Amazon's Tool for Reading, One Word at a Time

    23 September, 2015

    Last week Amazon announced Word Runner, a new tool for reading Kindle books.

    Word Runner is a software update that shows one word at a time, instead of words, sentences and paragraphs on one page.

    Amazon Word Runner
    Amazon Word Runner

    Amazon says Word Runner was developed to make reading faster. By seeing one word at a time on the screen, you will not lose your place on the page. Amazon says Word Runner may help you to focus on what you are reading.

    You can control your reading speed at a pace of 100 to 900 words per minute. A bar at the bottom of the screen lets you set the speed that works best for you.

    You can increase the speed to train yourself to read faster or force yourself to focus on the text. You can slow down the speed for text that is difficult to understand.

    You can flip between Word Runner and seeing all of the words on a page on your screen.

    Opinions about Word Runner are mixed. Carmen Blyth, Ph.D., and a teacher of English as a Second Language (ESL), says Word Runner is not optimal reading.

    "Good readers don't read one word at a time. The brain predicts what is coming next and skips the unnecessary words," she says.

    Dividing "information one word at a time doesn't allow you to retain the info necessary to make sense of what you are reading, as we can only hold four pieces of info in our short-term memory at any one time – in this case it would be four words!"

    In the Kindle Forums at Amazon, a commenter called CB Retriever says, "Thanks, but that absolutely will not work for me as I too do lines and blocks of text at a time - I think the last time I read word by word was back when I was learning to read."

    Len Edgerly, business journalist and host of The Kindle Chronicles podcast, had a chance to try out Word Runner. In his podcast, Edgerly said that Word Runner is "a dramatically different way to read."

    "If you want to shake up your mind and your eyes a little, you might do a little word running for a few pages or even for just a few minutes, and then switch back. I love it because it's one of these innovations that the team at Kindle just keeps throwing at us. "

    Word Runner will work on some English language Kindle books in the Kindle app for Android and on Fire tablets.

    Here is a video from Edgerly showing how Word Runner works:

    Dynamic Pacing

    Word Runner uses a feature called "Dynamic Pacing" to adjust the speed around complicated words.

    Dynamic Pacing automatically slows the speed of Word Runner for complicated words, punctuation, and paragraph breaks. It makes changes based on the natural rhythm of your reading.


    You can pause Word Runner by tapping the pause button, called Brake.

    Brake lets you move words forward and backward. You can go back and re-read words using Brake.


    According to Amazon, Word Runner will be available soon for some English-language books on the Kindle app for Android devices and on Fire tablets.

    Word Runner will work with select English language Kindle books from Amazon sites in all countries, says an Amazon representative.

    Amazon has not yet said whether Word Runner will be coming to the Kindle app for iPhone and iPad.

    You can find out more about Word Runner and watch a video at the Amazon Word Runner page.

    Your Thoughts

    What do you think of Word Runner? Do you think it will be a useful tool to help you read faster? Would you like reading one word at a time on your screen? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.

    Carolyn Nicander Mohr wrote this story for Learning English. Kathleen Struck was the editor.


    Words in This Story

    podcast - n. a program (as of music or talk) made available in digital format for automatic download over the Internet

    dramatic - adj. sudden and extreme

    innovation - n. a new idea, device, or method

    dynamicadj. always active or changing

    complicatedadj. hard to understand, explain, or deal with

    featuren. an interesting or important part, quality, ability, etc.

    automatic adj. having controls that allow something to work or happen without being directly controlled by a person

    paragraph – n. a part of a piece of writing that usually deals with one subject, that begins on a new line, and that is made up of one or more sentences

    braken. something used to slow or stop movement or activity

    available - adj. easy or possible to get or use