Reading Fast and Slow

I am a person sensitive to time pressures. At the time of this writing, it is nearly 11 pm, my blog post is late, and I have two manuscripts to read this evening.  When I am feeling especially harried–flooring it en route to pick up my sons, scrolling through my inbox, willing the train to move more quickly–I try and remind myself (deep inhale) that time is a construct, and therefore I ought not  fret about something that is essentially made-up (slow exhale).  This rationalization is not particularly effective, because it leads to a mind-bogglingly long chain of other important things that are also constructs (money, manners, the idea that television is now “really good”) and I find I have fallen into a deconstructionist wormhole from which I must emerge post-haste if I want to get anything done.  Still, much as  I acknowledge the universality of busyness and the supremacy of schedules , I think the idea of posting reading times on books, as discussed here in this piece from Publishing Perspectives http://publishingperspectives.com/2013/09/should-books-tell-you-how-long-it-will-take-to-read-them  is ludicrous. Maybe even flat-out wrong.

Perhaps reading speed is less variable than I believe, though I know that how quickly I read has everything to do what I’m reading, but even if most people read at more or less the same pace so that these estimates are accurate,  a time stamp seems awfully reductive.  It undermines what is one of the principle joys of a good book—that while immersed in one, we lose all sense of time.  So sure, a  book might take six hours to finish, and maybe someone will next figure out the actual per person cost of those book reading hours so we can figure out how to schedule our lives most efficiently, but I think it is impossible to quantify the experience of reading.

What do you think? Does knowing the reading time of an article affects your willingness to read it? What about a book?

2 Responses to Reading Fast and Slow

  1. D. C. DaCosta says:

    “Reading Time”? You mean like “Prep Time and Cooking Time” in a recipe? It is to laugh.

    Articles like that tell me two things:
    – the writer was on deadline and out of ideas
    – the editor thinks it doesn’t matter what you write, as long as you write.

    The Internet has helped modern journalism to become just like television: a voracious consumer of content. And the bottom of the barrel is in sight.

  2. Karen says:

    If it was April, I’d have said it was an April fool. I agree that it seems flat-out-wrong.

    My sister reads at half the speed I do, yet we both read and enjoy the same books. Maybe I could ask for my money back when the six-hour read turns out to be only a three-hour read.

    No. I don’t want ‘time to read’ on my books.

    Something I would really love that sounds related but isn’t, is word count on eBook sales sites. So that I know when I’m paying novel price for a novella or a short story.

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