Sara's Column: Time to settle in with some coffee and a good...app?

The big techie news of the week is about a soon-to-be-released app that can turn virtually anyone into a speed-reader.
Feb 28, 2014
Sara McManamy-Johnson

The big techie news of the week is about a soon-to-be-released app that can turn virtually anyone into a speed-reader.

For a bookworm/techie like me, it sounds like the Holy Grail of apps. 

So of course I had to investigate.

Spritz, which is due to be released for the Samsung Galaxy S5 and the Samsung Galaxy Gear 2 watch, promises reading speeds between 250 and 1,000 words per minute. 

The average college student reads at about 200 words per minute. 

The average novel’s word count is about 100,000 words, so a reader could conceivably finish a novel within about an hour and a half.

The way the app works is by presenting words one at a time in quick succession. The user can set the pace at which the words appear, starting relatively slowly to become acclimated and gradually bumping up the pace. 

The idea isn’t new.

Rapid Serial Visual Presentation, which was created in the ‘70s, also presents words one at a time, but the Spritz makers point out the difference in how the words are displayed. Spritz aligns each word so that your eyes have to move as minimally as possible, increasing speed and reducing strain, whereas RSVP doesn’t do so.

As news of the app has been making the rounds, one question that keeps cropping up relates to how it affects comprehension and retention. According to the app’s developers, though, their testing shows retention levels are at least as good as, if not better than, traditional reading.

As someone who tends to gorge myself on books, reading up to three or four novels in a day when I have nothing else pressing to do, my first thought was, “Sign me up!”

The more I learned about it, though, the more conflicted I became.

I already read pretty fast – granted, not 1,000-words-per-minute fast – but fast enough. And I guess it’s my writer’s mentality, but I love the look of a well-crafted sentence. 

I’m not sure that watching a stream of words flashing onto a screen would give quite the same experience as reading a full page and flipping to the next. 

Also, I’ve become a slightly reluctant e-book reader. I like the convenience of always having a virtual library as far away as my cellphone, and I love the free books on Kindle.

Call it the fast-food of reading. 

But they still don’t compare to good, old-fashioned books.

There’s nothing in the world like settling in with a good cup of coffee and a good, hefty book. 

Some people like new books, the ones where the smell of the paper still has a bit of a bite to it; personally, I like the old books, the ones slightly yellowed with age and that have the slightly musty smell so unique to old books. 

You lose that when you go digital.

So, intriguing as Spritz sounds, I think I may leave that one for the other bookworm/techies.

After all, why rush a good thing?

Sara McManamy-Johnson is the digital content director for The Lebanon Democrat and Wilson County News. Email her at sjohnson@lebanondemocrat.com or follow her on Twitter @wilsoncoreports.

 

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