March 6, 2014
New technology promises to help you read better, faster, stronger
by Julia Fleischaker
Alexis Kleinman at The Huffington Post has reported on a new program, Spritz, that holds the promise of speed reading for the masses. According to Spritz’s website, “reading is inherently time consuming because your eyes have to move from word to word and line to line,” but they aim to change that with their “Redicle” program. Text is streamed one word at a time, and horizontal lines and hash marks are used to direct your eye to one specific letter in each word. Spritz plans to team up with developers to make “spritzing” available in various Android and iOS apps. Kleinman explains:
In every word you read, there is an “Optimal Recognition Point” or ORP. This is also called a “fixation point.” The “fixation point” in every word is generally immediately to the left of the middle of a word, explains Kevin Larson, of Microsoft’s Advanced Reading Technologies team. As you read, your eyes hop from fixation point to fixation point, often skipping significantly shorter words.
“After your eyes find the ORP, your brain starts to process the meaning of the word that you’re viewing,” Spritz explains on its website. Spritz indicates the ORP by making it red, and positions each word so that the ORP is at the same point, so your eyes don’t have to move. That’s what makes it different from RSVP speed reading, which just shows you words in rapid succession with no regard to the ORP.
Rushing through a book just to get through it would take most of the enjoyment out of reading; no savoring, no stopping to think, no reading a beautiful line twice just to appreciate a turn of phrase. But if you did want to read this way, Colin Schultz at Smithsonian has some statistics: Americans, on average, “spend just under six hours per week reading books. At the average reading speed of around 300 words per minute, and with an average novel having 64,000 words, this comes out to about a book and a half each week.” Speed reading could allow you to read four, maybe five, books a week (give or take a book or two, I assume, if one of your choices happens to be along the lines of The Luminaries or The Goldfinch).
The better use for this new technology would be email. Imagine reading your emails at 1000wpm, instead of a typical 300. And no scrolling, pinching, or expanding your way through a message. Less time reading email equals more time to relax with your books, which is the kind of speed reading I can get behind. Spritz promises they’re working on it.
Julia Fleischaker is a former director of marketing and publicity at Melville House.