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Speed reading has been growing in popularity in recent months, with a slew of apps popping up promising to help you learn how to read much faster, in order to digest more information and learn about all of the things you may never have thought that you had the time for.

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Of course, this all sounds great, it’s almost like a superpower or at least a viable tool for learning, but does it really work? And what do we need to know about this process?

It 100 percent is possible to teach your brain to read faster, and there are many methods that promise to do this, many of which are apps, but here’s why you should consider learning to do this from a book and not an app.

Research has shown that we digest information much more effectively when it is read from a book, rather than a backlit screen on a website, in the form of an article on the internet. Hmm.. interesting… what would really be the difference though? Let’s have a look.

What Is Speed Reading?

Most people read at a pace of around 200 – 400 words per minute. Those who claim to be able to speed read claim to be able to read between 1000-1700 words per minute, which is a minimum of about 4 times the speed of the average reader. Just imagine how much more information could be digested by learning this method. Also, you might wonder if you are actually able to take in the info while reading at that rate, but speed-readers commonly claim to be learning so much through the process of speed reading.

Some of the methods used to learn this technique include skimming, meta guiding, Rapid Serial Visual Presentation and some others.

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The process of skimming involves glancing through the text to find the most important parts to read, even though this is generally considered a speed reading technique it doesn’t involve actually teaching yourself to read faster. There are studies that show that we actually don’t remember many details when we skim.

Meta guiding is an older technique that involves using your finger like a pen to guide your eyes to specific words. This method is believed to cut down external distractions so that you are more focused on the specific words and thus your reading speed increases.

Rapid Serial Visual Presentation (RSVP) is a method that is used by the latest digital speed reading systems. Only words, single words flash on the screen usually in an app, so you are only viewing one word at a time. Eventually, you increase the speed of the words flashing and it will tell you how much you have improved.

Other methods encourage you to read multiple lines at the same time simply by expanding your peripheral vision. This method takes a lot more practice.

Too Good To Be True?

Maybe. Some experts claim that this technique is only beneficial for reading actual books and learning from a book, for reading books is ideal. Research has been emerging that shows how reading information from a book is a lot more effective than reading something from a screen.

According to UKSG insights, a study was undertaken in 2013 with tenth-graders in Norway, where the students were divided into two groups. One group read two texts (1,400–2,000 words) in print and the other group read the same texts as PDFs on a computer screen. In the reading comprehension test that was administered, the students who read on paper scored significantly better than those who read the texts digitally. It was easier for those who read on paper to remember what they had read. This is  likely because paper gives spatio-temporal markers while you read. Touching paper and turning pages aids the memory, making it easier to remember where you read something. Having to scroll on the computer screen makes remembering more difficult.

So, perhaps learning this method from a screen or an app wouldn’t actually be as beneficial as learning from a book, if we do in fact digest information better in this way.

But as with almost every study there is almost always another that contradicts it.

Another study also conducted in 2013, compared reading effort in three forms; a paper page, an e-reader (with e-ink) and a tablet. Eye movement, brain activity and reading speed were all observed and monitored. The participants also answered questionnaires in order to determine reading comprehension. Despite the outcome every single one of the participants claimed to have preferred reading on paper even though this study did not find that it was more effort to read digital media or effective to read on paper. The older participants in the study also read both faster and with less effort on the tablet computer.

How Fast Can You Read?

See for yourself by testing out the video below,

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