Updates: Digital Conversations@British Library (#bldigital) on 24 September 2015 focused on Acts of reading, considering how we read in the digital age; see Andrew Prescott’s post (redux)and Bronwen Thomas’ report, in which she discusses ‘power browsing’: “the sharing of content via retweeting or emailing links, and the curation of reading via apps such as Evernote…this isn’t an entirely unskilled activity…often in turn leads to readers claiming ownership of what they read, customising or creating their own content, resulting in rich participatory cultures and activities.” Co-hosted with the Academic book of the future project (@AcBookFuture). Also: “transfer that reading experience to Instagram and suddenly something 300 words-long becomes vast…If you sneak into the space of social media, you have to deal with its speed of reading.” (source)…Literature and the reading public (12 month project)…Memories of fiction (AHRC project)…reading as wellbeing, see eg the Centre for Research into Reading, Literature and Society and Culture of Nature and Wellbeing…reading as commons, see READ-IT and Poetics in Commons…
For a several years I’ve found reading on a screen (and even at all) hard in that I’m programmed to scan, but what with ebooks and tablets really gaining traction and more quality ‘lean back’ content on offer it’s time to review my habits. I’m also interested in different ways of reading – and how they might relate to different ways of writing. Reading on a screen:
- Ebooks v paper | Reading on paper or screen – what’s the difference? | The reading brain in the digital age: the science of paper vs screens
- TL;DR Jakob Nielsen on website reading | Why you won’t finish this article | Serious reading takes a hit from online scanning and skimming
- Reading and responsive design – the amount people read changes with screen size
- speed reading apps
- 16 different news consumption practices – ie ways of ‘reading’
What works for reading on the Web? It doesn’t have to be short, see #longform, but does the nation still shudder at large blocks of uninterrupted text? For more see Ebooks and digital literature. Ways of reading:
- close reading – as practised on #FLHouseLit
- critical reading – from Skills for OU Study, includes active reading and how to take notes
- deep reading – as opposed to close
- distant reading – as practised by Franco Moretti: “the scale of world literature far exceeds what can be grasped by traditional methods; distant reading looks at large scale patterns as discerned from publication records and other data”; see the Stanford Literary Lab, Conjectures on world literature (2000) and Graphs, maps, trees: abstract models for a literary history (2005), which uses “a trio of artifical constructs to subject text to a process of deliberate reduction and abstraction”: articles in the New Yorker, Guardian, plus How big data helps us deal with more and more books
- focused vs connected reading – reading as part of a consume – curate – create – connect cycle
- The art of slow reading – see John Miedema | Lance Fletcher | Tracy Seeley
- translation as close reading – reading with and through translation
- new for 2015 – an honourable mention to Ulysses in a day
Then there’s academic reading (from #FLcuriosity, full post archived), “a very practical way of dealing with books and materials. Instead of reading through every single piece of the material, begin by going straight to the sign posts:
- chapters – read the opening and concluding paragraphs and ask: “is this relevant?”
- index – look for keywords
- signal words – ‘therefore’, ‘on the other hand’
Three main approaches:
- scanning – locate specific information (statistics, details, particular names or keywords) by just looking at the page, in particular the key terms
- skimming – read a longish text or parts of one (eg the first and last couple of lines of paragraphs) to get the gist (the main idea) of what it contains; the aim is not to get a detailed understanding but rather an overview that may be relevant to your enquiry
- critical close reading
- see also Barbara Fillip on What happens when I read a non-fiction book and the THOMAS mnemonic
Finally, reading as a writer.
I practise curated reading (I’ve just made this up). If you read book reviews, vaguely literary blogs etc, you already know a fair amount about a book before you pick it up – one of those sources may have made you pick it up in the first place. I might also have done a bit more searching around the book, looking for interviews with the author, their website, free/open bits of their writing elsewhere, online book reviews…so after I’ve read around 50 pages I might feel I’ve had enough. OTOH I might go through the curation process while I’m reading the book, or afterwards, and then put the whole thing together as a book review. In what happens when I read non-fiction Barbara Fillip talks about connecting: “Once I’m deep into the book, my mind starts wandering and I start making connections with totally different aspects of my life…I get interrupted, read something else, and the connections between the two items I’ve been reading appear.” Think of it as an introvert appropriate approach to social reading.
The other side of this particular coin is that you can sound as if you have read the book without having ever opened it, channelling Pierre Bayard (in Brain Pickings). I’ve heard Iain Sinclair bemoaning a couple of times that people can talk reasonably intelligently about his books without having made the effort to read all 400 pages. And if you do make the effort, maybe you can write a book about it? Surely there have been loads of these (eg Susan Hill’s Howards End is on the landing: a year of reading from home), but The year of reading dangerously: how fifty great books saved my life by Andy Miller seems to be the latest in the canon. After listening to the Little Atoms podcast and scanning the sample chapter I feel like I can tick it off my to read list, especially as Andy admits his choices are “literary lad classics”. But his advice is to sticking with a book, particularly in these days of instant opinions, as the value of say, Middlemarch, may be in the whole experience.
Update, Dec: in Five Dials 34 (PDF only; pp44-47) Nick Hornby is interviewed about the guilt of not reading and his column/book Stuff I’ve been reading. The June 2010 column, reprinted in Salon, covers Francis Spufford’s Red plenty. As the man says,
Read what you enjoy, not what bores you.