Slow reading a fine idea, if there is time to read slowly…

Wednesday, 21 July, 2010

Slow-reading is a cause being championed by British academics who would like to wean more people off their reading diet of 140 character tidbits, in the interests of boosting concentration levels and attention spans, both of which are in decline.

A literary revolution is at hand. First we had slow food, then slow travel. Now, those campaigns are joined by a slow-reading movement – a disparate bunch of academics and intellectuals who want us to take our time while reading, and re-reading. They ask us to switch off our computers every so often and rediscover both the joy of personal engagement with physical texts, and the ability to process them fully.

While the idea has merit and few could argue against its necessity, is it possible to completely abandon the skim-reading practices we’ve become used to, and in a way, dependent upon?

Personally, I’m not sure I could ever go offline for long. Even while writing this article I was flicking constantly between sites, skimming too often, absorbing too little; internet reading has become too ingrained in my daily life for me to change. I read essays and articles not in hard copy but as PDFs, and I’m more comfortable churning through lots of news features from several outlets than just a few from a single print source. I suspect that many readers are in a similar position.

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