Posted by: mhdiaz | June 22, 2010

Can you Read More Slowly, Please?

It is interesting to see all of the debate about whether the scanning and skimming behavior that the internet engenders is a good thing or a bad thing.  Kept Up Academic Librarian recently surfaced an article about a professor who is trying to encourage more deep reading among his students and just generally just getting them to slow down.  

What is very interesting to me is how this debate is occurring in a world of absolutes.  In other words, this professor’s alarm seems to suggest that if students are scanning content on the web, then they must be using this same reading approach everywhere.  In my mind, web research really requires effective scanning and skimming behavior due to the nature of much of the information (quick reference) and the way that it is displayed.  It does not necessarily follow that this type of information processing is even workable when you are exploring the development of a character in a Shakespeare tragedy or the implications of a recent research study on heart disease .

It is interesting to note the recent JISC ebook report also has described this scanning and skimming behavior by library ebook users.  I suspect that the scanning behaviors were most heavily used with reference material and that this was not the approach used for novels or academic monographs.  This would be an interesting area for further research.   If reading behaviors are not adapting for the type of material, then I would agree that this could be cause for concern. 

Do you have an uneasy feeling about the internet and its long-term impact on deep reading, research and learning?  If so, what do you see as the implications for libraries and their users?


  1. Mike:

    I do believe that the Internet conditions people to shorten their attention span, and to make us focus on what is immediate rather than what is important. I have found it difficult to peel myself away from checking e-mail messages and from serving on the Internet so that I can start reading my next Charles Dickens or Dostoyevsky. I don’t have a solution to this problem.


%d bloggers like this: