How Fast is too Fast?

The past few weeks I've seen the new Spritz app gaining more and more momentum. Basically, the app, which is debuting with Samsung, will allow you to take speed reading to a whole new level, eventually maxing out at 1,000 words per minute (basically the equivalent to a novel in less than 90 minutes). This is done by "remov[ing] the inconvenience of scrolling, swiping, squinting and pinching to read on your devices by streaming individual words, one by one, at the user's desired speed," according to the company. To try it, follow this link and click the "click to spritz" button in the upper right hand corner. The program will eventually allow for a variety of content, ranging from novels to email to other forms of media. They'll also be available on devices including watches.

Supposedly, they're saying it boosts comprehension, but I won't be convinced, at all, until I see more studies, including ones that involve some peer review. 

My first response is of course disapproval and disgust. They're taking away the pleasure of reading! They're making it into a race! They're making the eyes lazy! It's a gimmick! It's a joke! It's a fad!

And I still do primarily feel this way. Are we really that rushed for time as a culture that we can't simply move our eyeballs anymore? Are we that desperate for efficiency we can't be bothered to turn a page (or click a button)? Must we streamline everything? What about the need to reread, annotate, and easily return to the text? Life already moves so fast the way it is. 

I know this is a bit hypocritical- I strive for maximizing my time, multi-tasking often, making to-do lists, and searching for quicker ways to do things. But reading is sacred to me, a process so ingrained in my psyche that the idea of altering it is actually disturbing. I'm a sort of quick reader already, ranging from speeds of 400-600 words per minute, according to the tests I've taken (nerd alert). I have absolutely no desire at all to increase this though- there's a natural cadence that I fall into while reading, one that relaxes and almost soothes. Having words flash before my eyes at extreme speeds has quite the opposite effect.

In the interest of fairness, there are advantages. A friend on Facebook mentioned that this product could be used to get through less enjoyable readings, like technical manuals or textbooks, which I think is a valid point (although I still can't shake the issue of it not facilitating comprehension, sorry). When trying to get through pages and pages of my astronomy and chem texts in college I'm sure I would have been thankful for an opportunity to move a bit faster (but still... the comprehension...). But for pleasure? No thanks.

I don't want this app to succeed, I must admit. Speed up my commute, the amount of time it takes to dry a load of laundry, or the wait at the doctor's office. But reading? Let's leave it alone. 


  1. I'm with you: what's the rush? I'm not a particularly fast reader, and I'm okay with that. Just like I'm not a fast eater. Shoveling the food into my mouth faster doesn't make it a better experience or better tasting. I'd rather savor.

  2. I've been hearing a lot about this too and I'm with you -- I just don't like it! I tried the test and I cannot imagine ever reading for pleasure that way -- I am an admittedly slow reader, but this app sacrifices the essence of what reading is to me. I hate the flashing text and I am completely unconvinced this method aids comprehension in any way. I read as if there is a movie playing in my head -- I hear the words as if they are spoken aloud, so when I set the test too slow, the voice in my head (God I sound crazy!) sounded like a stilted robot and when I sped it up, it sounded like one of those cartoon chipmunks that talk too fast! And I keep wondering, what if I blink, sneeze, or yawn? How do I go back? What if I want to re-read a passage. I am not anti-technology, but I am so not a fan of this "improvement"!

  3. I saw this on facebook. I really don't like it either. I don't think it would be as enjoyable to read like this you couldn't ponder or re-read, and it feels a bit clinical. I'm also unsure of how much you would remember and understand.

    I can see it for 'required' type reading for courses and things being, possibly, helpful- so long as the understanding is still there

  4. I hadn't heard of that yet. I feel like you do. I could imagine it only being helpful for textbooks, but then, as you said, comprehension. I'm already a fast enough reader and because of that I normally don't remember a lot of what I read. :)
    P.S. I like that nerd alert! I want to figure my words per minute out now. :)

  5. I totally agree with you. What's the rush?? You're supposed to enjoy reading. Life isn't a race.

  6. Since I started reading more during the last few years, I've noticed that I am reading faster. I don't think I need an app just yet. I am also curious to see more of the research before I buy stock in this product.

  7. I think the app would be great for learning, not for pleasure reading. But it's a really cool idea. Doesn't everyone want to read faster? :D