Spreed: Speed Reading on the Small Screen

Spreed:Inc, a Canadian IT startup, offers to provide online publishers with the ability to present their content in such a way that readers can grasp it quickly, even — or perhaps especially — on the small screen of a smart phone. The notion has been kicking around for some time: flash one or a few words at a time in the centre of the screen, so that the eye doesn’t have to track left and right the way it might with a line of text. Those of you who have seen a Lawrence Lessig PowerPoint presentation will know that he uses something similar to great effect, though not, of course, to hurry up your grasp of the material.

Significantly for Spreed, they’ve secured the Globe and Mail for a client. So if you have an iPhone and the Globe app (lovely icon, by the way), you can take Spreed for a test drive. It’s an option on the Globe app, I should add, not the default.

With Spreed you are able to control the number of words that are flashed at a time and the rate at which text appears and disappears. At the moment, Spreed can build your organization an iPhone app; and it promises to deliver soon a similar function for the BlackBerry. I was unable to find out how much they’re charging for this and when the BlackBerry app might be ready; Spreed hasn’t answered my email yet, but if they do, I’ll post the information here by way of a comment.

The experience of having text come at you as if shot from a gun is a bit unnerving at first, but I can see how, if you were to “relax into it,” as my dentist is fond of saying, it might be no more unpleasant than reading paragraphs on the tiny screen and could even be preferable. Mind you, I haven’t tried reading the Income Tax Act in this way.

Even if you don’t have an iPhone, you can see how it works by checking out a website that offers to do the same thing for any text you feed it. It’s called Spreeder (no relation?) and implies that it takes some training to get used to this method. There’s a companion site that offers to show you “How to Get the Most out of Spreeder.com“.

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