Link Charmer

Instapaper has long been one of my favorite iOS apps. Instapaper, for those not in the know, allows you to save articles online for offline viewing on an iOS device or through their website. The app isn't free, costing around $5 and anyone can use the site at no cost. Adding sites to your reading list is easy with a bookmarklet or any number of extension for your browser of choice, and the best part is when you go to read the article, everything aside from the content has been stripped clean. Recently I've abandoned my favorite "read it later" site in favor of a new alternative. Readability not only allows you to save articles for later viewing, it also does a much, much better job cleaning up the content and making the article easier on the eyes. On top of this, it contributes to the editors of the site. Each month you choose how much you are willing to contribute and Readability breaks up 70% of that amount among all the articles you've placed on your reading list during that billing cycle (the remaining 30% goes to maintaining the site). Aside from making every web page into a customized ebook chapter, the mobile applet synces with the main website; think Amazon's wispersync for long web reading. If you haven't checked out Readability, I highly recommend it. It's a great way to support the sites you read and there's really no better reading experience currently on the web.

The one thing missing from all this is the ability to tag the entries in your list. Last month I signed up for Pinboard out of curiosity. I read quiet a few articles online over the course of a month and wanted a way to better organize them for later reference. The site works wonderfully. You can follow all the links I've tagged from my profile and it even has Readability auto-import. This is all well and good, but I would much rather have this build right into Readability, or a similar type web service.

There's no doubt that this "read it later" field is going to be a hot topic over the next year. With Apple including such a feature in its newest release of iOS and Safari called Reading List, the competitionshould only increase. The big debate for some revolves around monetization of the content, since you are effectively stripping the article of any adverts that would have been displayed. Obviously if this is a concern for you, Readability is the best bet. I've shied away from Apple's flavor for a few reasons including no offline caching and the need to use Safari only, since there are currently no extensions for other browsers available.

The overall idea of reading lists and offline caching and tagging maybe abstract to some, but if you're the type of online reader that this appeals to you may want to give Readability, Pinboard or Instapaper a try. All three are basic, no nonsense solutions to a problem most people don't realize they have. If you're just curious and want to get your feet wet, you may want to wait for Apple's Reading List later this year.