Read it later apps have been around since the iPhone first came out. A few years later when the iPad was released, new news applications were made that hadn’t ever been created or conceived of before. Reading today is different than it was four years ago. And unless you don’t own a smartphone, or don’t use the internet, today’s reading experience encompasses elements of discovery, social, enablement, and mobility.
Reading is such an intimate and rewarding experience that to be as enjoyable as possible, you need to consider the entire process and all the tools that you use.
Reading is made up of four processes:
- Collecting: What tools you use to collect
- Connecting: What news sources you’re connected to
- Reading: How you choose to read, and what devices you read on
- Enablement: What do you do with it after
There are different devices, tools, platforms, and services available for each stage, and people who haven’t considered them are limiting themselves.
To collect news you can use RSS or one of the many news apps on the iPad like Flipboard, Pulse, FLUD, or Zite. Then on each of those you can choose which sources to add; whether to tie in news from your social networks, or let the app recommend items for you. Then you might want to read the moment you find something, or save it to one of the read it later apps like Instapaper, Readability, or Pocket (more on this in a bit). It doesn’t end after we finish reading either. We can share on Facebook or Twitter, email friends, post to bookmarking services, Favourite items, and create an archive of what we’ve read.
What services you used and how you go through these steps will depend on what platform you’re on, what kind media you consume, and what software or services you use.
Read It Later
The very first read later app I used was Read It Later but then moved to Instapaper because it had fewer options, and was better put together. I used that for years until recently when the preferences for Instapaper started becoming ridiculous. It’s the tool for power users now.
I started using Readability for iPhone and iPad as soon as it came out because beyond all other apps, it’s the nicest way to read. Its typography is perfect for what I want.
My only problem with Readability is that it doesn’t have the right sharing options for me. Saving articles I want to keep around to Evernote has become part of my workflow and Readability didn’t let me do that. When using Readability I had to resort to emailing the Readability link to Evernote, then when back at my computer I had to reopen the article, and re-clip it to Evernote.
I’ve only spent a bit of time with it, but the new Pocket is really doing it for me. It has a great looking interface, and just the right options I want. It still can’t match readability in terms of typography and colour (for either day or night mode), so I hope it makes efforts to get to that level of quality.
I do have concerns that Pocket is a mix of a fresh new product, but encumbered by Read it Later’s baggage. The web service and app is filled is gratuitous animation, and organization of controls is haphazard.
The web service has a control bar at the bottom containing all four of:
- A bottom slide up menu
- A popup menu
- A switch control
- A right slide in menu
On the mobile clients, changes to the reading experience are all met with a harsh flash as the text disappears before reloading. The ability to set, create, but not delete tags also frustrates me. The app has a nice, fresh look to it, but the lack of refinement in some areas removes me from my content. That really is where Readability’s contribution is to the market; it’s focus, refinement and reading experience greatly surpasses any of its competitors, and they all know it.
But what best suites my reading and sharing? When I average out how each platform meets my needs of a beautiful reading experience with the sharing features I want, Pocket comes out ahead for now.