Want to read very quickly? A new app can help
Karolyn Coorsh, CTVNews.ca
Published Friday, March 21, 2014 6:49AM EDT
The makers of a new speed reading app say they can help readers drastically reduce the time it takes to read an email from the boss, or plough through "Moby Dick" in a day.
Adults typically read at an average speed of 200 words per minute, but Spritz, a Boston-based start-up, says the time consuming aspect of reading comes from the physical movement of the eyes, from word to word. Processing the content, however, takes hardly any time at all.
With their text-streaming technology, Spritz says the app essentially takes all the work out of the exercise by helping the reader swiftly find the "Optimal Recognition Point," which is the spot in the word where the brain starts to process its meaning.
This isn't the only app out there that aims to improve reading speed, but Spritz said it's distinguished itself without using traditional methods such as skimming or meta-guiding, in which readers use a finger or pointer to guide the eye over a mass of text.
Spritz says they aren't overshooting with the 900-1,000 words per minute goal. Test subjects who "spritzed" new content at over 900 words per minute consistently nailed a non-multiple choice test, indicating a high level of reading comprehension, the app makers say on their website.
If the results are typical, that means a relatively lengthy tome like "Pride and Prejudice" could be completed in the time it takes to roast a turkey.
And, developers say Spritz is also efficient for quickly working through lengthy reports, emails, texts, homework and textbooks.That alone could make Spritz a requirement in an office setting, where emails alone have greatly increased the amount of text employees consume in the typical eight-hour work day.
Canadian novelist Steven Galloway said a speed reading app could be useful for studying, "where the point is to jam information and facts into your brain," but he questions its use for pleasure reading.
"Finishing a book quickly isn't really the point of a novel," said Galloway, who is also a creative writing professor at the University of British Columbia. "You could watch a movie on fast forward and get the gist of it too, but people don't do that."
Galloway said people shouldn't rush through the "imaginative experience" that occurs when readers consume literature for enjoyment.
"I don't know why you'd want to do that quicker," he said. "It seems almost contrary to the point."
Galloway equates it to going to a nice restaurant and eating all the food quickly, without chewing or tasting it. "Why would you want to?" he said.
Spritz is expected to debut on Samsung Galaxy S5 smartphone and the Samsung Gear 2 smartwatch.