Speed reading is a skill, but sometimes an imperfect one: techniques can involve skipping words, for instance. There is, however, a technique called rapid serial visual presentation that involves showing words, one at a time, around a fixed focal position.
This technique aims to inhibit subvocalisation; that is, the practise of sounding out the words on a page in your head as you read them. Instead, it will show words at a predetermined speed that is slow enough for your eyes to see, but too fast for you to take the time to sound them out in your head.
This is the concept behind Spritz, a new software kit designed around mobile devices (both Android and iOS). You can give it a try on its website.
"Reading is inherently time consuming because your eyes have to move from word to word and line to line," the website explains. "Traditional reading also consumes huge amounts of physical space on a page or screen, which limits reading effectiveness on small displays. Scrolling, pinching and resizing a reading area doesn't fix the problem and only frustrates people. Now, with compact text streaming from Spritz, content can be streamed one word at a time, without forcing your eyes to spend time moving around the page."
Spritz uses something called a "redicle", a text box that only takes up a small percentage of the screen. Words are shown in rapid succession, ranging from 250 words per minute (the average adult reading rate) to 500 words per minute, around a single focal point, so that you do not have to shift your gaze to see them. It is this technique, Spritz asserts, that will soon have you reading at twice the average speed — at least. According to the Spritz team, some readers are reaching speeds of 1000 words per minute.
The software isn't available to use yet, but will be integrated into the Samsung Gear 2 and Galaxy S5 as a way to read emails. The team is also hoping developers will integrate the software into their own applications. "Spritz's patent-pending technology can integrate into photos, maps, videos, and websites to promote more effective communication," the company said.
If you're anxious to get started now, though, never fear: a very similar service for web has been around for a while. Spreeder lets you add a bookmarklet to your browser that allows you to use rapid serial visual presentation to read the web.
There are also mobile apps available. Speed Reader for Android (free) supports txt, html, pdf, epub xml and other markup languages; Velocity for iOS (AU$3.99) isn't quite as good, but is compatible with Pocket, Instapaper and document files. Alternatively, WordBag (AU$0.99) allows you to read copy-and-pasted text.