Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Read more efficiently: Spreeder

Traditional speed reading is a fake. It's really just skimming by another name, and while it can be effective, the idea that you will be able to read more than 800 words a minute is simply bogus. Even the best speed reading teachers say that you "chunk" information and "get rid of the fluff - meaning skip some words.

Paul Scheele says that meaning is conveyed by 4-11% of the words in any book. He has a point.

Of course, NASA said about his "photoreading" techniques:
"These results clearly indicate that there is no benefit to using the PhotoReading technique. The extremely rapid reading rates claimed by PhotoReaders were not observed; indeed the reading rates were generally comparable to those for normal reading. Moreover, the PhotoReading expert showed an increase in reading time with the PhotoReading technique in comparison to normal reading. This increase in reading time was accompanied by a decrease in text comprehension. These results were found for two standardized tests of text comprehension and for three matched sets of expository texts." (

Ah well. He still has a point. 

You see, the problem is that your eyes have to physically move. Their movements and focus are controlled by muscles. On top of that, you can only focus with the center of your vision (with enough focus to actually read). So, what do you do? You don't focus on words that you guess won't be important.

Recently, despite this discouraging news, I've been having some fun with a "speed" reading program, Spreeder:

Spreeder presents you with any text you like, in any chunk size you like, at any speed you like. Your reading speed increases because your eyes don't have to move across a page. Your eyes also remain focused on only one point. Your attention is improved, as you are presented with moving images instead of static pages.

While I wouldn't do this with some texts, I definitely appreciate it for others, especially those that are dry, but must be confronted, or those that repeat points and examples too often.

I'm currently enjoying spreeding:
Theodore Dreiser's Sister Carrie and Charles Darwin's Origin of Species.


  1. There's another program similar to this where you can paste text and it reads at a ridiculous rate, and I believe it underscrolls the word it's on as well to help you follow along. A friend in Oxford used it to help herself keep up with the reading, but now I can't remember what it was called. So frustrating. There's a lot of read-aloud programs but I'm pretty sure her's was free. Anyway, it actually was effective for her, forcing her to read way faster than her normal inner voice. Pretty sweet.

  2. I just tried spreeder and on one hand think it's absolutely great. On the other hand I feel that they could be slipping subliminal messages into the stream of words and I would never know the difference...

  3. I just tried spreeder and I think it's absolutely great. Spreeder inserts no subliminal advertising. All of my praise for it is my own. I don't know how how I know that, I just do....