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Spritz Away

Jacquelyn Bengfort

Spritz is a Boston-based startup hoping to revolutionize reading one word at a time--literally. Their app breaks text into single-word chunks and displays it for the reader at rates starting at 250 words per minute (much faster than the average reading rate). Like most new reading technologies, my initial instinct is no, no, no. I resisted e-readers right until I received one for Christmas and started reading far more than I had been--and what a help my device proved in my sea-going days, letting me take a small library onto my ship.

And yet. Spritz promises that, given time with the app, you'll be able to read at rates that would let you blast through long books in a matter of hours. It has the potential to be revolutionary. Imagine being able to read classic novels in an afternoon, textbook chapters in a matter of minutes, and most of your day's worth of emails in seconds.

If you want to try it, Spritz has teamed up with Oyster, the book subscription service, to place The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People online. (Click here to give it a shot.) 6% of the way in after 28 minutes, reading at up to 350wpm, my impression is that it takes some getting used to--I get a bit unsettled, almost like an edge of motion sickness, but I think that might fade as I adapted to the technology and stopped trying to move my eyes (Spritz works in part by centering each word at an optimal point, allowing you to read without moving your eyes over a page). I will also have to relax and stop trying to silently read aloud in my head, if that makes sense--I think you almost have to just let the words wash over your eyeballs to achieve higher speeds. And they have to figure out how to deal with text that asks you to refer to diagrams on other pages or that is footnoted (as demonstrated early on in Habits, when the author starts talking about a well-known optical illusion, and the Spritzer is unable to "turn to page X"). Still, as a slow reader, this technology could change the way I operate. I can imagine Spritzing through things before returning to them in book form to reread and savor--or not, if I found the book not to my taste.

So--would you Spritz?