Workflow: Academic Reading

When I read visually, I tend to read very slowly. Like really, really slow! A 30-50 page text can take most or all of my workday (depending on a few things). And my job requires me to do hundreds of pages a week. So I cannot do all of my academic reading visually. Fortunately there are other ways of reading. I’ll discuss them below.

1. Visual Reading

When I have a text in front of my eyes, I am very tempted to take my time, read very carefully, and look for ways to appreciate the sections that would otherwise strike me as unimportant. Giving in to these temptations can be foolish. To explain consider a few questions.

  1. Can I finish all of my reading if I take my time?
  2. Does this allegedly important text deserve a careful reading?
  3. Is this allegedly important text actually important?

For much of my academic reading, the answer to at least one of these questions is “no.” In other words, usually…

  • I cannot finish all of my reading if I take my time…
  • it’s not clear that a text merits a careful reading, or…
  • it’s not clear that a text is important.†

Don’t get me wrong, the visual reading method is sometimes crucial for academic reading. If you really want to (try to) understand the nuances of a text (or a series of texts), then careful visual reading, with intermittent break for note-taking is probably worthwhile.

But visual reading is not well-suited for every situation. For instance,  Continue reading Workflow: Academic Reading

Text-To-Speech for Speed Reading & More

My job requires lots of reading. But sometimes I read very slowly. Other times my body is occupied doing something that precludes the ability to read from a book or an electronic display. So I have been looking for ways to fit in more reading and to read faster. Text-to-speech technology provides the means to do this. So I use text-to-speech for speed reading, for multi-task reading, for and a few other things. In this post, I will (a) talk you about the best PDF-to-speech app that I have found and (b) talk about how I use text-to-speech more generally.

1.  PDF-to-speech

Most computers, tablets, and smartphones can read text aloud in one way or another. However, until recently, I have not found text-to-speech software that can do both of the following:

  1. Speak the whole document start-to-finish. Every new page seems to trip up the software, so I have to restart the speech playback at the beginning of every new page.
  2. Ignore header and footer text. If the software can do 1, then it gets sidetracked by the text in the headers and footers every time it advances to the next page (e.g., copyright notices and page numbers; see figure 1 below).

Continue reading Text-To-Speech for Speed Reading & More