“Harry Potter”: A race to the finish?
What if someone told you that in the time it takes the average person to go grocery shopping, you could completely re-read and finish Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets? You’d call them crazy. Insane, even. You remember all 24 grueling, sleep-fighting but none-the-less-amazing hours you spent waging war with Mr. Sandman, immersed in the pages of the book you just couldn’t put down the night the UPS guy rang your doorbell. Well, that someone might not be so crazy. Say hello to Spritz, the app that’s aiming to make this possible.
Spritz (whose name ironically features a small resemblance to our very own MuggleNet media mogul, Emerson Spartz) is a company that has redesigned the reading experience with applications that utilize rapid word succession in order to quicken your reading pace. What that means is that Spritz has designed its applications to move us away from the traditional “page-by-page” reading and focus on word-by-word progression. Spritz allows its users to select and read material at speeds between 250 and 1,000 words per minute (WPM). Words appear one by one instead of altogether at the user’s selected speed, which is generally based on how fast they’d like to finish.
Take our Chamber of Secrets example. If you really did want to finish in the time it takes to grocery shop (about an hour or so), you’d need to be reading at about 1,000 WPM—that’s pretty darn fast. Considering that the average college student reads between 250 and 400 a minute, I’m skeptical when it comes to the retention; are people reading this fast going to be able to retain anything?
Let’s take a look at some visuals. Here’s an example of what it looks like to read using Spritz’s application at 250 WPM:
Not too bad—let’s try 350:
A little tricky, but it’s fairly easy to get the hang of after a while. Let’s bump it up to 500:
And now my head hurts. I can’t imagine reading Harry Potter at double this speed. Not only do I fail to see the enjoyment in reading something like this, but it also takes away from the experience of what it is to read “page-by-page.” I find that the words don’t quite seem to mean as much to me (ironically) when focusing on each individual one—you lose sight of both the bigger picture and the story in an attempt to “finish quickly and efficiently.”
Spritz states that only around 20% of your time is spent processing actual content, and the remaining 80% is wasted by physically moving your eyes from word to word. Their technology is directed at doing the word-movement for you so that you can process larger amounts of content faster. I don’t know, though—20% seems like an awfully small percentage to me, especially with such a monumental story like Harry’s.
I don’t think I’ll be downloading this application because I think it’s important to take the time to enjoy reading. It’s therapeutic for a lot of people, and for me it’s a part of absorbing and reflecting on the content. I wouldn’t give up those long nights, exhausted but just too obsessed to put Potter down for anything. That, and I think you just have to read over words like “Hinkypunk” and “Legilimency” a few times to avoid total confusion. Is it cool? Absolutely. Will it be effective for people outside of reading for school assignments and the news? I’m not so sure.