These Apps Could Triple Your Reading Speed

They show you words one-by-one, at incredible speeds—up to 1,000 words per minute

Ella Phillips

Most Americans 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. But a slate of new technologies*, including Spritz and Velocity, think you can do better. By doing little more than reading through one of these technologies, the companies say, you could push your rate up to four, even five books per week.

The way that we tend to read—top-to-bottom, left-to-right, absorbing the words and sentences on a page—is not ideal, if speed is the goal. There's another way to read, known as rapid serial visual presentation, that speeds up the process. In rapid serial visual presentation, words are shown one-by-one in quick succession, rather than being all on the page in a block of text. This makes us read much more quickly, says 9 to 5 Mac:

Studies have shown that using Rapid Serial Visual Presentation helps increase reader’s reading speed because it forces the reader to stop reading out loud inside their head (subvocalization), and suppresses the tendency for eyes to backtrack the line while reading and searching for the end of the sentence. 

It's easy to be skeptical that something so simple would have such a big effect on reading speed, but playing with these samples from Spritz certainly makes the idea seem convincing:

Spritz, via viivivagner on imgur

Pushed up to 500, the process feels less like reading and more like absorbing the text. Spritz and Velocity each offer presentation speeds up to 1,000 words per minute.

Rapid serial visual presentation does have its downsides, though. For one, paying attention to text displayed this way can be tiring. Then, there's a thing called “attentional blink,” where if the words are presented too quickly together the brain will skip a beat, missing some of the text.

Maybe software like Spritz and Velocity aren't ideal for absorbing novels or other pleasure reading. And, it seems likely they'd be less useful for challenging texts, like textbooks or papers with lots of complicated ideas or jargon. But we spend more than a quarter of each day dealing with email, on average, and in 2012 Americans wrote roughly 40,000 words of email each. Maybe blinkered text and rapid serial visual presentation could cut down on the email slog, and give us all more time to get things done?

H/T Huffington Post

*The text was edited to reflect the fact that Spritz is not a standalone application, but a technology, says Krystina Puelo on behalf of Spritz: "[Spritz is] a text streaming technology that can be integrated onto mobile devices, wearables, apps, websites, etc."

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