Earlier this week I came across a product/concept called Live Ink, which purported to increase both your reading speed and comprehension. I was obviously a bit skeptical, but my interest was piqued enough to give it a shot, and, after having enjoyed using it for the last few days, I thought I'd mention it here.
From copy the company sent me:
In simple terms, by focusing our reading attention, Live Ink helps people read with greater comprehension and retention, with more efficiency and less effort. Live Ink does three things that improve our ability to visually process text: 1) displays text in shorter lines; 2) breaks text in grammatically meaningful segments; and 3) indents text to cue the brain to the relative importance of phrases within a sentence.
The concept really resonated with me, especially in light of my disdain for ‘wide' sentences (see Death to liquid layouts).
If you've checked out the Live Ink site and are interested, but are using Linux or Mac OS X, you may have noticed that they don't yet offer a Mac/Linux client (I'm told it will be months before such a client is available). However, there does exist a [very] beta Firefox extension, which is what I've been using for the past week. While the extension really isn't "public," you can e-mail Adam, their VP of marketing, to request an account.
I should caution you, as he I, that the extension is beta, beta, beta and has been in development only a few weeks. When it works, it works well, but it will definitely break when the markup or characters it receives deviate from what it's expecting. There's also currently a 6000-character limitation, which means that any highlighted text beyond 6000 characters does not get parsed (i.e., if the article is long enough, you may have to parse it in chunks); this will be fixed.
Remember, if you're a Windows user (I'm sorry) you can simply download the actual client, which I'm told does not suffer from the ailments found in its newborn, OS-agnostic progeny.