On a lark, I recently decided to take a speed reading class, where we were taught simple techniques such as sub-vocalization (supressing the voice inside your head as your read) and getting your eyes used to reading batches of words at a time. Both techniques run counter to a person's natural reading habits and we were given uncomfortable exercises to help unlearn our old ways of reading. Eventually, I was able to get my reading speeds up to 700 words per minute from 400 words per minute, so I'm convinced this stuff actually works.
At the end of the class, our instructor told us about Spreeder, a free online application which allows you to enter any text you want to read faster and then flashes the text back to you at a configurable rate. Not only is it a great way to quickly get through the latest article your boss told you to read, but it's also a great tool to hone your speed-reading skills from time to time. Definitely worth giving a try if you're looking to increase your daily productivity.
Spreeder is a deceptively simple web-based tool that is designed to help you read faster. Words which you choose - either by cutting and pasting your own text or by using the Spreeder bookmarklet - are then flashed back at you according to a set of parameters of your own choosing. The most significant of these are the words per minute, and the chunk size. The latter refers to the number of words that are flashed back to you at a time. In addition you can select your own font size and color, window size and background color. Further and more advanced settings allow you to experiment with parameters such as variable chunk size and skipping over certain types of words.
There are two useful provided links, one to a Wikipedia article on the subject of speed reading in general, and one to a good blog entry in which the author tries the tool for himself and suggests ways to approach it.
As is noted in that blog, this tool is a good way to learn to speed read online material but further and different techniques are also needed to speed read books and other offline sources. So if you spend most of your life online and find that you're a stranger to the printed word these days, this is going to be well worth your while pursuing.
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