As I was responding to a comment about Incremental Reading, the comment became very long. So I thought "Let's make it into another post!" Here it is:
One of the major features of Supermemo is called "Incremental Reading."
The purpose of incremental reading is to process reading material and turn its contents eventually into easily digestible flashcards. You start with a few pages of text, and similar to highlighting a physical book, you highlight and "extract" (Alt + X) relevant information, creating smaller and smaller chunks of text. This works best with digital text, but the same can be done by highlighting text in a physical book and manually inputting relevant information into Supermemo.
For example, let's say you want to incrementally read the article "White's Tree Frog" from Wikipedia.
Here is one paragraph from that article:
STEP 1 - FIND AN ARTICLE
"The Green Tree Frog is larger than most Australian frogs, reaching 10 centimetres (4 inches) in length. The average lifespan of the frog in captivity, about sixteen years, is long in comparison with most frogs. Green Tree Frogs are docile and well suited to living near human dwellings. They are often found on windows or inside houses, eating insects drawn by the light."
This is far too big for one single flashcard, so we would highlight and "extract" pieces of this text so that we have smaller, more manageable chunks. Here are a few examples:
STEP 2 - EXTRACT RELEVANT INFO
"The Green Tree Frog reaches 10 cm (4 inches) in length."
"The Green Tree Frog has an average lifespan of 16 years in captivity."
"The Green Tree Frog is often found on windows or inside houses because they eat insects drawn by the light."
Notice that the wording has to be changed slightly so that each chunk stands on its own without the other sentences. Replacing "they" with "Green Tree Frog," etc.
These three facts are now separate text chunks that would now be floating around in Supermemo. Eventually, we want to make flashcards out of these pieces of text; we don't want to simply read these three phrases passively over and over. So if we made them into flashcards, they might look like this:
STEP 3 - TURN INTO FLASHCARDS
"The Green Tree Frog is how many cm in length? 10cm (4 inches)"
"The Green Tree Frog has an average lifespan of how many years when in captivity? 16."
"The Green Tree Frog is often found on windows or inside houses. Why? They eat insects drawn by the light."
So with Incremental Reading, we are eating a big piece of text, digesting it, and extracting the nutritious useful bits of knowledge (Which will be retained forever, assuming that you are using an SRS program). One big benefit in doing this is that once a book or text has has been processed in this way, there is usually no need to read the book again. Useful concepts and knowledge contained in the book are now in your head; the book's job is done. It is like accomplishing a quest in an MMORPG. (Definition from WowWiki: "A quest is a task given to a player character that yields a reward when completed.") You completed the task, you have the reward of retained knowledge. Once you've done this, it's time to go on another quest and learn something else.
From what I read, "Swiss-cheesing" seems to be randomly looking at different passages within a text. While such a method no doubt is fun and satisfying, the purpose seems to be different then that of Incremental Reading. Incremental Reading is supposed to allow you to process information, extract valuable knowledge, then move on to other information. If a book or article has been read through Incremental Reading, never again should it be necessary to re-read the entire book. You might find smaller details that you missed (Like an artist "touching up" a finished painting), but the bulk of the information has been retained.
I'm not trying to criticize the "swiss cheese" method, I just think that the two accomplish different things.
Incremental Reading is like a slow-moving steamroller. It might take time to go over something (A large book, demanding class, etc.), but once it has been successfully read and processed, you'll never have to thoroughly read it again.
One benefit I've noticed is that when I use Incremental Reading to learn and process material, even though I am doing this by myself, I feel as if I am conversing with the authors of the material. Simplifying the wording of extracts and trying to make them context-free forces you to "kick around" different concepts in your head until you understand those concepts well enough to represent them in an articulate and concise manner.
I think that (For me) this is the most enjoyable part of Incremental Reading: As various ideas are running through my mind, as I try to follow the logic set forth in the reading material, making sense of it becomes almost like a mental dance; information from the past becomes as alive as ever, and as I work with those ideas, the universe ends up making a bit more sense than it did before. It feels similar to when I am in deep concentration, drawing a picture. I am totally absorbed in seeking symmetry of thought; the 'self construct' fades from my consciousness and for that moment I feel as if in a meditative state, as if I'm "at one with the world." Nothing has ever felt so mentally engaging and satisfying.
Here is a simple Incremental Reading chart to help visualize it.
Here is the Incremental Reading entry on Wikipedia.
Here is the Incremental Reading section on the Supermemo web site. While I can't say that I understand every aspect of the claims made, I can't disprove it. I have a feeling I'll agree once I'm more skilled at using Incremental Reading.