Speed-reading apps: A time-saving solution for the modern world?
New apps promise a rate of 1,000 words a minute; at that rate, you could read a novel in 90 minutes. (Assuming you wanted to, of course.)
Fri, Mar 07, 2014 at 12:19 PM
There's nothing quite like curling up with a good book on cold winter afternoon or a sunny day at the beach. But those days are all too rare and, in today's fast-moving world, there never seems to be enough time to read all the books you want to read.
But maybe it isn't about making the time to read; maybe it's about making a good book fit the time that you have. Several new apps and services promise to speed up the reading process, allowing people to speed-read a book at 200, 500 or even 1,000 words a minute. That's enough to read an average-sized book in an astonishing 90 minutes.
Take Spritz, for example. This new reading technology — which will be incorporated into the Samsung Galaxy S5 phone and the Samsung Gear 2 watch later this year – presents reading materials in a super-fast manner that lets readers absorb the words much faster than if you were just reading them on a printed page or computer screen. The text streams by, one word at a time, at up to 1,000 words a minute. Each word appears in exactly the same place where the previous word did, so your eyes never physically move across the screen (something that Spritz says wastes about 90 percent of your reading time). You can give the technology a spin on Spritz's Web page.
You can't buy a device with Spritz yet, but an app for the iPhone called Velocity is already available. Velocity also shows one word at a time, centered in the middle of the iPhone screen. It's designed for documents or websites and works with other apps, such as Instapaper, which can deliver the articles you want to read to Velocity. The app costs $2.99.
Both Spritz and Velocity are based on something called "rapid serial visual presentation," a speed-reading technique that dates back to 1975. The modern versions are adapted for today's mobile devices and appear to take advantage of screen size, fonts and other qualities that make it easy to read.
Now granted, neither of these applications seems to be designed for reading novels. Spritz positions itself as a great way to quickly absorb the millions of emails we get every day. In fact, speed-reading may not be the best choice for novels. As University of California San Diego psychology professor Keith Rayner told NBC News, super-fast reading methods are great for short bursts, but they aren't good for longer texts. They also cause people to comprehend less of what they read in longer passages.
So it looks as if Spritz and Velocity might not be the best ways to read the "Game of Thrones" novels. But on the other hand, if they let us speed through all of the emails that take up our time, maybe that will leave more time for relaxing on the couch and reading at the slow pace a good book deserves.
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