The Effects of Digital and Skim Reading

Maryanne Wolf writing for The Guardian:

Look around on your next plane trip. The iPad is the new pacifier for babies and toddlers. Younger school-aged children read stories on smartphones; older boys don’t read at all, but hunch over video games. Parents and other passengers read on Kindles or skim a flotilla of email and news feeds. Unbeknownst to most of us, an invisible, game-changing transformation links everyone in this picture: the neuronal circuit that underlies the brain’s ability to read is subtly, rapidly changing - a change with implications for everyone from the pre-reading toddler to the expert adult.

Read this entire article—and don't skim.

As I see more and more Christians carrying only the Bible on their phones, I'm especially concerned about how all this is impacting our ability to read Scripture well.

How Fast Can a Fast Reader Read?

Timothy Noah, writing for Slate back in 2000:

When you factor out the amount of time spent thinking through complex and unfamiliar concepts—a rarity when people read for pleasure—reading is an appallingly mechanical process. You look at a word or several words. This is called a "fixation," and it takes about .25 seconds on average. You move your eye to the next word or group of words. This is called a "saccade," and it takes up to about .1 seconds on average. After this is repeated once or twice, you pause to comprehend the phrase you just looked at. That takes roughly 0.3 to 0.5 seconds on average. Add all these fixations and saccades and comprehension pauses together and you end up with about 95 percent of all college-level readers reading between 200 and 400 words per minute, according to Keith Rayner, a psycholinguist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. The majority of these college-level readers reads about 300 words per minute.

I've always thought of myself as a slow reader. This article puts reading speed into perspective. 


A Word of Caution Regarding Bible Reading Resolutions

Sam Allberry: 

This is truly frightening: it is possible for us to hold to the authority of God’s word, and to never miss a day of carefully reading our Bible, and yet all the while neglect coming to Jesus. There is a way to be biblical but not relational. But it makes us into a Pharisee, not a disciple. Biblical it may be, in one sense, but in a way that is profoundly unbiblical. [...]
But what matters most is love for God. So I say to myself and to you: read the Bible in 2017. Read it, not to “conquer” books of the Bible or to “get them under your belt” (scare-quotes entirely necessary). Read it to kindle a fire for the Lord. Read it to prove his love for you, not to prove your self-discipline to him or to others.

Consider covering up the dates on your Bible reading plan. This doesn't solve the problem, of course (which is ultimately a matter of the heart), but it's a step in a healthy direction. 

Tim Keller on Pastors and Writing

Josh Blount posted an interview with Tim Keller on the topic of pastors, writing, and ministry on the Gospel Coalition blog today. The short interview is packed full of wise words, especially for young pastors who desire to be published writers:

I do get approached often on this subject. And I say this: write essays and chapters, not books yet. Hone your craft through short pieces and occasional writing. But don't tackle books yet. Writing a whole book takes an enormous amount of energy and time, especially the first one(s). But as a younger man you aren't being fair to your family or your church if you are giving the book the time it warrants. And you aren't being fair to the reading public if you don't. This way you can prepare for writing your first book later.

Keller also discusses his own writing practices. For example, which disciplines have helped him to become a better writer:

Reading. That is far and away the most important discipline. You must read widely in general for years before you become capable of recognizing good writing. And then before you write a book on a subject, you should read 20 or 30 good books on the subject carefully and skim another 20 or 30. If you just read three or four (and refer to another three or four), your book will be largely a rehash and will offer few fresh insights.

Take a few minutes and read the entire post here.

Link List for May 24, 2013

Echoes of Eden: Reflections on Christianity, Literature, and the Arts (eBook) | Ebooks | Crossway

The digital version of Jerram Barrs' new book, released this month, is on sale for just $2.00. Through Crossway only.

#055: How to Read a Non-Fiction Book [Podcast] | Michael Hyatt

Michael Hyatt offers ten great tips for reading non–fiction books quickly. For example, don't feel like you need to finish every book you start. Some books, Hyatt argues, simply aren't worth finishing. Good advice from someone who spent years working in the publishing industry.

Leadership from the Heart - Posts - "Twenty Points On Leading Twentysomethings."

Twenty takeaways from Brad Lomenick’s new book, The Catalyst Leader, for those who lead and work with twentysomethings. I haven't yet read The Catalyst Leader, but it's on my list.

5 Reasons I Switched to Scrivener for All My Writing | Michael Hyatt

More from Michael Hyatt. In this blog post he explains how he uses Scrivener, a powerful writing tool for the Mac.

Kindle 3: Initial Reaction, the Good and the Bad

After much research and deliberation, I decided to take the plunge and order a Kindle 3. FedEx delivered my new gadget one week ago and, though I’ve only had a short period of time to use it, I must say that my initial reaction is a positive one.

The Kindle was a tough sell for me. I love books. I love the way they feel. I love flipping through the pages. I love the way they look on a shelf. That said, the popular ebook reader had plenty going for it as well. As I read reviews, comparisons, and specs and considered the reasons why I might consider purchasing such an item, there were a few key observations that stuck out and tipped to scales in Kindle's favor:

The Good

  • I fidget a lot when I read. I'll sit in one position while I’m reading the left-hand page and then another while I read the page on the right. I’m not sure why I do this, but it seems as though I spend a fair amount of time shifting around in my seat while I read. Is this normal? Perhaps not - at least, that’s what my wife tells me. Nevertheless, the Kindle solves the problem. Simply press a button and the page turns. I don’t even have to shift my eyes, let alone my entire body. Makes for a much more relaxing and stationary reading experience.
  • I’m in a graduate seminary program that requires me to read of a long list of books over the next ten months. The majority of these books are available on Kindle. Over the course of the year, the collective amount of money I will save by purchasing ebooks instead of printed books will nearly cover the cost of the Kindle.
  • The text-to-speech technology is surprisingly good. This allows me to “continue reading” even while I drive. Car time has never been so productive. Priceless.
  • There is still room for much improvement, but I dig the highlighting and note-taking features. All of my highlights and notes are saved to a text file which can be exported to my computer. This is incredibly useful as I write papers for my classes. No need to flip through a book looking for a specific passage of highlighted text. Just search the text file. No need to type the quote into my paper, just cut-and-paste.
  • You can’t perform a keyword search with a hardback. At least, not quickly. But you can with a Kindle. Also very helpful when writing papers.
  • Kindle provides a convenient way to read lengthy PDF documents. No more reading on my computer screen or printing them off.

The Kindle isn't all cupcakes and unicorns, however. I have discovered a few negatives along the way:

The Bad

  • "Anything with an on-off switch must be powered off" during take-off and landing in an airplane. This is unfortunate if you fly often.
  • I would like my Kindle to be able to connect to an ad-hoc wireless network. Unfortunately, it doesn't do that.
  • For some reason, the position of the letters M and N on the QWERTY keyboard throw me off. I consistently type an M where I intemded to type an N. Drives me muts. Mot sure what is goimg on here. I keep telling myself that I will adjust. Hasn't happemed yet though. Anyome else dealing with this or am I just "umique?"
  • I saved the worst for last: No page numbers. Seriously. No page numbers. Kindle uses a location number instead. Some don't see this as a problem, but it really bothers me. You should know that I'm shaking my head in disapproval right now. Yes, I understand that changing the font size messes with page numbers and location numbers remain constant when adjusting font size. But seriously, what am I supposed to do with a location number? Why not include both? There are other ways of dealing with this issue, no? Location numbers would be fine, if everyone in my class owned a Kindle. Guess what? They don't. So now, if I am discussing a book with my classmates, I have no way of quickly directing them to a page, paragraph or passage of interest. Location 145807-24 doesn't mean anything to them. And this is a two-way problem. Everyone in my discussion group could be talking about the point the author made on page 319 while I scramble to find the location number equivalent. This also complicates the quoting and citing of sources in papers. As it turns out, it is very likely most of my professors don't own a Kindle. Still shaking my head in disapproval.

All things considered, I really like the new Kindle. It brings a number of useful features and advantages to the table and I am thankful to have it. That said, the page numbers issue is a looming cloud, especially as I consider my academic pursuits and research over the next year. I've heard a number of reports about professors who do not look favorably upon Kindle location number citations. We'll see how it goes...

Do you have a Kindle? What convinced you to buy?

What do you think about the page numbers issue? Am I ill-informed?

Comment below.

© 2019 Adam Stahr ¯\_(ツ)_/¯