Now the trend has moved to books. According to this article in the Wall-Street Journal, skimming is the new reading.
"Reading slowly has been pathologized in the U.S. in the past half-century, while reading speedily has been glorified."The author is not referring to academic reading, but strictly to reading fiction for pleasure. Bertrand Russell, Welsh philosopher and mathmatician (don't worry, I've never heard of him before either) is quoted as saying:
"There are two motives for reading a book; one, that you enjoy it; the other, that you can boast about it."Both good motives. There's nothing wrong with being proud of how much you read, but the cult of speed encourages readers - consciously or sub-consciously - to focus on the book/page/word count, rather than the story. There is often more talk in the book world about quantity than quality.
I'm not saying I never skim. There are a few instances when I will read to get the "gist" of a novel. I have a tendency, especially in a high-tension plot, to start to skim over details because I can't wait to find out what happens next. In that situation, I try to consciously slow down and be sure I'm not missing things. I will skim intentionally when a book just isn't very good. I may skim through the next few chapters, or even the rest of the book, to see if it improves before putting it down. But, the best books are those where every word was chosen deliberately by the author and the reader gets wrapped up in the story like a comfy blanket. Those books deserve to be read slowly and completely.
In "How to Talk About Books You Haven't Read," Pierre Bayard, a professor of literature, makes a case for skimming as a way to maintain "a reasonable distance" from a book. "Skimming books without actually reading them does not in any way prevent you from commenting on them," Mr. Bayard wrote. "It's even possible that this is the most efficient way to absorb books, respecting their inherent depth and richness without getting lost in the details."
But, Mr. Bayard, good books should not be kept at a distance, and the best books are those where you get totally lost in the details. Skimming masses of books to impress people at cocktail parties isn't reading.
“To read a writer is for me not merely to get an idea of what he says, but to go off with him and travel in his company.”
- Andre Gide - winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, 1947