Over at the Pyr blog, Ian McDonald talks about reading speed vs. quality of enjoyment when he asks How Soon is Now?
To me reading isn’t a [progression] of events, it’s a [sensory] wash; every part of the imagination is engaged, verbal, visual, empathetic, olfactory. Reading is a virtual reality that’s entirely personalised to you. It’s not about where you get to, –we all know what that is; the end, the last page, the final period, no more story and we’re all headed for that one way or another; it’s how you get there.
Nicholas Carr wonders in the The Atlantic if the online world is changing the way he reads. What interests me here is not so much the dwindling of attention spans, as what I call ‘nuggeting’ –scanning only for the important points, the catching points where the eye and the brain latch on to information –a point of change or transition or a contrast. Nugget to nugget, getting the eye-kicks in at the required bpm. I wonder if that’s what the commentariat mean when they say ‘the storyline did not engage me’ –the nuggets, the changes, the beats didn’t come fast enough. I think it’s a sad and bad thing. If we’re exposed to only what stimulates, it deadens the response. Reading isn’t only about finding out what happens next. Why hurry to the end? Take your time. There’s plenty to enjoy on the way.
For me, I’d say reading is a delicate balancing act on the speed scale. If I read too slow, I lose interest; if I read too fast, I lose the information being conveyed.Somewhere in between there is the sweet spot of reading enjoyment.