Last month, I messed around with a site that told me I read at 889 words per minute. I didn’t believe it; I might be fast, but I’m not that fast. However, a new app is promising I could get faster, provided I’m prepared to get “spritzing”.
Here’s how it works. When we’re reading normal text, claims the team behind Spritz, a Boston-based startup focused on text streaming technology that launched at last month’s Mobile World Congress, “the eye seeks a certain point within the word, which we call the optimal recognition point, or ORP. After your eyes find the ORP, your brain starts to process the meaning of the word that you’re viewing”. Your eyes then move to find the next ORP.
Apparently, “when reading, only around 20 per cent of your time is spent processing content. The remaining 80 per cent is spent physically moving your eyes from word to word and scanning for the next ORP”.
The Spritz app gives you text with the ORP at the point where you’re already looking, so you can read without moving your eyes. In “stealth” development for three years, it’s intended for use not only with email and social media, but also digital books. “Atlas Shrugged in a day? You betcha. We are currently working with some pretty big players in this field,” says the app’s website.
You can try spritzing at spritzinc.com. At 600 words a minute I can, indeed, keep up. But I’m still nowhere near Dan Holloway, who, astonishingly, told us last month that “for a couple of years [I] was reading anything up to 10 books and journals a day”. His technique is quite different from Spritz’s, though: “If I’m speed reading, I always use a ‘guide’, be it a pen or my finger, to inscribe shapes on the page (usually a lazy ‘S’ shape with two curves) to guide my eyes,” he wrote on my blog.
Anyway, spritzing is quite fun, and it seems to work. But the issue for me, which I think would stop me using it to read books, is the level of concentration it requires. You can’t look away from the screen for a second, or you’d be utterly at sea. It’s the only way I’d ever read Atlas Shrugged, though: strapped down, Clockwork Orange-style, in front of a spritzing book. The horror! The horror!