We live in an age where almost anything is possible. The technology available to use is enormous and developing all the time. Almost monthly there comes a new way to be able to do something and reading to that end is no exception.
The first thing to get clear is that it’s not one size fits all. In spite of what you might have read anywhere else, people do still like to read in many different ways.
Printed books are now far less popular than e-formats perhaps, but there is still a strong market for them. Printing is not what it used to be, the industry has moved with the times and, as a trade printer with experience in the industry over many years, I can tell you that prices have dropped dramatically. There are many POD (print on demand) services available to prospective publishers and there is quite a difference in the precise services offered.
As for digital formats it doesn’t just stop at the Kindle, Nook or any other e-reader . . . a couple of beta readers for my latest first draft actually requested a PDF format because they wanted to be able to look at it on more than one device and didn’t want it to be tied to their regular e-reader.
The choices available for methods of producing material for people to read are endless, and it is down to the reader to be discerning in how he or she gets the most from their reading.
Are you the person that likes to have your whole library on your e-reader and takes it with you everywhere? Do you sit and read while your kids are at their sports club of an evening? Do you take it with you to the Spa and utilise that extra thirty minutes when you would otherwise be just relaxing? Or, do you ‘collect’ ebooks? - you’ve got them in many different formats on your computer - your favourites are on cloud drives as well so you can get them up on your mobile or tablet whenever you want. Maybe you are more the ‘curl up on the sofa with a good book’ type? You probably want a physical printed copy - you like to pick it up and feel the pages, gaze at the cover, smell the print - a book for you is a possession of comfort. Or, you’re a paperback addict and you feel satisfied as you know you’ve taken in another chapter and can see the thickness level of pages read increasing by the hour - for a few days this book goes with you everywhere!
We are all very different in our habits.
Here is an observation I have made first hand over the last couple of years:
Twice a week I run my daughter down to athletics, I tend to socialise with a few other parents while we watch but a good proportion, between 25% and 35% read. What do they read? Virtually always fiction. How do they read it? 60% /40% split slightly favouring e-reader devices over print books. Who reads? 99% are women. (There are parents, men and women in equal numbers).
Getting the best from your reading experience
I’ve talked to a lot of people about how and what they like to read and it’s clear that we all have a different take on almost everything that we find in front of us to read. Some read fast, some read slow, some of us focus better under pressure and some of us struggle.
To get the best experience from reading anything requires two things: knowing what it is you want/need to read and applying the skills of mind to most effectively digest the experience. This may sound a bit of a clumsy way of putting it . . . did I just say you need a certain skill set to read? Yes, reading is as much a skill as the writing is in the first place. Think about this for a moment, we can all read and write to a greater or lesser degree, but the outcome, experience or knowledge gained by any individual is going to differ greatly. It’s not just because of what is written on the page in front of you, it’s about what you understand from what’s written on the page in front of you.
Reading is the most important skill
Of course, reading objectives are going to vary greatly in accordance with what the requirement is; if you are reading non-fiction you might scan through a section to get to the bit of information you require, there may be no requirement to have known what comes before or after. The ability to concentrate, focus, and often re-read a small part over and over are necessary skills in this case. An example would be an instruction manual.
If you are reading to find out about a broader subject presented as a whole and that points to a particular theory or philosophy, then you can take the dip in and out approach. However, you will get the best experience by reading from start to finish, then re-reading parts relevant to your requirements. This book and thousands of others like it are examples. This is probably the most common mindset with which people approach reading in general.
If you are reading fiction you need to read it all . . . nothing is ever gained by guessing the ending or skipping the middle. But here lies the real crux of the matter:
You need the right mindset for whatever is in front of you
The human brain works in a way that naturally adapts to its environment. If you want to find something out you will concentrate when reading that important instruction, if you don’t really want to be bothered with the story you are reading then your mind will drift off and scream ‘boring, boring’ however good the writing or content in front of you might actually be.
So once you’ve decided you are going to read something you need to quite simply keep an open mind, start on a level playing field and kill off any preconceptions you may have at the back of your mind as to what you might already be thinking about the story. It’s only too easy to see from Amazon reviews when readers had already made up their mind that they were expecting something else from the story.Too often a low rating review contains revealing information that tells a discerning observer that perhaps the reader hadn’t really accepted the story at face value in the first place. Some of these reviews are actually just plain comical.
As a real ‘live’ experiment I just broke off for an hour whilst writing this to randomly pick out such an example from the amazon store. I didn’t sift through, I just went three pages in and looked for the first novella that caught my eye that had a handful of reviews that ranged from low to high. The results back up what I am saying perhaps even more than I expected! Here is what I found:
Now I’m not going to reveal exact details of the story, it’s not relevant. I will just tell you that it was a simple mystery story with an easy to understand but slightly unusual plot. It was also a debut novella to be the first in a series. I have changed the exact wording of the review comments to protect any obvious identity.
One reviewer gave it a low rating saying simply that they found it very unusual and after reading a quarter of it they gave up because it showed no signs of improvement!
So . . . ‘unusual’ - is that not a good thing in the mystery genre? If anyone read only a quarter of any of my short stories then gave up I would not have expected them to have been able to give a considered opinion about it. Yes, we know that first page has to grab the reader’s attention but surely it’s worth giving it more than ten minutes if you are bothering to leave a review at all!
Another said, ‘I skipped to the last page to see how it ended up as I gave up in the middle’
‘It wasn’t my type of book and would have suited a teenager rather than an adult’ (the sales page states a reading age of 7 - 11 years!)
I gave it a higher rating review, and the book thankfully has received some good reviews but you can see from this how easily many readers find themselves getting sucked into that ‘preconception’ state of mind whereby they are already expecting a very specific result from the experience of reading a particular book.
Reading doesn’t work best this way. Keep an open mind, always prepare to be taken on a slightly different journey each time.
Of course, everyone is entitled to their own opinion and must be allowed the platform to be able to give it. You expect any book to be as described, and, there are some shockers out there that fall well short of the mark, but this random choice I made was certainly not one of them. It was well-written overall and the review criticisms were in my opinion somewhat unjust.
How and what do you like to read? I'd love to know
A story with a twist . . . read here