Even though most people don’t read much more than a headline on their screens, speed reading apps that promise to get you through a Harry Potter tome in a day look set to multiply as though under the spell of the Gemino curse.
Spritz, the company that provides the technology behind one such app, ReadMe, promises to eliminate the time consuming aspect of reading a book by making sure you no longer have to engage in that most strenuous of activities — moving your eyes. Instead, one word at a time will flash up on the screen with one letter highlighted to draw you eye to the “optimal recognition point”. Normally we read at about 200 words a minute. Spritz offers speeds of 250 words a minute up to a staggering 1000 words a minute. At that rate the first Harry Potter book would take about an hour and a half to read.
Removing eye movement associated with traditional reading methods not only reduces the number of times your eyes move, but also decreases the number of times your eyes pass over words for your brain to understand them.
And therein lies the problem, according to research at the University of California San Diego. When we read, our eyes and brains often pre-read and re-read words to fully comprehend the sentence. Eliminate that possibility and we tend to forget what we just read rather quickly, as lead author Elizabeth Schotter points out:
Removing eye movements from the reading process is precisely the fatal flaw in such speedreading apps and the reason why they will not be useful for reading any text that is not extremely easy or short