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16/31 Reading more

I'm testing Spreeder, a browser extension for speed-reading online content. It's awesome. You highlight some text, right-click and select Spreeder, and it plays the text one word (or two or three words) at a time, fast.

First I did a quick test of my speed when reading conventionally, and came out at about 290 words per minute. So I set Spreeder at 300. That felt really slow, so I tried 400, and finally settled at 500.

screen shot of the Spreeder browser extension showing two words and a speed of 500 words per minute

I tried it on some fic, a New Yorker political article, and a post on BikePortland. I'd say my comprehension of each was at least as good as it would have been reading conventionally. That's an instant 70% speed increase.

The average American never surpasses speech-speed in reading, about 200 words per minute. We subvocalize--read aloud in our heads. Spreeder helps force you past that limitation. Apparently most of us spend about 30% of our reading time "regressing"--re-reading and checking back. Obviously Spreeder eliminates that option altogether.

What's lost, of course, is rhythm and cadence and the other auditory qualities of text that, in speed reading, you're actively trying to get rid of. There are times when you want those, and that's when you'd put down the toys and techniques and go back to 200 words per minute.

A couple of really valuable aids for reading online material the conventional way:

Beeline Reader: colors the text progressively, making it easy to follow from line to line. A very good aid for focus. (Hat tip: [personal profile] ravurian.)

Clearly, a browser extension associated with Evernote, and Readability, an independent browser extension. Both present text in the font, size, and page layout of your choice, without ads or distractions, thereby aiding both focus and poor eyesight.

Crossposted from Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comments.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 19th, 2013 08:52 am (UTC)
These sound interesting! I much prefer to read on paper or on the Kindle than online. I read at a fast speed already so I'm a little reluctant to mess with it, since I'm not sure how I do it. Given that I hate it when characters have names starting with the same initial, I suspect I recognise words by shape and that I anticipate and quickly recognise common groups of words.

However, I have a rather dry history text to read which is only available to me in PDF so I have to read it online - I'll see if any of these work with PDF and can help me with it.
Oct. 19th, 2013 07:28 pm (UTC)
It has always struck me as a fundamental rule of fiction-writing never to name two principal characters with the same initial, for exactly the reason you mention. (It's one of the problems of J2 fandom RPF...)

You probably also have near-perfect spelling. I can spot a misspelled word--even in a couple of second languages--almost immediately in a page of text. It's a question of shape-recognition.

I found a mobile app for the Android OS that does a stellar job of PDF reading. It's called, straightforwardly enough, Speed Reader and renders .epub, .pdf, .xml, .txt "and other markup languages" (though not, apparently, .mobi) the same way Spreeder renders them in the browser.

After playing around quite a bit with this technology late into the evening, I'm pretty sure that I'll stick with my slow, linear, subvocalized and auditory reading method for fiction. But for mass absorption of information? This idea is extremely promising!
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )



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