The Sprint to Spritz

Hey Blogosphere,
You’ve not been this excited since Miley decided she wasn’t daddy’s little girl any more.

How fast are you reading this? Pretty fast, right? I mean, you’re reading the words probably somewhere around the pace you’d be hearing them if I were speaking. It’s possible you read faster, and I’m all chipmunk fast, but it’s probably somewhere in the neighbourhood of 200 words a minute.

There is a magical software that promises to boost that. It’s called Spritz and the interface is clever. It works like this:

You see one word at a time.
Just.
One.

The center of the word is red.
Like this.

The word is centered in a box.
|
v
The red letter is always in the same place.
|
v
So your eyes learn to expect it.

As you read each individual word, your speed will jump dramatically. Mine did, almost instantly. It’s a fun brain trick to watch the numbers soar and realize just how quickly you are reading.

But I don’t like it.

Red Reading by Melissa Venable (Click image for artist's page)

Red Reading by Melissa Venable (Click image for artist’s page)

I don’t like it because it so isolates each word that I lose my sense of context. I’m forced to gorge a meal I’d rather savour. I like to read a book languorously. I like to play over phrases. Roll them around in my brain. I like to look back to the top of the page and re-experience a salacious piece of dialogue or a brilliantly descriptive term. I like to repose in bed or on my sofa and hold a book (or even my Kobo) and spend minutes more than necessary on one phrase.

Were I the type who needed to consume large quantities of data for my work, say a lawyer or an engineer – this could change my entire day. Utilitarian reading suits a utilitarian  method. Spritz’ pitch, however, has been to splash across social networking just how fast you could ream through a 1000 page novel (about a day for me, a mere hour or two for a spritzer.)

I could also listen to music on high speed, watch only Vine videos and consume all my food in pureed liquid form.

I want to savour a book. I want to immerse myself in it.

I’m fascinated by where this technology may go. I could see it being useful for LD students, ones for whom conventional reading is problematic. By isolating individual words, the possibility of mixing words is eliminated. If they weighted the font (thinner at the top, thicker at the bottom) so it wasn’t flippable vertically and coloured it to indicate a front to back flow (light to dark) so it wasn’t flippable horizontally, they could change reading for kids and adults who find it challenging. It could be a big help for those with low or limited vision who have a smaller field of usable vision

Who knows, this may be where we are headed. I am not opposed to change. We are machines and our efficiencies are amazing.

Still, if this is where we go (and we might) I think I’ll be glad I was born before it. After all, as a child of the 80s, I lost out on the beauty of a slow cooked meal in favour of the wonder of instant packaged portions and fast food.

I’m glad that I learned to read in the era of slow words. I think they will always suit me best.

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