New apps bring speed reading to iOS

With a Spritz-powered ePub reader and a similar app for Web content, you might double or even triple your reading speed.

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ReadQuick serves up one word at a time -- fast. Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

Time is a precious commodity, arguably the most precious. Reading is one of the best ways to spend that time, so it stands to reason you'd want to squeeze in as much of it as possible.

Earlier this year, a speed-reading technology called Spritz debuted for Android, promising to help you consume text much faster via rapid series visual presentation. Now there's an iOS e-reader that incorporates the technology, and a similar app for consuming Web content. Get ready to turbocharge your reading.

ReadMe! is the first iOS app to include Spritz. It's an e-reader that supports DRM-free ePub books, meaning you're limited primarily to public-domain works; no Kindle or iTunes stuff. But it's a good way to get a taste of the technology (and enjoy some classic Twain or Conan Doyle in the process). The app costs $1.99.

I wasn't able to test that one, but I did try ReadQuick, which aims to help you read faster by flashing one word at a time in a fixed position, just like Spritz. The difference: ReadQuick works with Web content, not e-books.

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ReadQuick's browser lets you navigate to any Web site and speed-read whatever you find. Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

The app has a built-in browser so you can navigate to a Web site (say, CNET.com), tap an article, then "clip" it for speed-reading. It can also link with your existing Instapaper, Pocket, and Readability accounts, a great way to speed-read content you've already clipped.

Looking for other reading material? Tap the Featured button for a handful of sources (The Morning News, GigaOM, and so forth), then choose a story that sounds interesting.

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Speed-read settings are just a swipe away. Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

Regardless of where the story originates, ReadQuick works like this: Double-tap the screen to start the presentation, double-tap again to stop. If you swipe right, you can use a slider to adjust the display speed (from 50 words per minute all the way up to 1,000), switch between day and night modes, and toggle small/large print.

All told, it's very easy to learn and use, and definitely an interesting (sorry) glimpse at this style of speed-reading. I found I could comfortably consume nearly 450 words per minute, which seems pretty quick; various sources peg the average reading speed at anywhere from 200 to 300 WPM.

That said, I'm not yet sold on using this full-time. Call me old-school (if not old-fashioned), but I like seeing printed pages. I like taking "natural" pauses while I read; the app feels like it's strong-arming words down my brain unless I manually pause them. And I definitely think you can lose an author's voice when you speed-read, especially when it's something funny or poignant that merits laughter or consideration.

Of course, my chief complaint in life is that I don't have enough time to read, so I'll definitely be spending more time with apps like these. Maybe they're best for consuming news, blog posts, and the like, as opposed to works of fiction. Your thoughts?

By the way, if you're not an iOS user, check out these three Spritz-like speed-reading apps for Android.

 

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