What’s your reading speed?

The other day I read a review of one of my “Jason Dark” books on a blog and it struck me that the reviewer remarked upon the length of these dime novels. He mentioned in his review that it was a short read that took him about an hour to complete. At first I did not think much of it but it stuck with me and a little later I thought about this passing remark a little more.

What bothered me was the fact that it takes me considerably longer to read the books as well as the fact that I would consider a book that offers a mere single hour of entertainment too short. Since I decide upon the price of my dime novels based on the entertainment value I attach to them, the $2.99 sticker price of a “Jason Dark” volume could be considered too high… or maybe not.

The stories in the series are usually around 23,000 words long. If someone reads such a story in an hour it means he has an average reading speed of almost 400 words per minute. If this means nothing to you let me just say that that is pretty fast. I wager that few people can actually read at a speed remotely close to that, especially if you take into consideration all the factors that play into this. In addition, it means that the reviewer read either with full concentration for the entire hour, or that his actual reading speed is even higher but sprinkled with moments of distraction that bring down the average speed. Be that as it may – it remains impressive.

Reading consists of three factors – the speed at which you read the words off a page, the comprehension of the material read and finally, the retention of it, which gets overlooked all too often. This means that even though someone might be able to read the words really fast, he may not be able to pick up the entire meaning of the text – skimming it rather than taking it in really – and in addition, the text that has been read might be forgotten in no time at all.

Sometimes I wish I could read faster – I am a fairly average speed reader – and I’ve been thinking about checking out some of the programs on the web to learn that, but I am honestly afraid that it might affect my comprehension and retention, which I do not wish to sacrifice. In addition, I simply don’t know where to start and how to go about it, but it is something on my mind.

If you want to find out what your own reading speed is, check out this website for a short test. I think it is not really representative, as the sample might be too small and generic, but it will nonetheless give you an idea where you are.

http://www.readingsoft.com

I just took the test a minute ago and my result was a reading speed of 247 words per minute at 100% accuracy, which means it would have taken me at about 2 hours to read the “Jason Dark” story – though I know from real life that even that is not correct, as it typically takes me 3 to 4 hours to read one of the volumes, if not more, given all the real life distractions surrounding us.

In regards to the reviewer mentioned in opening, it is unfortunate that the impression might have been created here that the stories might be excessively short – more like short stories, which they are not. For a casual reader of the review on that blog who might not be familiar with the fact that this reviewer is an incredibly fast reader the impression is undoubtedly one that the books are a whole lot shorter than they really are. A dime novel with 64 pages in print, it will typically offer the casual reader a few hours of enjoyment and with that in mind $2.99 might be the proper price point for them after all.

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The problem with “‘Salem’s Lot”

While I haven’t had as much time to read lately as I wished I had, I’ve been able to complete Stephen King’s “’Salem’s Lot” the other day. I used to be a huge King fan 25 years or so ago but have sadly lost interest in his writing after a number of consecutive books I read of his were becoming overly tedious for me to work through – namely “Insomnia” and “The Stand” come to mind.

I remembered that “’Salem’s Lot” used to be one of my favorites so I decided to reread the novel after all these years to see how I felt about it. It was an interesting experiment and the result was very different than I expected. I expected to find the book as great as when I first read it. Sadly that was not quite the case. From the beginning I noticed that even in this story King’s penchant for overly inflated prose came through. In fact, to my surprise, the entire first quarter of the book is dedicated solely to exposition. There is absolutely nothing happening and the reader is presented with details that, I felt, were absolutely redundant. Discussing the history of the Lot is all nice and good, but do we really need to know who owned a particular parcel of land 50 years ago and that the guy liked to be in his drink watching the sunset over a brook that meanders down a particular piece of forest before it reaches another parcel of land that used to be owned by this guy who once crashed his horse carriage in a barn because… Well, you get the drift.

All of this really didn’t do much for me and neither did the last third of the book which is made up of seemingly unrelated stories and events that have only marginally to do with the main plot and could easily have been omitted. Some of the material is interesting to read – other parts are not – but overall they add little to the main story of the book and somehow reminded me of deleted scenes and alternate endings you would find on DVDs, or maybe simple writing exercises to elaborate on the overall world of the book.

By the same token, I do love the main plot of “’Salem’s Lot” and think that King has an incredibly cool story on his hands there, but as so often, I really think he lets the way he is telling the story get in the way with the story itself. I don’t want to diss the book but “’Salem’s Lot” would have been a much more enjoyable read, in my opinion, if King would have tightened up his prose and would focus a little more on what is relevant. But at the same time, I have to wonder, of course, who am I to criticize Stephen King? Honestly, I don’t have an answer to that, but I know what I like and I can tell when a book bores me.  “’Salem’s Lot” did both…

Recently I’ve discovered a new series for me to read – that is, it is new to me. It is Naomi Novik’s series of Temeraire books. I stumbled upon it by accident, browsing the shelves at Barnes&Noble. The cover intrigued my and the flap copy immediately got me intrigued. Any book that mixes dragons with Napoleonic naval adventures is instantly getting my attention. As a result I looked into it a little more and found out that it is an entire series of books, at last count up to six volumes. With that in mind, despite reading the most current entry in the series I decided to start at the beginning with “His Majesty’s Dragon,” which now graces my Kindle. So far I do like it a lot. Novik has a very easy, fluid style that makes it very fun to read the book and lose yourself in the story. I have really high hopes for this series…

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