There’s a new app in the works that claims to enable you to read entire novels in less than the time it takes to watch a feature-length movie.
Last week, an article from Elite Daily began making the rounds on social media sites. The article introduces the app, called Spritz, and its “Optimal Recognition Point” (ORP) technology, and even lets you try it out. Hundreds of people shared it, including dozens my own Facebook friends, and to a person, each post I read hailed this new app as “amazing” and “miracle” and “game-changer,” etc. etc.
I’ll be the first to admit, I’m a very slow reader, so I’d be the first in line to latch onto any new technology that can help. But I tried the samples, and to be honest, it’s not working for me. Let me explain…
The technology works by flashing the individual words of any text, one at a time, consecutively on the screen. One letter of each word, just to the left of center, is colored red, and each red letter appears in the same part of the screen. The idea is that red letter is the Optimal Recognition Point where our brains see and decipher words. By flashing all the words in the same point we can read them faster.
But reading words quickly isn’t the problem for me. My problem is a near-obsessive focus on comprehension. Throughout grade school and college, I consistently scored higher than my classes on reading comprehension. But I scored lowest in my classes on overall reading tests, because I could never read fast enough to actually finish the tests. I got all the questions I answered correct, but I only ever answered a third of the questions.
It took me years to figure out but the reason for this odd dichotomy, but over time I realized I was reading the same sentences, or groups of sentences, or even paragraphs, over and over again. My mind won’t allow me to move on until I’ve fully grasped every ounce of meaning out of what I’ve already read. Of course that makes skimming all but impossible for me.
That need doesn’t go away with this new technology. With the samples presented on Elite Daily’s article, I had to watch each one cycle through several times before I really got it. Those samples are in repeating GIF format; I’m sure the app is more interactive. But even still, I doubt I’ll be saving much time if I still have to go back and repeat sequences of words.
I may be unusual, but I doubt I’m the only one. Then again, let’s play devil’s advocate. Let’s say I do save time, even if slightly. Is that slight time-saver worth the rest of what’s lost?
One of the nice things about a book is the layout. It’s very easy to go back and forth, re-read things you missed, check out how many pages you have until the next chapter break or other marker. Or maybe you’re at a passage that specifically references something earlier in the book, and you want a quick refresher on that previous section. And what about images, font changes, paragraph breaks and other variances in layout?
These are the things that make reading comfortable and enjoyable. Ultimately with a book, the reader has a certain amount of control in how the story is accessed. With an app like this, I can’t imagine how you wouldn’t lose a bit that control. Perhaps it might help some people with academic article and the like. But even how would you go back and reference important passages of make notes.
This actually is a good piece of technology. The science behind it is impressive, and I’m sure there are numerous educational and recreational applications for it. But it’s definitely not for everyone. So maybe let’s back off on the “game-changer” hyperbole a little.