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Ear to the Ground

New App Promises to Help You Read a Novel in 90 Minutes or Less, but Is That Really Feasible?

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Posted on Mar 11, 2014

paulbence (CC BY-NC 2.0)


The short answer is speed reading is more or less possible, with and without this app. And since these days we’re constantly bombarded with texts, as Atlantic writer Olga Khazan points out, an app like Spritz may actually be necessary to keep on top of emails, news and all the other myriad words that come our way (on average 54,000 per day). And this trend, she writes, came about even before apps existed, albeit with a more complex approach.

Spritz creators have developed a simple, clever method to help readers take in hoards of words at a time; it has to do with the “Optimal Recognition Point” that “is slightly left of the center of each word, and is the precise point at which our brain deciphers each jumble of letters.” In other words, the app will highlight in red the ORP so that as words fly by your eyes, your brain processes them without hesitation. The speeds are, of course, adjustable. 

Khazan asks, however, is reading this quickly desirable? Below she describes her experience with the app, which is available only on Samsung devices at the moment, and can be tried out online here.

The Atlantic:

I Spritzed the “about” text on the company’s site…It worked, sort of. I was able to cruise along at 600 words per minute, and I only had to use the “pause” button occasionally.

Still, it felt more like a game than a reading experience. The words blazed by, leaving little time for digestion…I could see myself Spritzing through a tedious-yet-necessary white paper, say, or some nonessential emails. But much of the press coverage has emphasized that Spritz users would be able to read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in just 77 minutes or The Bible in 13 hours. I’m sure that’s technically possible—and it sure would add a little zip to all those “begats”— but I’m not certain it’s ideal.

Wanting to speed through a good book sounds as illogical as rushing through lunch with a hilarious friend. It’s no coincidence that the motto for the World Speed Reading Council is “Hoc opus, hic labor est.” Translation: This is the hard work; this is the toil…

But maybe apps like Spritz (there will doubtless be copycats) aren’t meant for Ulysses. That is, they’re not for reading; they’re for obligatory information processing—all the digital chaff we sort through with each glance at the RSS reader or inbox. And maybe that’s why we really do “OMG need” things like Spritz these days. Not for the joy of reading, but for the duty.

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—Posted by Natasha Hakimi Zapata

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