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Word Runner is Amazon’s Solution to the Speed Reading Problem, and It Just May Work

word runner gif

RSVP speed reading tech (like that used by Spritz) has been around for close to three decades, but in all that time it has had two problems: it causes headaches in some users, and there are many reports of reading comprehension issues.

We don’t know if Amazon has solved the former issue, but it looks like they have a solution to the latter.

Earlier today Amazon unveiled their new tablets and other hardware, as well as the new Fire OS 5 Bellini. One of the new software features Amazon mentioned in relation was Word Runner, a speed reading option for the new tablets' Kindle app.

Word Runner is designed to help improve your reading speed by flashing one word at a time in the center of the screen. That is exactly what Spritz and other RSVP apps do, but Amazon has added a couple nuances that I have not seen before.

Update: That doesn’t mean, of course, that those features haven’t been used elsewhere. The ReadMe app can match Word Runner feature for feature, and it works with Epub.

As you can see in the GIF above, Word Runner slows down the flashing when it comes to the more difficult words, or as Amazon said, it  "automatically and algorithmically slows down for punctuation, paragraph breaks, and difficult words".

They’re calling that feature Dynamic Pacing, and it really is a feature that I haven’t seen before.

Amazon also mentions on the Word Runner page a feature called Brake. If you miss a word you can just tap and hold the screen to activate the Brake. This instantly pauses Word Runner, and lets you scroll back and pick up wherever you’d like.

I haven’t seen either feature myself, but I do have a video below to share with you. Len Edgerly of The Kindle Chronicles scored an invite to the press briefing in SF, and he got to play with the new Fire tablet.

Word Runner is coming soon to the Kindle Android app, as well as other Fire tablets, but like the new typography Word Runner is not available for all ebooks (nor personal documents).

That’s a downer, but I’m still looking forward to seeing this in person.

lead image via Cnet

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[…] für Android und für Fire OS erhält demnach eine neue Funktion namens Word Runner, entdeckte das Fachblog The Digital Reader – in Presse-Aussendungen erwähnte Amazon Word Runner mit keinem […]

Steve H September 18, 2015 um 10:10 am

Looking forward to this.

Amazon's Word Runner might help you read faster – Liliputing September 18, 2015 um 10:45 am

[…] The Digital Reader and The Kindle […]

Jeffrey sun September 18, 2015 um 12:06 pm

Will this be available on 1st generation Kindles?

Nate Hoffelder September 18, 2015 um 12:12 pm

It’s not going to be available on any Kindle. The E-ink screen simply isn’t fast enough.

You might be able to run this app on the first-gen Fire, but I think you would have to install it yourself.

DavidW September 18, 2015 um 6:47 pm

Just terrible. If you read for pleasure, you should not feel the need to rush it.

Name (Required) September 19, 2015 um 6:57 am

I have tested all RSVP [rapid serial visual presentation] available or free for my PC or Android phone. Each of them has some features that I do not like. If I could make one RSVP reader that has all the good features from existing ones I would use it for reading. I can crank the speed up to 1000wpm [for relatively short periods of time] and still follow the text in a good RSVP program.
I ended up reading in Coolreader and FBReader on my large smart-phone. My primary reading device is, of course, an e-ink device with 6″ screen. (I wish there was front-lit 5″ device available)

This looks interesting. I hope that Amazon will let us load our own content, or that other RSVP developers will copy this feature 😉

Alex Robinson September 21, 2015 um 7:07 am

Nate, at the risk of getting too techie, it should be noted that probably all RSVP programs have options to vary the pacing as a function of things like punctuation, word length, sentence and paragraph breaks, etc. etc. Many such options are almost cost-free to add to an RSVP program.

Some years ago I wrote an RSVP reader called TMax Reader for a fellow and certainly put that sort of thing in the various implementations. YMMV, but what I found was that too much/often pacing variance was a bad thing. It felt very jittery. The eye and mind seem to like a steady diet of words for the most part. Emphasis, "for the most part."

On a big, touch screen device like the Fire, back-up could be implemented with a single, one-click button. A context block of text (if such were not patented by the fellow I wrote the code for), could be used for back-up, too. But, in practice, you don’t back up, do you?

Nate Hoffelder September 21, 2015 um 4:37 pm

@ Alex

Really? I’d tried several similar apps when Spritz came out. None offered a variable speed. Of course, they were all free apps. Perhaps paid apps had the feature?

Michael W. Perry September 21, 2015 um 9:45 am

I’ve tried apps that do this and ooooh do I hate them. I like to vary my reading pace to suit myself not be forced along like a slave being driven to the cotton fields.

Will the Supreme Court Take Apple’s Ebook Appeal? | Digital Book World September 22, 2015 um 7:37 am

[…] Amazon’s Solution to Speed Reading (Digital Reader) RSVP speed reading tech has been around for close to three decades, but in all that time it has had two problems: it causes headaches in some users, and there are many reports of reading comprehension issues. We don’t know if Amazon has solved the former issue, but it looks like they have a solution to the latter. When Amazon unveiled its new line of tablets, one of the new software features mentioned was Word Runner, a speed reading option for the new tablets’ Kindle app. […]

Reader September 22, 2015 um 12:23 pm

Been using for a year, nothing new here, they obviously just copied ReadMe! when they started getting big.

Nate Hoffelder September 22, 2015 um 12:33 pm

I hadn’t heard of that site, thanks!

TriedIt November 5, 2015 um 9:17 pm

I just tried the word runner. Didn’t like it at all! I felt like I had to make a pause after every word, so. Everything. Sounded. Like. This. In. My. Head.
Maybe other won’t have this problem and I’m definitely a slow reader, but this is just not for me.

Robert January 10, 2016 um 9:19 am

Actually I was surprised how good it is, at some point I didn’t even have to focus too much on the screen and it was very fast and effortless. It took me few minutes to get use to it, but after that it was really good experience.

D. Kimbo February 18, 2016 um 7:40 am

I hadn’t heard of this, until I accidentally stumbled on to the feature . I’m in love with it. As a child I had severe dyslexia with eye stigma, which made the act of reading akin to a horror movie. I was given an index card with a small cut out slit that I moved across the pages which took FOREVER to complete a chapter. Furthermore flanging across the page was in slow motion and tired my eye muscles and gave me a headache! This is wonderful! I enjoy reading! A whole new world has open up for me!

Nate Hoffelder February 18, 2016 um 8:59 am

What do you think of the dyslexic fonts that were added to the Kindle ereader and the Pocket iOS app?

Sweet Pea February 1, 2017 um 8:15 pm

Lol, this is really late. But I am dyslexic and I have ADD so I tend to get distracted very easily (lol, like right now) but I love to read. I swear the dyslexic font on my kindle works. It makes it much easier to read. And for certain books (easy to read, and non complicated) I like the word runner feature. It helps keep me focused and in the story.

Harry June 18, 2016 um 5:09 pm

Shame it doesn’t seem to work with meats.

Harry June 18, 2016 um 5:10 pm

Shame it doesn’t work with emags.

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