I just finished reading Cory Doctorow's latest book Eastern Standard Tribe. It was a cool book and the next time I hit a bookstore or Amazon.com I will buy a copy. Because Cory released the book under a Creative Commons license people have been transforming it into a variety of formats. The one that caught my eye was "speed-reader" by Trevor Smith. This is a Java applet that flashes the book up on the screen a word at a time. The single user-interface control it has is for varying the speed at which the words are presented. At first it's a very disorienting experience, you have no context for the words, no indication of page or paragraph, and I had to start at a slow speed. After a while my eyes and brain got used to it and I was able to crank up the speed, which is where things get counter-intuitive, the faster I went, the smoother the reading went. Now the applet can really crank the words by fast and I couldn't operate at the fastest two speeds, but I did work through the majority of the book at the third highest setting.
I read the entire book in about 2 hours.
The oddest part of reading a book this way is how it feels. Hard to describe except to say that if feels like to goes into a different part of the brain than if you read it on paper.
The book itself is a good read, taking place in the not so far future, where Cory works over some of his favorite topics such as DRM and the impact of communications technologies on society. He also explores the idea of digital age tribes and pokes at the edges of the break down/evolution of the nation-state.