The Washington Post

The new start-up that says it can help you read ‘War and Peace’ in 10 hours

Spritz is a simple concept with a potentially huge pay-off: to revolutionize the way we read.

Right now, your eyes are moving sequentially from word to word as you read this: You get to a new word and process it, move to the next word and process that — there’s a lot of jumping around. In fact, most of the time you spend reading is actually jumping around. So Spritz, a Boston text-streaming start-up that officially launched this week, proposes to cut that part out by using a system that flashes aligned words at you one by one, like so.


Per Spritz, this somewhat counterintuitive presentation lets people read faster — much faster. Like 1000-words-a-minute faster. (The average reading speed is less than a quarter of that.) At that rate, you could finish this post in 19 seconds, “Infinite Jest” in just over 9 hours and “War and Peace” in less than 10 hours. And you could do it, theoretically, from a phone, smart watch, e-reader or head-mounted device.

“Think about lying in bed, reading your favorite literature, drool running down your chin,” Spritz suggests, somewhat flippantlly, in its FAQ section. “Traditional books are just sooo heavy, ya know?”

So, yeah, traditional books are heavy. But they also allow you to process what you’re reading, pause for reflection, contemplate the intricacies of tone and theme and metaphor — that kind of sentimental, inefficient thing.

Spritz’s makers claim their technology doesn’t detract from reading retention, but it has to compromise comprehension on some level. And it certainly raises some big-picture questions on the dizzying, ever-accelerating speed of our modern world, where everything can be made faster, better and more efficient. Isn’t there some point when efficiency actually becomes counterproductive? Doesn’t speeding through “War and Peace” in 10 hours kind of undermine the very purpose of reading such a weighty, ponderous book?

Maybe the modern reader doesn’t have time to ponder … which is a ripe subject for reflection, in and of itself. You can try out Spritz’s technology on the company’s blog; click the circle icon in the upper right corner.

Caitlin Dewey is The Post’s digital culture critic. Follow her on Twitter @caitlindewey or subscribe to her daily newsletter on all things Internet. (



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