Too much to read

“Why don’t you ever look beneath the surface, young man! I laugh because I dare not cry. This is a crazy world and the only way to enjoy it is to treat it as a joke. That doesn’t mean I don’t read and can’t think. I read everything from Giblett to Hoyle, from Sartre to Pauling. I read in the tub, I read on the john, I read in bed, I read when I eat alone, and I would read in my sleep if I could keep my eyes open. Deety, this is proof that Zebbie has never been in my bed: the books downstairs are display; the stuff I read is stacked in my bedroom.”
“The Number of the Beast” by Robert A. Heinlein

One of the nice things about using DEVONthink to store your literature is that you can use the “File” – “Database Properties …” option to display the amounts of words the files in your database have (unique and total).

I have three databases that store files I want to read:

  1. Sources — Private
  2. Sources — Web
  3. Sources — Work

Looking at the total number of words:

  1. Sources — Private: 108.660.304 words
  2. Sources — Web: 17.988.368 words
  3. Sources — Work: 117.643.376 words

and giving the reading speed (here: average for comprehension = 300 word per minute*), it leads to the following interesting calculation:

(private + web + work) / 300 (reading rate in words per minute) / 60 (minutes in an hour) / 16 (hours available per day if you do nothing else but read and sleep) / 365 (days in a year, rounded)

which is

(108660304+17988368+117643376) / 300 / 60 / 16 / 365

and results in about

2.32 years

In other words, it would take me well over two years doing nothing all day but reading and sleeping (putting motivation issues aside) to read through the literature I have in my databases. Hmm, interesting.

Perhaps need to focus a bit more …


* Unfortunately, I know of no program that measures your average reading speed. I would be (relatively) easy to add this functionality to Apps like GoodReader. Determine the number of words per page (easy with OCR/PDF+Text files) and the duration the reader needs to turn the page, exclude outliers (reader probably went to the toilet, got a coffee, or was otherwise occupied). Give the reader an overview of his/her average reading speeds per title and ask the reader to classify the titles (e.g., journal article, fiction book, etc. pp.). It would be interesting to get one’s own reading speeds for different kinds of sources. I mean, iCal is now able to calculate the time you need to arrive at your destination, why not do the same when you plan some reading?

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