Bionic Reading?

Anyone ever see, try, or use this…

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Readwise did a test with 2000 readers and found that it made no measurable difference to reading speed (well, it possibly made you marginally slower, but it was statistically insignificant): Does Bionic Reading actually work? We timed over 2,000 readers and the results might surprise you

Their write-up is interesting. (In the pilot study they ran before this big one, they found that reading comprehension was worse with bionic reading too, but it was a really small reading test, and this bigger study didn’t replicate that.)

Indeed, for general use perhaps not but it appears it may be useful for those with ADHD / dyslexia.

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Hard to know, since they publish little evidence for peer review. Much of it is anecdotal :frowning: Also, they’re not selling it as a solution for a specific reading issue, they’re selling it to improve everyone’s abilities. This annoys me, because different reading problems are caused by different things, and need different solutions. (And depending on the target market, the problem isn’t reading speed anyway, it’s reading comprehension, and that has nothing to do with fonts and everything to do with education :woman_shrugging:)

My understanding (as someone interested in reading - I’m not dyslexic myself so can’t test it!) is that “bottom weighted” fonts like Open Dyslexic (which is free to use and subject to scientific study) do make a measurable difference to reading ability with dyslexia. (Have to say that for me personally I find it off-putting, but I’m not it’s target audience!) Comic Sans is also well-tested, even if it makes designers sad.

Also, they’re not selling it as a solution for a specific reading issue, they’re selling it to improve everyone’s abilities.

True, true. Speed reading is a late 20th to 21st century version of snake oil IMHO. Could people improve their reading speed? Sure. Comprehension? I’m skeptical.

And do I really want to blow through East of Eden (865 pages in the bound book I read in highschool) instead of savoring the brilliance of Steinbeck?!? :heart: :slight_smile:


I like the idea of bionic reading and think that it would work for me, for no reason than making it easier to read (not faster).

I also found that the focus mode (showing only the current paragraph) of iA Writer and the design of their fonts, works for me. No idea why it seems to make reading/writing easier but I start to appreciate such design ideas.

I have tried it. (I came to it via the RSS reader app Reeder.)

It is quite an unusual reading experience which, I guess, only really works when you totally focus on the reading.

Have shelved it after brief testing, but might get back to it one day…

@halleo, I had the exact same experience and inroad to it - via Reeder. I found it visually weird and of no benefit. Even if it sped up my reading, that’s no benefit, as it doesn’t magically accelerate subsequent thought and reflection.

The most useful tool I’ve found for faster reading and comprehension is the ability of search within documents and groups of documents, which DT already excels at.


I wonder if the hype over speed reading techniques and products reflect a cultural obsession with productivity or appearing productive (to self and others), rather than integration, reflection and appreciation. These three things can never be rushed to be done well.

In typing the above, I also think about attention; to give attention is to give time, and how we behave in ways that reflect our attention scarcity; in more ways than one, i.e. not only do we have shorter attention spans, but we also appear to have some sort of attentional FOMO, where giving more time to any one thing means missing out on other things.

It’s like insisting on speed eating all of the world’s food in single bites in order to eat as much of the world’s cuisines as possible, but are we really tasting anything?

Ponderings aside, to @MsLogica’s point of different reading problems are caused by different things, I use Voice Dream Reader to read everything because I have discovered that I need both audial and visual input to guarantee focus, comprehension and retention, i.e. I have VDR guide my eyes at a constant and comfortable pace with the moving highlight while listening to the voice reading it aloud.

I used to get frustrated that I read slowly (even with VDR, I max out at 350 wpm for learning) and I did try different speed reading techniques, but I found that the techniques focus more “registering” words quickly than actually “inputting” content holistically and effectively, which mirrors @halloleo’s and @davem’s comments.

In targeting my actual reading problem, and making peace with my best speed, I read more effectively now, which I feel more fulfilled about, than when I used to chow down papers fast and get frustrated because I could only recall things in fragments later. Now that is a time waster!


Eventually Bionic Reading/ did not convince me.

However I just tried BeeLine Reader and I’m pretty much sold on it! Not because of any speed gain or the value of such (I concur here largely with @bluefrog, @silverhuang and others), but because BeeLine helps me to keep reading on-screen!

Online reading is for me always a bit harder than dead-tree reading, and BeeLine seems to help here! You can try it on some websites without any additional tools. For example:

Expecting the Unexpected: Wagner and the Language of Longing | The MIT Press Reader

Tap on the font sign

Screen Shot 2023-08-15 at 11.49.43

and then click

Screen Shot 2023-08-15 at 11.50.09

to get something like

I think this is fantastic and I will explore it more!

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I think that it’s a terrible font for screen display, as the stems and serifs are too thin and the relationship between lowercase letters and ascenders is weird. All that resultig in a bad dark-light ratio. Also, too many colors. And the letter-spacing is suboptimal, I think – too close to the word-spacing. If left-justified text is easier to read then justified text is also open to discussion (on dead trees, justified is prevalent).
All highly subjective, of course.

Fair enough. From what I understand, the font is decided by the website (here “The MIT Press Reader”), while the colouring comes from BeeLine. BeeLine has an API websites can use.

I really like the colouring for breaking up long sentences in chunks so that I less often loose my place (for me a common problem on-screen).

OTOH, I tend to think that color conveys meaning (apparently it doesn’t here). The five lines you posted contained about 350 characters, i.e. about 70 characters per line. In the text linked below, the authors say that 50 to 60 characters per line are good and up to 75 are “acceptable”. Which is not to say that the coloring can’t help, but perhaps shorter lines might, too.

“Losing the place in the line” might be related to overly long or not evenly long lines.

Aside: That the beeline website uses a non-serif font for the longer texts makes me wonder… Not what one would expect from people dedicated to ease reading.




I’m not sure @BLUEFROG, whether or not you wrote your reply with some irony in mind, but I like the coloured “Lorem ispum”!

Just making a similar effect in DEVONthink :smiling_face:

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I just had a look; what a fascinating concept. I’m currently satisfied with Voice Dream Reader, but it’s still interesting nonetheless to learn how many different ways we can design tools to help meet different peoples’ digital reading needs.

For me, just the colouring isn’t enough, I need the moving highlight bit that VDR provides; otherwise, my eyes struggle to follow the text correctly, and I lose my place. But for you, the colouring is just enough to help, which is great.

This reinforces @MsLogica’s point that different reading problems are caused by different things, and we each need to find the specific tool and settings that fit us best, right down to specific fonts and colours that are most comfortable for us.

I can’t do dead-tree reading any more, because the inability to immediately make annotations on the page drives me up a tree :rofl:

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