Last week in one of the many library email newsletters I received at work I came across a link for an iPhone/iPad app created by the King County Library System. King County is in Washington. The city of Seattle is in King County. Someone in their library system made an app called Readometer.

Basically the Readometer is a time clock. It can keep track of more than one person (but not all at the same time), and keeps stats for you. What’s the point? Well, you can find out how much time you really spend reading. You can also set goals, say, for an hour. At the end of an hour the clock will chime and ask you if you want to read for another hour (yes please!). If you get interrupted, you can pause the clock and resume again later.

The app is free and I figured, why not? It might be an interesting experiment. All was going along well until I sat down to read Sunday afternoon to find everything had been reset. So, I began again. And from Sunday until now I have spent 5 hours 40 minutes reading. Not having anything to compare this to, I don’t know if it is a lot or a little for me. I figure I will continue the experiment for a month so I will have four weeks of reading to compare. What might happen next is I will want to compare month-to-month. But I might not. Let’s not jump ahead.

I have never kept track of the time I spend reading before, have only ever guessed. My guess has always been that I read for 1 ½ to 2 hours a day Monday through Friday, 3-4 hours on Saturday, and 2-3 hours on Sunday. When I started over on Sunday I had not done any reading yet for the day and ended up reading for two hours. Monday I read for 1 hour 10 minutes and Tuesday for 1 hour 35 minutes. So far today I have read for 55 minutes. Now, I am running this app on my iPad and I do not take it wherever I go so I have been doing some extra timekeeping outside the app.

I have so far noticed a few interesting things about timing my reading. The first time I set the clock and started reading I was a bit anxious! Anxious? Why? I have no idea, it was such a surprising feeling. Perhaps initially the timer stirred up memories of standardized testing. Even though I have always been a good reader, I hated the reading comprehension portions of timed testing. Reader me wants to read slowly and absorb the language, enjoy the story, you know, read. But testing doesn’t want you to read for pleasure. The test wants you to read fast for information only and then answer the 3-5 multiple choice questions and move on. This always stressed me out because inevitably there would be one or two really long passages and I would lose my purpose-driven focus and start reading and end up arguing with the questions and before I’d know it I had “wasted” time.

Thankfully the initial anxious feeling over the timer gave way pretty fast. It gave way to fidgeting. I’d find myself wondering how much was left on the timer, hasn’t it been 30 minutes yet? Is it working okay or does my iPad battery need to be charged? When did 30 minutes start taking so long? Even 15 minutes felt like a long time. And I started to worry there was something wrong with me and maybe the internet really has ruined my attention span.

All this happened last week in the first days of using the timer before it somehow reset which was probably good in the whole scheme of things. Now, it is no big deal having the timer going while I read. If anything I find I get more annoyed at interruptions. I find I like setting the timer for short increments like 15 minutes so I can hit the “keep reading” button when the chime sounds. Tapping that button multiple times feels somehow decadent, like I am getting away with something.

I will report back in a month for sure, maybe with an update at two weeks. I am curious to see what the results will be.