Reading for pleasure does not mean you read word-for-word, or you shouldn’t have to because today’s narrative is easy, generally speaking. Writing narrative is more straightforward to follow, understand and comprehend. A lot of today’s writing is interesting and even captivating that also makes the reading process easier.
Today’s reading depends on style, lucidity and brevity, it is easy and unlike what was written in say the 18th and 19th centuries where there were varying degrees of long-windedness and convoluted that made the pace slower. Leaving aside the cultural context and the fact “reading” was generally considered for the upper classes, it nevertheless forced the reader to reflect and ponder upon what is being said.
As well, there developed an element of personal taste in reading, and in spite of the fact that mass education and mass reading began towards the end of the 19th century. Today, some readers like the ease lay back style of writers, novelists and essayists. The approach of what-you-have-on-paper-is-what-you-get has become very popular.
Others on the other hand have continued to prefer the more couched sentences where words are the object of the exercise, rather than the story narrative. There are elements of loftiness in the words and semantics where the novelists employ a language and use of words that are best considered esthetical and therefore pleasing to the reader. In such prose there is much room for external input by the reader, and thus understanding, explanation and analysis of the text at hand tends to come from him.
For such people reading word-for-word becomes a fascination because it is the word that makes up the story rather than the contextualization and/or the narrative itself. Word-for-word becomes a pleasurable exercise providing greater thought, depth and input.
The other style of course is the context and the narrative itself. Such a style, although literary purists more aware than I could claim otherwise, gained greater currency after World War II, and today. Because they come to be written for a more “modern” communication era, the stress and concentration focuses on the rapid delivery of ideas, thoughts and process. Television, radio, computers and satellites had a lot to do with establishing the parameters for this.
In a fast moving world, the word and the idea need to be understood quickly because it’s being followed by a chain of other concepts; if this is slowed down then the rest of the chain would grind to a halt if the momentum and flow is not kept up because of the communication speed that everyone is being subjected to.
With speed, the ability to skim words or phrases has become stronger or more rapid. Since, it’s an easy style anyway, the tendency to concentrate becomes less and less as skimming or “peppering over” still allows the reader to understand the sentence, paragraph, chapter and even context.
Thus I would guess more and more people skim over the text these days, especially when reading for pleasure because it is the nature of the reading process that has come to exist today.