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.