Do you ever wonder how so many people can read more books in a month than you can in an entire year?
In a few short years, I went from being an unmotivated individual who’d rather “watch the movie” to an avid speed reader who can read one book in an entire sitting.
Here’s the thing, though—I hate physical books.
And almost all the speed reading advice I’ve been able to find only really applies to physical books!
So if you’re like me and you want to speed read on Kindle or another eBook reader, I have good news. I’ve figured it out, and I want to share it with you.
What is Speed Reading
If you’ve stumbled upon this post by accident and are confuddled why anyone in their right mind would want to speed read, allow me to explain.
Speed reading is exactly like what it sounds: Attempting to read faster than average.
Studies have found that the average college-educated student can read between 300 and 350 words per minute (WPM). The goal of speed reading is to beat the average and continue to increase WPM while maintaining comprehension.
You may be wondering if there’s any evidence that suggests this is even possible. Because the number of factors that go into reading comprehension is many, it’s hard to prove whether speed reading helps or hurts.
If you’re unsure whether it’s for you, give it a try! Many, including myself, have found success with speed reading, and it might be just the thing you need to get you excited about reading.
The Potential Benefits of Speed Reading
In my personal experience, speed reading has proven itself to be more than beneficial.
You have the ability to compress the time it takes you to learn and level up your life and business exponentially.
Here are a few of the personal benefits I’ve experienced as a result of adopting speed reading:
- Increased my financial readiness. Utilizing speed reading, I’ve been able to read through Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover and Jesse Mecham’s You Need a Budget multiple times now. Mastering these books has helped me go from negative net worth to a positive one ($32,000 and counting), and I would not have had the time to read each one multiple times if not for speed reading.
- Dropped over 60 lbs. In 2015, I weighed 278 pounds. At my lowest in recent years, I had made it down to 211. I’ve gained a couple back now; regardless, using the strategies I learned in books like The New Atkins for a New You and Keto Clarity helped to change my life dramatically.
- Went full-time in my own business. Thanks to incredible books by Dave Ramsey, Michael Hyatt, Dan Miller, and others in the business and leadership space, I was able to create and grow a successful home-based business and do life on my terms.
The point? Reading is important—even if just for reading’s sake.
However, when you can take in a large amount of information at once, the results you’ll experience are exponential.
Most Common Speed Reading Methods
There are several common speed reading methods. You may find the Tim Ferris speed reading video below useful if you are the physical book kind.
And if you just want some killer tips that you could apply to any physical or digital book, this video by the fastest reader alive will help:
Though there are a variety of methods, some of the most common are as follows.
The term “schema” refers to a conceptual model or plan.
When you have a schema, you have context. This is true in the digital world as well as the physical world.
In one example from the digital world, “schema markup” is used to tell search engines what sort of content is on a page. When you search for a recipe and Google displays the results, it may display an image and the name of the recipe, alongside a host of other information.
But Google doesn’t just “magically” know how that information is related to the content of the video.
By utilizing Schema markup, Google can tell that the prep time for this recipe is 12 minutes and that each serving has just 323 calories—and, it can display that right on the Search Engine Results Page.
In quite a similar fashion, using schema can help us understand the concepts in a book and apprehend them much faster.
Practically speaking, you could acquire schema for any given chapter in a book by skimming through before reading and taking mental note of:
- Headings and subheadings
- Important names
- Important words
- Any words or sentences that have been given emphasis
- Any numbers mentioned
- Any works cited
Armed with this information (even if it’s only in the back of your mind), you’ll be able to read the words faster on the page. You won’t be stuck trying to comprehend as much while you’re reading, because your brain has already done that work.
While it may seem as though that process itself would take a considerable amount of time, it really doesn’t—especially on a Kindle device where it’s extremely easy to look forwards and backward in a book by simply tapping the center of your screen.
2. Narrowing your Reading View
Many proponents of speed reading argue that simply narrowing your field of vision and trimming an inch or two from the left and right of the paragraph can increase reading speed.
Have you ever seen those silly Facebook posts that use letter substitution?
Apparently, as long as the first and last letters of a word are intact, the “inside” letters can be scrambled in any order, and most people are still able to comprehend them.
The idea here is not identical, but similar.
By narrowing the field of vision, we reduce the amount of time we spend on each line, and we still understand the main idea of each line.
This seems to be even more effective if “schema” has already been established since it’s more likely our minds could “fill in the blanks.”
3. Eliminate Subvocalization
This particular technique is quite controversial.
As Scott Young opines,
Speed reading experts claim that subvocalization is the bottleneck that slows down your reading. If you can learn to just recognize words visually without saying them in your inner voice, you can read much faster.
Here the evidence is clear: subvocalization is necessary to read well. Even expert speed readers do it, they just do it a bit faster than untrained people do. We can check this because that inner voice sends faint communication signals to the vocal cords, as a residue of your internal monolog, and those signals can be measured objectively.
It’s simply not possible to comprehend what you’re reading and avoid using that inner voice. So reading faster means being able to use this inner voice faster, not eliminating it. To further that, expert speed readers who were studied also subvocalized, they just did it faster.
Fair enough, here. Although, when I hear speed readers speak of the necessity to eliminate subvocalization, usually they compare how we process books vs how we process movies. When we watch a movie, we can take in a considerable amount of information at one time, and without even thinking about it.
Howard Berg, the world’s fastest reader according to the Guinness Book of World Records, extends the analogy to driving down the road in a car.
Berg claims that we are constantly processing information while driving down the road, in much the same way as we do when watching a movie. The idea is that if we could read the words in a book the same way we read the words on a road sign, we could read and comprehend faster.
I have seen something similar in my own reading.
I’m not necessarily disputing Young’s claim, though. Perhaps if I were to be studied, it would become clear that I merely subvocalize faster than the average person.
All of that to say, I’m not sure whether you should try to eliminate subvocalization as a strategy. It seems that either eliminating it or speeding it up will happen as a byproduct of other techniques, regardless.
4. Finger Tracking
This is the technique that has helped me the most.
The idea here is quite simple: We are slow readers because we lose our place—and, subsequently, we lose our focus and attention.
Using finger tracking (or pacing), our eyes are trained to follow our fingers. This keeps us from losing our place and keeps us more engaged with what is right in front of us.
In much the same way as comprehension can be increased by reading and listening at the same time, it can be increased by reading and “touching” at the same time.
This also gives you a more concrete standard. I think you’ll find that once you start using pacing of some sort, you will not be able to go back.
It’s extremely difficult for me to read without my hand touching the paper (or the device—more on that in a bit) now.
The faster I can move my hand, the faster my eyes can read. By doing this repeatedly until it breaks comprehension, then slowing down a bit and working your way back up, you can make a measurable increase in reading speed.
Let me take a brief opportunity to mention something about your goals, here. Some people are enchanted by the idea of increasing their reading speed by 3x or 4x.
First of all, there are considerable doubts whether that is even possible. But I think it’s completely reasonable, using some of these techniques, to increase your reading speed by 1.5x or 2x.
That’s a great goal to strive for and would result in reading double the amount of books in a given time period—or giving you the margin to read the most impactful books multiple times. Would that change your life? I think so!
Why It’s Difficult to Speed Read an eBook
Characteristically, it is harder to speed read on an eBook because of one simple reason: Finger tracking is more difficult.
The reason is fairly obvious. Touchscreen devices are intended to be interacted with using your fingers, so you can’t exactly use your fingers to track where you are in the book! It causes the screen to go haywire.
Even so, there are a few tips I’ve found that will help make this possible for you.
Three Tricks to Speed Read on Kindle
By using the steps outlined below, along with some of the other tips mentioned (like using schema), I believe you can easily double your reading speed on Kindle and other eBook devices.
1. Using ePaper and Finger Tracking
If your Kindle is an ePaper model, you may still find that it is possible to use your finger to help you read.
The devices are small (and thus the reading view is already narrowed for you), which means you don’t necessarily need your finger to move across the page in the same way you need to with a physical book.
What I do is simply anchor my finger to the side bezel of the devices, and move it down. Again, the width of the screen is small enough that I can follow my finger down the screen instead of across it, and accomplish the same effect.
By the way, this same thing works for me if I use the Kindle iPhone app. All I have to do is anchor my finger and follow it down the side of the devices, then my finger is right there to swipe to the next page.
Lather, rinse, repeat.
2. Using an App with a Pointing Device
Another technique I use involves using the Kindle app on the iPad.
I actually prefer reading on the iPad app to anywhere else, with some constraints:
- I use the green background for the text and lower the brightness. It’s easiest on my eyes that way and allows me to read for longer periods of time in one sitting.
- While I appreciate the screen size of smaller eReading devices, I prefer the screen size of the iPad. I go ahead and adjust the width of the text and how many columns are on each page to optimize the experience for me.
- There is a “reading ruler” setting that you can use as a substitute for finger tracking. I tend not to use this, but I do bounce back and forth with it.
- I also like to listen and read at the same time. More on this below.
So, how do I read on the Kindle App?
Believe it or not, I prefer to use the “butt” end of my Apple Pencil as a finger tracker.
I know, that sounds ridiculous.
But don’t knock it till you try it!
I have actually found this to be the single most helpful tactic of all for me.
There is really only one disadvantage to this. As you might imagine, it can scuff up your screen. However, I use a matte screen protector from Amazon to reduce this, and it works wonders!
3. Using the Alexa Accessibility Feature
While “finger” tracking with the Apple Pencil is probably my personal number one tactic for speed reading on Kindle, using Amazon’s Alexa is a super close second.
Let’s just say I wish I had known about this a LONG time ago.
Here’s the deal: Alexa can read your Kindle library to you. And she can do it fast.
All you have to do is:
- Download the “Alexa” app from the App Store on your preferred device.
- Sign in to your Amazon account.
- Head over to the “Play” tab and then scroll down to “Kindle Library.” All your books are right there, waiting to be played!
- Simply tap on the book and choose which device to play it on. For example, you could play on the current device or another Alexa-enabled device in your home.
- Alternatively, simply tap at the top of the “home” tab and tell Alexa what you want her to play. For example, “Play Clockwork on Kindle at 2 times speed.” (Btw, Alexa will remember your speed preference, so you only have to say that once.)
This is a step up from simply using the “VoiceOver” feature on your phone, which requires you to leave the screen open and does not have a very natural sounding voice.
Alexa uses the full force of Amazon’s intelligence and has an impressive voice for a robot. Plus, you can sleep the screen so you’re not phantom dialing people in your pocket while trying to listen to your book!
Furthermore, they’ve recently added a button in the bottom left corner of the playback screen that allows you to see where you are in the table of contents of the book, and skip forward/backward!
I use this feature to listen to my Kindle library on the go, and it’s incredible.
OH — and did I mention that Kindle knows where you left off? So when you pick up your eReader or Kindle App again, it knows where you stopped listening with Alexa (and vice versa) so you never lose your place in the book.
What about the downfalls? I’ve only really found one:
Since this is an accessibility feature, it is not as stable and/or functional as you might hope. There are little bugs here and there, such as playback not always resuming after a long pause.
Ultimately, these have never caused much frustration for me. As long as you keep in mind that this is an accessibility feature, you’ll be good to go.
And here’s a little bonus tip for you.
I like to read and listen at the same time. So while Alexa is intelligent enough to keep track of where you are across listening and reading, it will not bug you if you are following along in your book while you listen!
If you combine this with some form of finger tracking, you are actively engaging in:
- Sight – Seeing the words on the page.
- Sound – Hearing the words as they are read to you.
- Touch – Touching the words as you see/hear them.
- Subvocalization – Even at 2x speed, subvocalization is easy when reading and listening.
Therefore, I think this is the most effective way overall to retain what you are reading. Plus, with the Kindle App open as well, you can highlight important things as you’re reading! Access them later by heading to https://read.amazon.com/notebook and signing into your account.
I hope you can see that, contrary to popular belief, it’s easier than you think to speed read and comprehend on a Kindle or other eReading device.
You can greatly increase your reading speed by modifying some of the conventional tips for use on a Kindle device or app and combining with unique features only available on digital books.