Reading — or skimming — on the go

As people read more on mobile devices, new apps “promise to make reading on a small screen” easier and faster, reports the Wall Street Journal. But comprehension may suffer.

Spritz Technology’s app is designed for “focused reading on the go,” not Shakespeare, says co-founder and CEO Frank Waldman.

College graduates read about 250 words a minute, on average, 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.

Spritz users who were reading 250 words a minute sped up to reading 400 words a minute after using the app for 20 minutes with no loss in comprehension, the company’s research claims. 

I took a speed reading course when I was a high school senior. I started at 1,000 comprehensible words per minute (reading speed times the percent of correct answers on a multiple-choice test) and peaked at 5,000 comprehensible wpm. That’s really skimming,  not reading, but it came in very handy in college and in my career. I could get through textbooks and documents very quickly, slowing down when necessary. I find it much harder to speed-read on a screen of any size.

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  1. Charles R. Williams says:

    I spent one week in college on two pages of Decartes’ Meditations. It took me an hour per page to read an abstract algebra textbook. Nothing that is worth reading can be digested at the pace speed readers can attain.

    Now my wife is a speed reader. On vacations she checks out piles of novels to zip through. Eventually she started using a Kindle so we can travel comfortably. I find myself reading the same books over and over again. Of course, Anna Karenina and the Bible fit nicely into a Kindle as well.