My Favorite New Disruption: Literature


(photo courtesy of HuffPost)

I’ve mentioned it on several occasions, but I am an avid reader. I read every night before I go to bed. I read on long car rides. On a week-long vacation, I average 3-4 books. My preference is fiction, but that doesn’t really matter right now.

Tech of the second decade of the 2000s is about disrupting: overturning an industry, a technology, or a way of thinking so that the old becomes antiquated and the new is a revolutionary efficiency. Increasingly, no industry is immune to the concept of disruption, and indeed it might be time that we leave no stone unturned when it comes to making life better.

This weekend, a friend and I were talking about books when he showed me an app that he said would change the way I read. I was skeptical: the content of literature is always being “disrupted” and other than the advent of e-books, I’m not sure what else in the world of reading could need to be revamped.

But then he showed me Spritz, a new app that helps readers speed read. The average reader with a college degree (me, for instance) reads somewhere around 200 words per minute (wpm). Spritz has a small screen and aligns a character in the center. The words cycle through quickly: the word count starts at 250wpm and can be set as high as 1000wpm. You see one word at a time, keeping your eyes fixated on the static point.

I have to confess I was intimidated. I like to think myself as a fast reader, but this thing schooled me. My friend set the bar high by starting me off at the 1,000wpm mark! I was scared that I wouldn’t retain what I learned or would want to go back to a word prior, but I actually found myself remembering the content as well as if I had my eyes scanning across a page from right to left.

One of the reasons I am so taken with this app is its originality in problem solving. The science behind it is clearly well-researched, but not challenging enough to intimidate the average user. It’s also appealing to people like me who care about being efficient with time and maximizing utility. In fact, I’d be likely to read more non-fiction if I had something to help me blitz through it. While this is not a space that I would think needed to be re-thought, Spritz is clearly making strides in getting us all to be faster readers.

A few thoughts I’ve been wondering about: how might this work in other non-alphabet languages? I took Chinese, and I doubt it would work well since each individual character is its own word. In addition, if you use spritz for long periods of time (let’s say 30 minutes or an hour), does your brain get tired from such stimulation? Do you need to go for periods of time at a slower pace (200wpm) before you can pick it back up again, much like running a marathon rather than a sprint? If you have answers or more thoughts, email me ellenjdasilva@, or tweet @ me.

Now, if anyone has access to a beta version that they’d like to invite me to use….

My Favorite New Disruption: Literature