Here’s the deal; you’re not reading enough books, and you know it. It’s not your fault. Well, it is, but who can blame you? There are so many distractions today, and easier, more tempting forms of media, and they take a significant investment of time, so they fall to the back of the line. However, books value remains unmatched. A great book is hundreds, sometimes thousands, of hours of experience, research, and lessons condensed into a 12 – 20-hour read time. The lessons are more potent because you’re stepping into the author’s mind, letting them guide you through their experiences and thought processes in their own words. The greatest minds to ever think transformed their thoughts into timeless tombs that fit in the palm of your hand, leaving you the opportunity to converse with them forever. Pretty magical.
The tragedy is most people read little more than 1 in their lifetime. A further tragedy is that those who realize the incredible power of books get bogged down by their time investment and, sometimes, uninteresting books. Not all thoughts are novel-worthy. In my experience, two things keep someone from reading as much as they’d like:
The first is a matter of self-discipline and enthusiasm for the practice. A 15-minute reading habit is as essential as a 30-minute exercise routine. There is no good reason not to prioritize it. The perceived value for time invested is the true unnecessary evil. Rarely is a book packed full of golden insights. A great book might contain 2 - 3 life-altering perspective shifts. An average reader can read an average-length book in about 8 – 12 hours. That works out to 10 books per year with a 15-minute daily reading habit. At that rate, gathering those insights can feel like a lot of work. It’s easy to become uninspired and lose touch with the practice, especially when you inevitably come across a boring book. The best solution is faster reading. If a 12-hour read took 4 hours to complete, it’s a manageable cost of time for those 1- 3 golden insights, but until now, there hasn’t been an efficient way to speed read.
I trained to speed read. Why not? The faster you read, the more books you can finish and insights you obtain. It’s a straightforward solution to the perceived value problem. The reality is it doesn’t work. It takes hours of consistent practice, and as you speed up, retention drops so low it affects quality. The challenge is, when you learn to speed read, the first thing you’re taught is to eliminate that inner voice that vocalizes what you read. That voice helps you comprehend what you read but is a bottleneck to speed. Your mind can only identify and vocalize text so fast, but eyes can move along the page incredibly fast, which lies at the core of speed reading. The less you vocalize and allow your eyes to trace the material, the quicker you read. As you practice, you learn to trust your mind to understand the material almost subconsciously as your eyes rapidly hover along the page. But studies show this invariably leads to loss of retention because it turns out that internal vocalization is a process your brain uses to comprehend and understand. There are world-champion speed readers who maintain high retention rates, but these are exceptions. They train for years. Where does that leave you and me if we’re struggling to find time to read? Not to worry. Now there’s a way to read incredibly fast while maintaining the same retention rates. It’s not a hack. It’s the future of technology helping humans.
Audiobooks have blown up the past 10 years and, alongside social media trends, began a new renaissance of reading. They’ve also introduced the ability to increase narration speed, which shrinks the investment in read-time and brings us close to our solution, except a familiar problem arises. Audio alone reduces retention, especially when one listens while doing other things like cleaning or driving. They also offer no way of marking or highlighting those particularly insightful nuggets, so although excellent, it has its faults.
Until recently, I wrongly assumed this was the limitation of audiobooks, but then I was introduced to a new concept I’ve since termed Augmented Immersive Reading from Emerson Spartz. It’s the first method I’ve heard to supercharge reading speed with the help of technology without disadvantages. Augmented Immersive Reading (AIR) combines the retention of physical reading with the speed of audio. It’s incredible and will produce the next wave of deeply thoughtful readers, who will spend half the time reading but finish 4x the books.
I’m a slow reader. Before AIR, I read roughly 10 (non-audio) books annually at an average daily reading time of 15 minutes. Since I discovered AIR, my speed has increased to 41 books within that same timeframe! But I’m reading much more than that because it’s re-energized my passion for reading. A daunting 600-page book no longer takes me 13 hours; it takes a little over 3. Not only has reading become very rewarding and a worthwhile trade-off for time, but the ease of this technique inspires more reading.
Fundamentally, you’re replacing the bottleneck that is your internal voice with a much, much faster one that’s made possible with modern software. Unlike speed reading, you still have the inner voice, but like speed reading, you’re limited only by how fast you can trace your eyes, and because you still have that internal vocalization, retention holds up. Initially, I was skeptical, but as soon as I tried AIR on one book, I realized the advantages, and you will too.
In total honesty, retention does decrease slightly, but only because the time you spend with the book drops so much, not at all from the actual reading. Spending 12 hours processing a book’s material will inevitably leave a more significant imprint than the one you spend 3 hours with. Still, I’d argue that my entire process (explained below) elevates retention to even higher levels than you previously held. Below is 5 simple steps to get you started:
To begin, you’ll need one physical copy of a book and one pdf or audio copy. Easy enough. Choose a good book and purchase a copy or e-book. It’s best to choose a book that isn’t difficult to read at first—a subject you’re informed about or read often.
Now, if you wish to purchase both forms of books, you should also buy the audio version of the book or download it on Audible, then move to step 5. If, however, you’re like me and that feels redundant, buy the one physical copy and proceed to step 2.
I love books and believe wholeheartedly that authors should be compensated for their tremendous value. Still, in my moral code, once I’ve purchased the physical copy of a book, I am warranted a digital copy too. If your moral code is different, you can subscribe to audible or buy the same book in audio or digital form and move straight to step 5.
If you agree with my stance, head to libgen.is and search for your purchased book and download a PDF version. It will take a few megabytes and a minute to download. Libgen.is PiratesBay for books, but in my experience, pretty safe.
For students: PDF versions of textbooks often come alongside purchased physical copies, but many textbooks are on their too.
I choose Speechify because they have the most options for speed and voices, but I also pay an annual membership, allowing me to listen to faster speeds and various voices. You can use any of these fine software, all of which have free versions that work well:
Try the software out for free first and download it if you think it’s worthwhile. My research led me to Speechify, but yours might bring you to another one.
Once you have your software, upload the PDF book version into it. You’re ready to read! Grab your physical (or kindle) copy and follow along as you listen to the text-to-speech audio (or audible). Play the audio at 1.25 – 1.75 speed and keep the software open so you can pause or adjust the speed quickly. Start with a comfortable pace, so it’s easy to follow without constantly losing your eye line or the story’s context.
You’re already reading the book faster than 95% of people, but this is just the beginning. At first, fast narration speeds will feel uncomfortable but aim to speed up progressively. Think of your reading speed like weights at the gym. You wouldn’t enter a gym and lift the heaviest weight immediately, would you? Or stick with the lightest weight forever. So, start slow, with a comfortable speed (as stated in step 4), and dial it up to stretch your capacity. Continue progressing to faster and faster speeds as you read. My current speed is about 600 wpm, but I slow down if I read something dense or an essential portion of a book. I’ve worked up to that speed over time, and you can too.
It’s now possible and easy to augment your reading and become one of the fastest readers in the world overnight. That’s a pretty grand step for humanity. Think of the thoughts people will generate with this new download speed. You do not need to read like this all the time. I still read fiction without technological aid because it’s enjoyable, but if you’re seeking productive learning, this is a game changer. Please try it for yourself and realize the advantages. Below are a few tips I use in my AIR process to keep retention as high as possible.
Follow these to get even more out of your reading.
Read in an upright position and with a highlighter. Not for everyone, but if you read-to-learn (or are a student), this helps tremendously. Sit upright at a desk and follow along with a highlighter in hand. Highlight everything you deem critical. It keeps your mind focused on the text and will save lots of time on rereads. The next time you pick up that book, you don’t have to read everything; you’ve already highlighted the essential insights.
Summarize and engage with the book. If you’re going to use AIR to finish books rapidly, the natural curse is you’ll be blowing through books so fast you don’t give yourself time to form a deeper impression. One of my all-time favorite books is Musashi, a 1,000-page novel that took many, many, hours to finish, but the payoff was so impactful because I had invested that time with the story’s protagonist. This curse can become an advantage if you do the right things. Read through the book fast, but afterward, slow down and engage with the essential parts of the material through various methods. You can engage with the text in many ways, like discussing it with a partner, in a book club, or teaching the material to others. I do this by summarizing and writing about it. I create summaries of the book and hold onto them for later, like Greenlights by Mathew MaConaughey or The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking by Edward B. Burger & Michael Starbird.
I also journal about the book’s lessons and create self-standing articles or tweets about the content. This increases the time investment and allows me to learn the material better. It also generates a summary, so I never have to reread the book.
Never stop reading. My final tip is don’t let a less-than-perfect condition stop you from reading. If you don’t feel like taking notes or don’t have a highlighter, that’s no reason to stop. Keep reading, always. You can always revisit a book, but if you allow all these little things to halt your reading practice, that’s time you’ll never get back. It’s difficult enough to find time to read, so when you set aside a window, don’t let weak excuses keep you from continuing. It’s as essential as an exercise regimen.
I hope this article and the process within it allow you to finish all the books on your dusty bookshelf and inspires you to read more. Good readings!
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