"Readings in the humanities tend to be lengthy, intellectually weighty, or both. The challenge of digital reading for the humanities is that screens—particularly those on devices with Internet connections—undermine our encounters with meaty texts. These devices weren’t designed for focused concentration, reading slowly, pausing to argue virtually with the author, or rereading. Rather, they are information and communication machines, best used for searching and skimming—not scrutinizing."--Naomi S. Baron (2014)
"No species of publication tends so much as the general class of novels to vitiate that proper taste for reading which we wish every young person to acquire and to retain. The reading of novels perverts the judgment, and alienates the mind from those occupations to which females would do well to attend, and renders every instructive book dull and heavy, when compared with the romantic love-tales which they are in the habit of gorging with such avidity."--Rev. of Dangers through Life, The Critical Review 19 n.s. 3 (1810): 377.
"But, there is one respect, in which the exclusive reading of religious newspapers, and other kindred publications, has nearly the same effect upon the mind, as a passionate fondness for plays and romances:—I mean an increasing disrelish for every thing, requiring deep thought and patient investigation. As those who inquire daily after the mere trash of the bookseller's shelves, grow more and more disinclined to look into standard works of literature and science, so the natural and necessary tendency of too much missionary reading is, to beget a distaste for many of the most valuable theological works in our language, (or indeed any other,) and to throw them aside, as altogether too dry and abstruse for ordinary readers. This certainly is not visionary speculation. It is not raising a warning voice where there is no danger, for even the great majority of good people find it so much pleasanter to feel strongly than to think closely; to skim the surface than to dive in deep water; that where the means of gratification are always at hand, a pleasing self-indulgence will too often triumph over the higher considerations of duty and advantage."--"On the Prevailing Taste, and Increasing Demand of the Christian Public for Religious Intelligence," The Christian Spectator 2 (Nov. 1820): 583.
"Nothing can he more obvious than that this thirst for mental excitement presents to sober reflection the closest analogy to the habit of dram-drinking; the former produces on the mind effects precisely similar to those produced by the latter on the hody; an hankering after renewed stimulus is excited and kept burning, which can be allayed by no sober means; and literary works founded on truth, hecome insipid and wearisome, to such as have been long accustomed to the spiritstirring pages of the novelist. Now this evil is one of lamentanle activity; for not only does it indispose the mind for the acquisition of the knowledge that might be obtained ny study,but it produces a decided distaste for the simple beauties and awful truths of the Bible. The very amusements of a Christian should have a Christian tendency: but I would boldly appeal to the mind of every novel reader, and ask whether he finds himself disposed, on laying down a deeply moving tale of fiction, to take up his new testament, and fix his attention on its solemn and eternal truths?"--"On Novel Reading," Friends' Monthly Magazine 2 (1831): 59.
"My second objection is, that they are the most difficult books to read profitably. I have pointed out what I conceive to be the most profitable way of reading, that is, to read slowly and pause often, and reflect long upon what you read. And now, I appeal to those of you who are familiar with novel reading, and ask if your own experience does not testify that novels are the most difficult of all books to be read in this way? Does not your highly excited interest in the plot, your anxiety to know the issue—do not these, I ask, carry you forward with great rapidity? Is it not often the case, that your reading is only skipping along from place to place, reading just enough to catch the story? And, when you have closed the book, what is fixed in your memory, the simple outlines of the story merely, or the peculiarities and principles of character? Do these books excite and aid you to form habits of reflection? I am well satisfied that any young lady who really wishes to read, in the way which I have pointed out, with much thought and reflection will find it more difficult to effect this, in reading novels than in reading any other books."--Jason Whitman, The Young Lady's Aid, to Usefulness and Happiness (1839), 153-54.
But there is great reason to fear that, what with the newspapers, and the magazines, and the art galleries, and the museums, and the theatres, and facility with which we can get other people to gossip with us when we are both idle and lazy, the number of those who can or ever do read a book—even a novel, even a poor novel—is rapidly declining. In fact, we fear that any one who inquired among his friends, outside the professors and professional literary men, would find that the number of those who now ever read a serious book of any kind is exceedingly small, and that those who read even novels is growing smaller. Most men who have not kept up the habit of reading, in fact, go to sleep over a serious book almost immediately, and throw down a novel after a few pages if the plot does not thicken rapidly, or the incidents are few. The thoughtful novel, such as George Eliot’s, filled with reflection and speculation, would fare much worse now, even coming from an author of her powers, than it did thirty years ago. The newspaper is fast forming the mental habits of this generation, and, in truth, even this is getting to be too heavy, unless the articles or extracts are very short. The reader begins more and more to resent being asked to keep his attention fixed on any one subject for more than five minutes. In short, any one who fiatters himself during the busy years of an active career, when he does no reading but newspaper reading, that he is going to become a reader of books at a later period when he gets more leisure, may rest assured that he is greatly mistaken. When leisure comes he will find that a serious book will tire him or send him asleep in ten minutes, just as a dumbbell would tire a long unused arm.--"The Reading Habit," The Nation 43.1100 (July 29, 1886): 92.