One of the great injustices of living on Earth is that none of us will ever get to read everything our hearts desire. As of 2010, the Google Books team approximated that there are 130 million books in circulation. Only the World Wide Web knows how many pieces of content get pushed into cyberspace each day. And plenty of people—shoutout to my dad—still read their local newspapers. The attention economy has reached an all time high—and we all need hacks for squeezing the things we love into our limited bandwidths.
Read Sh*t Faster is a website designed to help you… I mean, come on, do I really need to explain it?! “The average reader can read about 200 WPM (words per minute) with about 60 percent comprehension, but that’s if you read left to right,” reads the site’s start page. “If you read something one word at a time instead without moving your eyes, you can increase your WPM without losing your comprehension!” To start using the free tool, you simply copy and paste your text of choice into the box and choose how many words per 60-second interval you’d like to read. Then, you press the “Read!” button and your chosen article reveals itself one word at a time on screen (kind of like a teleprompter).
Of course, this particular innovation only works for content found on the web. (You could type the contents of Moby Dick into the box, but like, maybe don’t do that.) To give it a spin for myself, I grabbed some Well+Good content I need to catch up on, set my pace to 325 words per minute, and kick back in my desk chair for a few minutes of reading about whether it’s ever acceptable to tell a lie.
All in all, the 939-word piece takes me less than three minutes to devour, which is saying a LOT because I’m quite possibly the world’s slowest reader. I don’t feel like I sacrificed comprehension for speed, but the website isn’t exactly the most calming way to take in content. It kind of feels like someone’s shouting individual words at you. But it does come in handy for times when you need to resurrect your inner-college freshman and cram information into your brain. Or, on the other hand, you could set the pace nice and slow and watch the words meander by like a slow-motion novel.
Time’s a-ticking, folks. As I write this, more content is clamoring for your attention. It’s up to you how (and how much) of it you’ll read.