones I skipped later on, but first, I had to know what would happen to my favourites.

    And yes, I skip sex scenes and "overhead" swear words or things like that.

    I don't think it makes me any stupider, but I think it really depends on what you're doing with your reading - do you want to write a review? When I do, I make note of details. Is it a beach read? Who cares about the details!

    See what I mean?

  3. That was supposed to say "to get on with", not "to get one with"... I guess speed writing has disadvantages.... *sigh*

  4. People do skim. I've said for a long time that the attention span of the next generation will be very short and they will be all about the instant gratification.
    I's skim those sex scenes though.

  5. What Alex said.
    When I read Tender is the Night, I did slow my pace of reading. It was too rich to rush.

  6. Michael:
    Skimming through is bad, but skimming from site to site from twitter to Facebook does inhibit our capacity to reflect and digest indepth material. Scary thought.

    Your prose is beautiful enough to warrent reading slowly and with appreciation! :-)

    Skipping through boring bits does not make us stupider. It is the habit of always reading short snippets from the web, tweets, and Facebook that reduces our capacity to read with clarity long passages.

    Much of the beauty of a great author's prose is lost by skimming though. We all of us have our own reading style though. :-)

    Short attention spans seem to be the bane of our next generation. Politicians and used car dealers love this! :-)

    Yes, great masters of prose make us want to absorb each facet of each paragraph. Have a great weekend, Roland