People read more than ever on mobile devices and usually in 10-minute bursts, giving rise to a new wave of apps that promise to make reading on a small screen easier. Angela Chen reports on the News Hub. Photo: Getty Images.
Reading these days is often a few minutes on the phone in the grocery-store line, not an hour curled up with a book on the couch. This quick-hit reading is sparking a renewed interest in the art of speed reading.
People read more than ever on mobile devices and usually in 10-minute bursts, according to research by e-reading subscription services. To tap into this, there’s a revival in traditional speed-reading classes as well as new apps that promise to make reading on a small screen easier.
(How fast do you read? Time yourself and try speed-reading tips in an interactive.)
When Brett Kirby, age 33, reads the news in the morning, he doesn’t grab a newspaper or browse a website. He picks up his phone and has his articles flashed to him, one word at a time, 650 words a minute.
Mr. Kirby, a research fellow in medicine at Duke University, is a beta-tester for Spritz, a mobile app that claims to help people read faster without the bother of classes.
Promises of blazing through “War and Peace” have been around since the Evelyn Wood speed-reading classes of the 1960s, and demand for in-person classes is growing, says Paul Nowak, founder of Iris Reading LLC, a Chicago-based company that hosts similar courses. Evelyn Wood Reading Dynamics, based in Mission, Kan., still offers workshops, DVDs and other resources, though it is smaller than its heyday. (Calls to its offices weren’t returned.)
Spritz promises to help people read faster. The app flashes words at users at a speed of their choosing. Spritz
Spritz Technology Inc. co-founder and CEO Frank Waldman says using the app is a more modern way of reading. The company’s goal isn’t to help undergraduates cram for exams, he says, but to change how people keep up with mobile news. “You wouldn’t really want to read classic lit or Shakespeare on [Spritz],” he says. “We want to work on focused reading on the go.” Samsung Group’s new Galaxy S5 phone and Gear 2 smartwatch come with the Spritz app preloaded.
The average college graduate reads about 250 words a minute, says Michael Masson, professor of psychology at the University of Victoria in Canada. A 7-year-old reads about 80 words a minute, while a sixth-grader reads about 185 words a minute. People who use Velocity, a $2.99 iPhone and iPad app that launched in September tend to go with its default speed of 300 words a minute, says the app’s co-creator Matthew Bischoff. But 400 and 500 words a minute are also popular presets.
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