Thursday, August 4, 2011

I can read without moving my eyes!

Oh man, wait til the people who hate ebooks hear about this! They're all upset that we're dispensing with physical pages, the smell of new bindings, and the varieties of type face. Wait til they hear that we're dispensing with paragraphs and page layouts!

I just finished the third article in the Boston Globe's series about reading. There were three articles--the past, present, and future of reading--and the third one was by far the most interesting. Reporting on current reading research, the author proposed a way to deliver large amounts of text through small screens: Rapid Serial Visual Presentation or RSVP.

Basically, the words appear on the screen one after another and you just read them before they disappear. Sounds stressful, right? But there are some popular RSVP apps and extensions on the web, and their creators emphasize that you can read much faster this way.

I had to try it, so I downloaded this Firefox add-on. The tutorial gives you a pretty good idea of how it works.

I have to try it more, but what I immediate notice is that I don't like seeing the first half of some punctuation, like quotation marks or parenthesis, without seeing the other half. Also, I'm so used to line breaks being meaningful, like in poetry, that when I'm reading two or three words at once, I keep looking for significance in the groupings. But I'm intrigued!

Also, I've decided that I would like the next generation of ebook readers to work like snap bracelets: I want them to be flexible, so I can roll them up, but I also want to be able to hold them above my head with one hand while reading in bed, so then they would have to be rigid.

The Boston Globe article mentions some other interesting possibilities. It's definitely worth reading in its entirety.


  1. And I'm having problems reviewing ebooks because it's hard to page back through them. This sounds impossible. I will have to try it, because I think I read text in blocks. Hmmm. Thanks for the intrigue.

  2. It's true--there's no way to mark part of what you read with RSVP--you can't fold the corner of a page or highlight a line.

    It sort of makes me feel like the information has been beamed into my head but no longer exists anywhere else.