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Sam Dobson Writes: Why I Won't Be Using A Speed Reading App

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Why I Won't Be Using A Speed Reading App

Every time I have to pack up and move, I use the opportunity to go through all of my belongings and ditch the things I no longer use or need. Most of what I'm tossing is donated and a few big ticket items get sold. While packing up my books, I came up with a bag full that I didn't want. Normally I don't get rid of my books, but during this move I decided that I can stand to lose some of those cookbooks I never use and some novels that didn't quite tickle my fancy. Instead of stuffing those books into the Goodwill box, I decided to take them to my local bookstore for a trade.

My local used bookstore of choice will accept some books for credit. So, this weekend I hauled my bag of books in to exchange for new ones. They can't give credit for every book, but I love that they give you the option to donate the others. With some credit at my disposal, I began the hunt for my next read. While browsing the racks, I was half listening to a couple discussing a new app with the store clerks. The man was gushing about this new app that allows you to speed read at an incredible rate. The Spritz app claims to allow readers the ability to read between 600 and 1,000 words per minute, that's two to three times faster than the average college graduate. 

They had unintentionally grabbed my attention and I listened on as the conversation participants discussed the brilliance and convenience of such an app. "Think of how many more books you could read!", they said. This couple even mentioned how great it would be to be able to skip all the descriptive text and the other boring stuff that they'd rather pass over. I was not impressed and my first thought was how my old literature professors would disagree with the logic of this app. 

After doing some research, I discovered that Spritz presents one word at a time in the center of our focal point, replacing each word with the next at a very fast pace. This technique allows your eyes to easily read at a faster rate than you would with traditional left to right reading. The problem with speed reading is that it can hinder the readers ability to fully comprehend what they are reading, this is especially true when it comes to difficult or more advanced material. This is my issue with the app. If your goal is to simply know the basics in a jiffy, then this app may be worth it for you. If your intent is to truly engage with the text and understand it as the author intended, then you should stay far away from this app. 

As I've stated before, I'm just not ready to make that transition from actual books to a tablet so this app is nowhere near my top wish list. Part of the comfort of a good book is feeling the weight of the book in your lap and the pages between your fingers. The more complex books earn pen markings and folded corners. I need the anatomy of a book to fully enjoy it. This app takes the technology of an E-Reader one step further. The problem for me is the loss of detail. It's not just the loss of the details of the physical book, but with a speed reading app we also lose the details of the text, those little things that may not seem important but in all actuality are. 

Again, I'm not anti-technology. I think the advances in reading technology have been very beneficial to readers of all ages. I just don't believe an app aimed to solely make you read faster is of any value. The point isn't to read faster, it's to understand what you've read. With super speed reading we lose the substance of the written work. The reader doesn't absorb the true intent, the important details, or the meaning behind the work. Obviously I am not a fan, but then again, I was an English Lit major and we are a different breed when it comes to reading. 



At March 24, 2014 at 10:44 AM , Blogger zavina hartley said...

Hi Sam! I love reading your blogs and I totally agree. While I do have a Nook and love reading on it mostly because I can read in the dark I still love the real deal. This app defeats the purpose of my kind of reading. I hate to be a weirdo but the way you spelled "loose" is actually the opposite of tight. "Lose" would be the opposite of win which is the word you'd want to use. I normally wouldn't correct just anyone but being that you are a blogger I figured you'd want to know.

At March 24, 2014 at 10:49 AM , Blogger Sam Ulmer-Dobson said...

Hi Zavina!

First off, thanks for your readership and I'm glad you agree with me on the speed reading app. Nice to know I'm not the only one.

Second, good catch! I write these posts so fast sometimes that I just don't catch every mistake. Thanks for letting know and for the crash course on "Loose" and "Lose". I promise that I did already know this, it was just a typo. Haha.

Thanks again!


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