There is a fantastic class of applications that are available for the iOS, Android, and Apple/IBM Computing platforms that really assist with speed reading. These applications are based on the same reading technique called RSVP, Rapid Serial Visual Presentation.
RSVP defeats subvocalization while reading. Many people subvocalize while they read and it becomes a habit. What most people don’t understand is that you do not need this subvocalization to actually comprehend what you read. The way to defeat this slow-reading habit is to fix the eyes in place and present the words too fast for you to vocalize them. Many of these applications start you off at around 300 words per minute, with sliders that let you adjust the speed up as you get used to the feeling of reading without subvocalization.
Recently I had a business need to consume a lot of written work, and I would have been hopelessly slow if I had continued my habit of subvocalization while I read. With RSVP I’ve been able to increase my reading speed to about 520 words per minute. Instead of taking half a year to polish off a 250 page paperback book I can now liesurely read it on-and-off over a weekend and be done with it. The nice part about RSVP is the faster you read the better your comprehension is, which seems to defy common sense. I’ve found that sometimes 520 words per minute is too annoyingly slow, and I’ve been known to push it to almost 600 words per minute, and it’s a pleasure to read at that speed.
Here are some applications that I’ve found that feature RSVP:
- Velocity – This free app on the Apple App Store can connect to Pocket, as well as act as an Open In… target for other applications that handle text. Velocity can also detect web addresses and present the text on the page as RSVP quite well. The interface to Velocity has a lot of polish and is quite a pleasure to use.
- Fastr Pro – This is another free/low-cost application on the Apple App Store which features RSVP. This application has something special as far as I’m concerned and that is an open data locker where you can upload your ePub files and synchronize your library and last-read bookmarks across your iOS devices. I’ve run into some bugs with the software, but upon later analysis it was purely operator error, not the fault of the software. I was too impatient for Fastr Pro, and because I wasn’t willing to wait, I caused my own headaches. This app is written well and the developers have a fantastic sense of humor and are exceedingly friendly to work with.
- Speed Reader – I’ve only been using this app for a little while. It’s free and the software is quite good. I ran into a little bug where the end of my ePub files were being missed in the conversion, as the app converts ePub files to TXT files before processing them in it’s RSVP engine. Something causes the last chunk of data on the ePub to not appear in the TXT file, as far as I can tell.
Windows/Mac Computers –
- Spreeder – This is a website that works well on browsers on these two platforms. The site, www.spreeder.com has links to the Java applet as well as a Bookmarklet that enables one-click access to their RSVP engine. The nice thing with Spreeder which I appreciate is there are more adjustable settings with its RSVP engine. You can elect to chunk words, so it speeds up around small words and slows down around large words, keeping your average reading speed set to your preferred speed as well as a host of other thoughtful adjustments. I encourage everyone to visit the site and investigate for a full view of this product.
Generally these programs can help you increase your reading speed, allowing you to chew through written works much faster, and with much less eye-strain than with other speed-reading techniques that I have tried. I find it works better than skimming, which sometimes leads you to miss small salient details, and after a while using my fingers to release eye-strain just pushes the strain into my hands. I encourage everyone to look into this technique. RSVP revolutionized my professional career and quickly enabled me to consume a lot of written text much faster than I ever thought possible. I’m sure if I really invested serious concentration I could increase my rate to ever higher numbers as RSVP becomes easier as you get used to it, almost like exercising a muscle.
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