Wouldn’t it be awesome to read superfast?
As a techie, writer, freelance journalist and curious guy I read a lot. Everything from minimal tweets to massive books (like the Bible which I finished off last year) goes in.
Until I get that handy USB 5.0 interface integrated with my brain I’m really interested in reading as efficiently and comfortable as possible. And reading in the digital era opens up a few very interesting options.
Fast eyes are not enough
We move our eyes very fast, but in order to read really efficiently we want to minimise eye movement. One way to minimise movement while reading an ordinary book is the technique of keeping your eyes center on page and let your peripheral sight do the edges. This takes quite a bit of training, but can speed things up. I’ve been practicing this for a few years, especially when browsing magazines and newspapers.
What really caught my attention though was RSVP, rapid serial visual presentation. This technique has been around for decades but thanks to smartphones and slates its more useful and easy to access than ever.
The concept is simple: as a reader you see one word at a time in a steady stream. Starting out at something like 300 words per minute, WPM, you speed up. On a good day I’m now somewhere around 450 WPM.
There is a jungle of RSVP readers out there and I’ve tried quite a few of them. Most of them on IOS but also on Safari, Chrome and Firefox. Since I’m rarely using Android I haven’t had the chance to try any apps there yet.
Reading superfast on the computer
Spritz is a refined version of RSVP which adds red color to the centre letter of the word. This actually helps quite a lot since you centre your eyes easier. It also slows down at long words, dots, commas, exclamation marks etcetera.
Spritz is available in several readers, but in general requires an internet connection which can be a problem. It’s super easy to use in your browser with Spritzlet. Just put a link in your bookmarks, browse to the text you want to read and hit the Spritzlet bookmark. This executes a script and pops up the Spritz-reader.
For Mac OS and Safari there is also an extension called SpeedReading which is kind of neat.
Readsy is a service that lets you point to an URL, upload PDF or text or paste text that you want to speed read using Spritz. Amazon has quite recently launched Word Runner for the newer Kindle devices.
Reading superfast on IOS
On IOS devices there is a bunch of readers using RSVP, and one, ReadMe! that also gives you the option of speed reading with another technique called BeeLine Reader (which is also available for computers).
Instapaper, on the left, has a built in RSVP reader but it’s very simple. It doesn’t slow down hitting long words or new sentences. The scroll function, which is shown, is nice though.
Flashreader, in the middle, is quite nice and robust. The developer seems to be active still but it doesn’t have the extra Spritz functions. It connects to Pocket, Instapaper and other reading apps.
Litz, on the right, was the first RSVP app I tried on IOS and it’s still my favourite. Unfortunately the developer does not work with the app anymore, which is too bad since it’s got a few really nice functions. You get the whole Spritz feel, connections to Pocket and Instapaper (which seems a bit broken though) and a library of non royalty books to read. I’ve read Free as in Freedom, the story of Richard Stallman, using this reader which worked out fine. PDF:s can be imported but it’s very rough to scroll through them.
In my screen shots the backgrounds are all black, I like this mode the best, but it can be changed. There are in general quite a few settings you can tweak.
I really hope you got some inspiration to try this out, it’s really an amazing way of reading, and reading superfast!
As an end note: RSVP is not for everyone and for every occasion. Sometimes reading a good book is about taking it slow and enjoying every detail. Don’t worry, I do that too.
And sometimes when they eyes are tired, reading with the ears might be the right choice. But that’s another blog post…