How fast do you read?
Do you whizz through entire novels in a couple of hours, or do you spend weeks poring over each word?
That’s been a popular topic of conversation recently, with the buzz around new speed reading app Spritz, which its developers say will allow users to read up to 1,000 words a minute.
The app works by positioning each word in the same spot so you don’t have to move your eye, a bit like a digital flash card. As you’re not moving your eyes across the page to read the next word, this allows you to take in more of the text in a shorter period of time.
But would you really want to read a book that fast? It would certainly make it harder to read a novel with a complicated plot or numerous characters, or take in a difficult academic theory.
I’m a fast reader and since I’ve been using the Kindle, I’ve become even faster. I’m always eager to read as many books as I can, and sometimes that means I don’t take the time to fully absorb every word. And if I’m not really enjoying a story but I still want to finish it, I’ll often skim over the boring parts, taking in enough words to get a gist of the story, but not enough to slow me down.
Sometimes a book is so beautifully written that it’s worth taking the time to savour the prose, but generally I’m all about getting through them as quickly as I can, especially now that the Kindle app makes it so easy for me to race against myself.
It’s easy to see how apps that encourage speed reading could be useful, especially for students or anyone with a heavy reading load to get through. But the internet has already changed the way we read, shortening our attention spans and encouraging us to scan rather than read.
As a blogger, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen writing advice that recommends breaking up the text as much as possible. Advice that emphasises using bite sized chunks separated by bold headings and divided into bulleted lists, so that the reader can skim through easily; the implication being that if you write a regular, lengthy essay that isn’t easy on the eye, the reader will get bored and click away without finishing.
But what does that mean for our future as readers?
If we keep pushing to read faster and faster, we will train our brains to work a certain way. And with speed comes the inevitable loss of comprehension, as we don’t take the time to understand a piece of writing in the depth we might once have done.
I’m all for reading as many books as I can; I might even check out the app when it comes to Android. But I still want to be able to enjoy a leisurely, meaningful read when the mood takes me. I don’t want to read so much at the expense of being able to appreciate beautiful prose, or a truly moving story.
What about you; would you use an app for speed reading? I can sense a reading challenge…