Moveable type gave us black ink on white paper, colors we’ve been stuck with ever since. BeeLine Reader wants to change that.

The New Color of Reading

BeeLine Reader, the color gradient reading tool, finds success with many different audiences.

If Nick Lum, the CEO and founder of BeeLine Reader, ever gets the chance, he’ll have to thank whoever organized the seating chart at the 2015 Tech Awards, where his organization was recognized with the Microsoft Education Award.

BeeLine Reader uses a color gradient to increase reading ease and speed.

At The Tech’s annual event to recognize innovation for social good, Lum was at a table with Connie Guglielmo, editor-in-chief of the tech news site CNET. A conversation about the reading aid Lum developed led to one of the most powerful pieces of research on BeeLine’s efficacy. Following The Tech Awards, CNET tried out BeeLine’s text color gradient on its website. The gradient helps guide the eye over words and between line breaks, increasing reading ease and speed.

The results of the CNET test were eye opening: Readers using BeeLine were 40 percent more likely to finish reading an article than other readers. Prior research had shown that BeeLine could help people suffering from dyslexia and other reading impairments, but now Lum had solid evidence that his technology was effective for skilled readers as well.

“CNET was a great study for us,” said Lum. “It was completely unrelated to primary education or special education, where we had seen an incredible impact. Our hope is that this new study will show mainstream publishers that BeeLine makes reading easier for readers of all types — and encourages people to read more online.”

In a May profile of BeeLine in The Atlantic, James Hamblin wrote of the CNET study, “This is the type of authentic audience engagement that’s monetizable. Anyone can generate clicks; not many can compel people to read an entire article…”

With this kind of evidence mounting, could the day be approaching when we make the advance beyond Gutenberg’s black text on a white background? Time will tell.

Currently, social impact remains at the heart of BeeLine’s mission. In June, BeeLine’s work in education was honored by the International Society for Technology in Education, and Lum joined a panel discussion at the annual ISTE conference. Expanding beyond the classroom, a recent collaboration with Stanford University School of Medicine’s ophthalmology department will study the impact of BeeLine on people who have suffered traumatic brain injury, stroke, or Parkinson’s disease — all of which can cause reading struggles.

BeeLine Reader also continues to be integrated in everyday consumer products, including a plug-in to the Chrome browser and a recent beta with the Android OS.

“I want to be able to show other for-profit entities that you can build a sustainable business and do so in a socially conscionable way,” said Lum.

One of the newest industries to show an interest in BeeLine is the justice system. A partnership is in the works to use BeeLine in educational material in prisons, where learning disabilities are more commonly found, notably dyslexia. Lum has also been contacted by legal aid organizations and municipal courts that wish to include BeeLine on sites.

“They’re interested because of BeeLine’s impact on low literacy users and English learners, which turn out to be a significant portion of their website visitors” said Lum. “As a former lawyer, I am very excited to be working with these organizations to help close the justice gap for those in need.”

Additional information: NPR covered BeeLine in May, check out that story here. You can visit the official site for BeeLine Reader here.

The Tech Awards, presented by Applied Materials will be held on Nov. 17, 2016. For more information visit: www.thetech.org/tech-awards-presented-applied-materials.