Efficiency is for washing, not for literature

In the last weeks there has been a new buzz about a speed reading software called Spritz. The idea is that too much time is spent scanning sentences while reading. So if the reader can keep her eyes steady and the words can fly past then reading speeds can increase. HuffPost reports that with Spritz a reader should be able to clear 1000 words per minute, which would mean that you could read a Harry Potter book in under 90 minutes.

Naturally this is not really a new thing. There is other software aimed at increasing reading speeds (Spreeder, Quickreader, Read Quick, and add ons for Firefox).

Viewed in this way applications like these are great for efficiency. But isn’t that the problem? Do we really read Harry Potter for efficiency? If we take software like this and add it to the numerous lists-of-books-to-read-before-you-die (Goodreads, 1001 books to read before you die, Amazon’s 100 books, 50 books before you die) you get a very odd relationship to literature and reading.

Efficiency is for washing, not for literature. Yes, there are too many books. No, you will never read them all. Even Erasmus complained of there being too many books in the 15th century.

Is there anywhere on earth exempt from these swarms of new books?

But the problem with an (almost) infinite number of books is not resolved by increasing our stress in reading so as to grab a larger part of the pie.

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