I read a lot, and I am certainly no slouch with keeping up with the stack by my bedside, but I will confess to one thing: I’m kind of slow. This feeling is no doubt due to the brisk pace of my wife, who can knock off a mass-market mystery in a couple of hours. During the same period, I feel lucky to have made a good crack in whatever I’m holding.
This week’s web tour includes an easy-to-use tool that aims to help you increase your reading speed.
The best things about Spreeder is that it’s free. Yes, you will notice quickly that there’s a prominent link to a paid service, but this is not a shill; you can definitely make good use of Spreeder without having to spend a cent.
Here’s how it works: a block of text is presented to you at one word a time, in very large print. The default speed is 300 words a minute, which I soon enough found to be a little slow. You can paste any text you wish and then adjust the controls, including the overall speed, font size, how many words you want to see at a time (I at first found more than two to be jarring, but increased that over time) and the width of the presentation area.
I started off with some easy targets: a few news stories, a blog post or two, and the type of material that ranges between 200 and 800 words. With each entry, I found myself adjusting the knobs a bit, and sure enough, I was really ramping up the speed … and that is exactly the point. Spreeder wants you to develop faster reading habits, one notch at a time.
I reached my limit when I selected 500 words a minute, although I found it humbling when I later read that many fast readers can surpass 600 words a minute, and competitive speed-readers can exceed 1,000 words per minute. Whoosh!
Nonetheless, it made me wonder about comprehension. How much of this stuff was realistically sticking in my brain?
I seemed to do best with the lighter stuff. A technical piece on photography didn’t sink in, but most general-interest news articles were easy to handle. Would I remember details at the end, like the names of the people quoted? I think so … but I don’t think I would have done any better or worse than through conventional reading.
One feature that may be helpful is a bookmarklet that you can add to your browser for a fast launch. Drag it to your toolbar, and launch it by marking a block of text you’d like to speed-read. Easy-peasy.
Elsewhere this week
You might think that all the cool web addresses are gone, but that’s not necessarily the case. If you’re interesting in creating a site with a distinctive URL, do some research to see what your options are. Domainr will instantly report a number of options as you type in a keyword, and point you to how to register a domain that no one has yet claimed.
Do you like magazines? Perhaps not as much as the folks behind this Dutch website, which all but drools over magazine covers from around the world. You’re bound to see things that will never come to your local newsstand, but that’s kind of the point: the site loves picking up images from all over. The collection is pretty vast, and reaches back in time, too, with now-iconic covers from decades past. Designers, journalists and news nerds may love this site the most, but even a casual visit might be rewarding.
John Gushue is a producer with CBC News in St. John’s. Twitter: @johngushue.