Revolutions in Reading

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While perusing Facebook recently, I stumbled upon a link posted by a friend:

“This Insane New App Will Allow You To Read Novels in Under 90 Minutes,” the title promised like a Saturday morning infomercial for the newest vegetable chopper or shape slimming bra.  Intrigued by this surely impossible promise (and driven by my incredible ability to procrastinate on the internet), I read on.

Spritz, a Boston-based startup company, has taken the speed-reading phenomenon by storm with their new “Optimal Recognition Point” (ORP) technology.  The ORP is the precise spot in a word that, when focused on, makes the word easiest to absorb and decipher for human eyes.  Spritz presents texts to readers one word at a time, keeping them centered around the letter marking the ORP.  This letter is in red text as opposed to black text so that it pops even more.  In this way, Spritz users have every single word in the text presented directly to their eyes, avoiding skimming (which can cause the reader to miss some potentially vital details).

The website had a demo section where I could try out this “game-changing” app for myself.  They allowed me to read at 250 words per minute, 350 words per minute, and 500 words per minute.  At first, the faster speed was a little overwhelming.  But if I allowed my eyes to relax and simply focus on the red ORP, I found this app to be remarkably effective.  I was absorbing the sentence and its meaning with far less effort than usual and with vastly increased speed.  My mind raced with the thought of finishing reading assignments with ease – maybe now I can finally make it through Anna Karenina, which has been sitting on my nightstand since last summer!

I went to Spritz’s actual website to do more investigating.

“Reading Reimagined™,” enticed fancy text at the top of the page.  I was informed that Spritz is working with other developers to apply the technology to platforms such as websites, iOS, and Android, and e-readers.  Then, I encountered their “Why it Works” section:

“Reading is inherently time consuming because your eyes have to move from word to word and line to line.  Traditional reading also consumes huge amounts of physical space on a page or screen, which limits reading effectiveness on small displays.”

This made me stop and think.  Yes, reading is a task that can at times be frustrating, but it is also a valuable skill that takes time and practice to perfect.  Perhaps the biggest accomplishment of my childhood (besides learning how to ride a bike without training wheels) was when I learned how to read, or when I finished my first big-girl chapter book all on my own.  I have always relished the moment when I turn the last page of a novel that I have enjoyed over time on a beach or in a car or cozy in my bed after the rest of my family has long been asleep.

Reading may take time, but sometimes that’s the point.  Reading isn’t always something to do just to get it out of the way – the very act of reading, and sometimes the work and effort that it requires, has value in itself.  While this app would be incredibly useful for some drier reading such as textbooks, it depresses me to imagine using it to read a novel.  It seems like swallowing a tasteless nutrition pill in place of a savory meal – where’s the fun in that?  What do you think the value of technology like Spritz is?  How would you apply it in your life or work?  We allow technology to do so much for us, but I’m not quite sure I’m ready for it to automatize the act of reading for me quite yet.

About Bella Zuroski

Isabella Zuroski is a senior English and Sociology double major from Bemus Point, New York.  She is the president of W&L’s all-female a cappella group Jubilee, and she has a special fondness for A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, as well as anything written by Frank McCourt.

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4 Responses to Revolutions in Reading

  1. R.T. Smith says:

    If I’m reading for recognition or to discover whodunit, I wouldn’t mind reading faster. More speed would be valuable when engaged in certain kinds of re-reading tasks. However, when I’m reading with the expectation that the writer is writing, and not just typing, I want to read slowly enough to follow the associative weave, the connotational nuances, the sound and of the prose (assuming that such blitzkrieg reading of poetry would be, justly, verboten). This opens the question of motive for reading particular texts in particular circumstances, and I can see the Spritz method as useful but never delicious.

  2. Anna DiBenedetto says:

    Though I’m a student and I’m often pressed for time due to my own lack of time management, I do not think that I would appreciate a tool that would help me drastically warp down my reading time. I agree with your idea that soaking a book in and creating your own easy pace is what makes reading enjoyable. I don’t think my life is as fast-paced as this Spritz app think it is. If anything, I would rather spend more time reading and less time doing things like watching television or surfing the internet. I would definitely go for an app that could diminish my time in those unproductive areas!

  3. Grace Haynes says:

    When I initially came across this article online, I couldn’t believe that it was true. I scrolled to the bottom and tested each words per minute, from 250 to 350 to 500. I was completely overwhelmed. Spritz’s idea is intriguing, and there are times where I wish I could read 500 words a minute in order to efficiently accomplish more English reading assignments. But overall the concept is overwhelming. I, too, enjoy the slow process of reading. I enjoy taking in each page or reading a paragraph multiple times to understand it better or appreciate the author’s style. The Spritz method is useful for business related reading, but for pleasure reading I will stick to the old fashion method.

  4. When I read a really good novel, I become a part of it. I hesitate to read too fast because arriving at the end means I no longer get to be a part of it. I can always go back and reread chapters, but it’s never the same as the first time the words come to life from the pages. The joy of the book is not in finishing it, or even getting to the next chapter, but in experiencing it. By marking a page and putting it down, the story becomes more real as the characters are allowed to live in that moment a while longer. I agree with you, Bella, in that the very act of experiencing a novel has more value than actually finishing it.

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