I can think of three reasons why I might like to use a speed-reader webpage:
- To benchmark what my normal pace is (I think I have checked my typing speed but never my reading),
- To actually come across the finish line on an assigned reading on time, for example the nightmarish reading pace in a 400-level Class I took last fall on Cancer Genetics, or
- To see if something like The Brothers Karamozov feels better at high speed.
I tried Zap Reader with Chapter 39 from Moby Dick and then with a 3000 word blog post.
It has a little red bar that that serve as as a gas guage, growing in length to tell you how close to the end of the passage you are.
I set the up arrow to 625 wpm, which worked about fine for a blog post, maybe helped by the pause that comes when a sentence concludes and the sentence length of modern writing. For reading Moby Dick, 625 wpm was a little uncomfortable. I think I missed words here and there. But is that what speed reading is? And is that why I'm so slow usually?
I think my comprehension was still >80% and the enforced pace definitely kept my shoulder to the wheel during a strange Melvillean digression comparing whaling to lawyering with me proceeding apace through the mud that would have normally derailed me if I were reading it by hand.
Reading it at not my natural pace gave Moby Dick a sort of remixed feeling. What would epic poetry be like? Beowulf or Homer at 625 wpm. Joyce? An enforced pace could be either faster than normal or slower, both to some dramatic effect. Such tweeking is a sort of poor man's duct tape remix remedy, like taking a Chuck Berry single down to 33-and-a-third and realizing that you've reimagined the King of Rock and Roll as Black Sabbath.
If you come up with any suggested passages and recommended playback speads consider posting your remix here in the comments section... (click the zap reader up and down arrows to adjust speed)