man reading a book

Should Books Tell You How Long They Will Take to Read?

In Discussion by Edward Nawotka

If a 300-page book indicated it would take 10 hours to read, would that change your mind about reading it?

By Edward Nawotka

man reading a bookToday’s feature story looks at the Delay App, which asks readers to indicated the amount of time they would like to read and, in turn, the app offers them selections that can be read during that period. It’s an intriguing premise, one that assumes all people read at the same pace. That said, it’s not entirely new. Several websites have experimented over the years with indicating at the top of an article how long it might take to read. Longreads, in particular, maintains the practice.

Do you think this practice is useful? Would putting the estimated number of hours it would take a reader to finish a book right there on the jacket be a good marketing tool?

I suspect it might put readers off. In my previous experience with the web sites indicating the amount of time it would take to read an article, I found myself clicking away if the article was of only marginal interest (which is about 90% of what I read online) and looked to be too long. Books — if they told you that, provided an average reading pace of a page every two minutes — would likely take you ten hours for a 300-page book, it might just be enough to put you off reading it.

That said there are times when I really do like knowing just how long it will take me to read something. A play, for example, is an ideal way to spend the night: I knew it will take me between two and three hours from start to finish. It’s a comfort to know that I can have a “complete reading experience” in the particular allotted amount of time. Poetry, even better. A page or two takes five minutes max (I read poetry slowly). Even books with short chapters help, because I know I can gauge my progress; books with long chapters sometimes feel to me like I’m digging a pit in the sand where the sides keep falling in.

Sadly, this likely say more about how many mediocre, less-than-engaging books I find myself reading than anything else.

Let us know what you think in the comments?

About the Author

Edward Nawotka

A widely published critic and essayist, Edward Nawotka serves as a speaker, educator and consultant for institutions and businesses involved in the global publishing and content industries. He was also editor-in-chief of Publishing Perspectives since the launch of the publication in 2009 until January 2016.