When I was a child learning to read, most of the things I was reading were pretty easy to understand. I was clever and a good learner, and my natural way of reading is very quick, about 1000wpm for reasonably straightforward material. But I am no longer a child, and many of the things I want to read are not nearly so easy to understand (mostly because I want to read textbooks and technical papers and dense novels and so forth; probably also because at 50 I am less clever than I was at, say, 20). The techniques I acquired naturally when learning to read are a bad match for much of my actual reading, and if I want to understand things I need to go out of my way to slow things down.
I suspect the story in the paragraph above could be told with equal truth by many people around here.
As well as providing some confirmation for what AAB says about comprehension rate versus reading rate, I think this suggests that the idea of thinking of speed-reading techniques as “eye technique” that are likely to be helpful to everyone might be too optimistic. I would guess that the way I read quickly is similar to the way in which “speed readers” read quickly, mechanically at least, but unfortunately it gives me not only the ability to read quickly but also the habit of reading quickly. If I sit down to read something, the pattern in which my eyes naturally move is one that works well for stuff I can assimilate easily, and doesn’t work so well for stuff I have to think harder about as I read. I suspect that in order for “eye technique” to be useful it has to become habitual, and I suspect that “eye technique” that’s useful for reading quickly is systematically anti-helpful for reading slowly and deliberately. (But, for the avoidance of doubt, all of this is conjecture. I haven’t studied “speed reading” techniques, I haven’t compared them with how I read, I don’t know whether if I went about it the right way I could make my fast-reading habits more optional, I don’t know whether other people using similar techniques would form the same habits as mine, etc., etc., etc.)
The part about habitual speed rings true to me. I am slowly working my way through the Bermúdez textbook on cognitive science and find that my brain “wants” to read at a customary pace, which is too fast for comprehension of a subject I’m relatively unfamiliar with (haven’t touched a science textbook since high school).
Forcing myself to slow down gut-feels like going under the speed limit in the far-left lane on the interstate, like wasting time, even though I conscious-know it’s approximately infinity times more important to understand the text than it is to be able to truthfully say that I did “reading” on all the words in it.