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There Is Reading, and There Is Looking at Letters

One of CLMP head Jeffrey Lependorf’s favorite sayings is that publishing is getting books to readers, without that, you’re just printing.

That’s not a perfect analogy for why “Spritz,” an app that’s going to be part of Samsung’s wearable technology, irks me, but it’s a good start. (And yes, I realize how awful the first half of that sentence is.)

You have to click on this article to see Spritz at work, but here’s a basic summary:

What Spritz does differently (and brilliantly) is manipulate the format of the words to more appropriately line them up with the eye’s natural motion of reading.

The “Optimal Recognition Point” (ORP) is slightly left of the center of each word, and is the precise point at which our brain deciphers each jumble of letters.

The unique aspect of Spritz is that it identifies the ORP of each word, makes that letter red and presents all of the ORPs at the same space on the screen.

In this way, our eyes don’t move at all as we see the words, and we can therefore process information instantaneously rather than spend time decoding each word.

Thanks to this app, which is conveniently part of your wearable technology, which, puke, people will now be able to read text faster—a whole lot faster. Average reading speed is just under 300 words a minute, but as you can see by clicking on the link above, it’s not very difficult to adjust to the 500 wpm speed. Not at all.

Which is great, right? Now we can read twice as fast! I WILL BE ABLE TO READ ALL OF TWITTER.

Seriously though, this is one of those things that terrifies and bugs me. Although there’s nothing inherently wrong with reading faster, there is something off-putting about the idea that reading is a thing that needs to be optimized. Sure, maybe this will allow Randy to finally read all the notes in preparation for your weekly “How to Excel at Excel” meeting, but when it comes to anything other application (maybe even that one), a focus on input speed alone can warp the overall reading process.

I don’t doubt that one can become “comfortable” with reading a much faster rate, and can improve at retention the more they use an app like this, but reading, really reading, is as much about thought, about looping back, about making connections—all of which are hindered by a system that is premised upon optimization. READ FASTER, BETTER, MORE EFFICIENTLY.

I can’t wait to have my grandkids laugh at me when I tell them about the days when we read for fun, in our spare time, because we just liked to do it. And we even held the books in our hands!



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