How to read faster without retention loss

Let’s face it, most new year’s resolutions go before they come because they’re often not all that achievable. In fact, you’re probably thinking right now that reading more than 2-3 books is equally unachievable! It doesn’t have to be that way, though, as long as you are able to recognize the power of small chunks of time. Just spending 20-30 minutes a day 5 days a week can add up extremely fast. For example, my wife and I try to read about 5 days a week. We decided to combine a few lesser-known services and lifehacks to read up to 60-pages every 20-30 minutes.
Before you scoff at the thought of reading a page every 30 seconds, you need to understand how reading works. When you read a book, the biggest determining factor in how fast you can read is typically your subvocalization. Subvocalizing, as its name suggests is the practice of vocalizing the words you read in your head. This practice is both good and bad. Good, because that’s what helps you remember what you read; bad, because that’s what limits the speed at which you can absorb information. Most speed reading courses try to teach their students to eliminate subvocalization. The hope is that although your comprehension might tank at first, it can pick back up again. Helpful techniques are usually also covered. You might start out drawing lines down each side of a page one third in from the edge and then practice reading by glancing at those points. This trains peripheral vision to catch the rest. These techniques take a decent amount of practice and mileage often varies. I’m not here to teach you how to speed read the traditional way because it takes more time to learn and often has questionable retention. There is one valuable concept here we can steal though. Namely, the idea that subvocalization can be replaced, while effectively retaining comprehension. In a sense, we experience this whenever hearing something read out loud or listening to an audiobook.
The good news is that you can listen far more quickly than you probably ever imagined (up to 600 words per minute, in my experience), and therein lies the first secret to reading up to 40 books a year. Combine listening to what you’re reading (replacing your subvocalization) with visually skimming the words on a page and you effectively merge the major benefits of speed-reading (speed+time saved) without a loss in your comprehension. There is more than one way you can utilize this information, but I’ll just share what has worked for us.

What you’ll need:
1. A willingness to try something new for a few days.
2. A set time (10-20 Minutes a day).
3. A library card from the biggest library you can get access to.
4. An iOS device (iPhone, iPad) or (Slightly more complicated) Android.

Step 1: Everything can be Audible for free:
Enable (iOS) System-wide Text to Speech for any app/text (Great for listening to Kindle and Logos or Faithlife books):

  1. Open Settings
  2. General>Accessibility>Speech>
  3. Enable Speak Selection
  4. Enable Speak Screen
  5. Make sure “highlight content” is off.
  6. Under “voices”>English> I recommend selecting an (enhanced) version of an English speaking voice as they sound a lot better than the default option. I recommend the enhanced version of the Australian Karen voice, as this one tends to not pause as long as the American voices between sentences.
  7. Open ebook reading app of choice
  8. Use two fingers to drag down from off the top of the screen as if you are pulling down the notification center to bring up the speech widget and start.

The speech rate can be increased to about 600wpm (4x). At first, this will probably be far to fast for you to understand, but start at the highest rate you can understand and bump it up a little every day or two and you’ll find you can understand up to 500wpm within a week or two. You will find that you can also suddenly read along much faster than if you were reading unaided. This is because when you hear something being read and read along, what you hear completely replaces your subvocalization.

I don’t have an Android device, but it seems as though there is a similar way to do this explained here.

Step 2: How to Get Free Books
Get the Libby app and find the biggest participating library you can nearby. Enter your library card number and you can “borrow” a digital version of any book available in your library system. Additional library cards can also be entered if you have additional library cards from other libraries. Best of all, most books can be forwarded to the Kindle App for iOS, Android, or other platforms and last about a month. Any highlights made in the Kindle app while borrowing the book will be saved for if you ever borrow it again, or purchase it later.

Bonus tip: If you have a free Goodreads account, the Kindle app will synchronize all your highlights to it so that you can access them whenever you want without owning the book. Plus, you can keep track of your book goal, find what others are reading, etc.

How do I calculate up to 40 books? 20 minutes a day, 5 days a week, 52 weeks a year = 5,200 minutes. At my 2 pages a minute, that’s up to 10,400 pages a year, or a total of 41.6x 250-page books. To be fair, I’m only aiming for 24. 🙂