Here’s an interesting new piece of software: it’s called RapidReader, and it purports to allow you to double or triple your reading speed by flashing a document onto your computer screen one word at a time, at a rate of up to 950 words per minute. Being a skeptic by temperament, I was surprised to discover that the program actually works: I was able to read an online newspaper article at about double my normal reading speed. The increased speed, I suspect, comes from not having to move your eyes across a line of text — instead, you just “take in” the words as they appear successively in the same spot. Moreover, I think that I understood and retained as much of the newspaper article using RapidReader as I would have if I had read it in a conventional fashion.
Now, I wouldn’t want to use RapidReader for reading a really long document because it does demand fairly intense concentration; nor would I want to use RapidReader when I’m reading for pleasure. But if I had a twenty-page document and I had to have it read for a meeting that started in ten minutes — I would definitely do so using RapidReader.