sandial (sandial) wrote,

So Much to Read, So Little Time

There's some debate at how well conventional speed-reading techniques really work. You've probably heard the classic Woody Allen line, "I took a speed reading course and read 'War and Peace' in twenty minutes. It involves Russia."

I've been reading a fascinating book called READING ON THE BRAIN by Stanislas Dehaene (h He doesn't think much of ordinary speed-reading, but introduced me to the idea of Rapid Serial Visual Presentation (RSVP). It allows genuine, non-skimming speed-reading at very high speeds by presenting single words in rapid succession at the spot of visual fixation. This is the real thing. Lab tests show that good readers can maintain normal reading comprehension at up to 1100 words per minute.

Naturally, I was intrigued.

I figured there must be apps or websites that would allow me try this out, and I was right. If you've got a previous version of Firefox (3.5 or earlier) lying around, there's a free add-on called RSVP Reader available at

It's unpolished (version 0.1.0) and imperfect (presents more than one word at a time), but it's fun to play with anyway. It does allow you to adjust the size of the text and reading speed, and I found 750 wpm worked quite well. Couldn't quite manage 1000, but that was at least partly because it was presenting two-word and three-word groups.

Seems to me that a good RSVP app for the iPhone or iPad could be pretty nifty.
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