Instapaper is a “read it later” service, that lets you save long-form articles and blog posts from the web to read at your convenience on your iPhone or iPad. It strips out ads, pagination, and navigation for a clean reading experience. Instapaper is slick, clean, and simple, but a newer upstart service called Readability is infringing on its turf.
Some people have argued that Readability is a “rip-off” of Instapaper and is bad because it is venture-backed vs Instapaper’s one-man operation. I don’t really care about that, my chief argument is that Readability is a better service, with a better philosophy, and thus is what you should use.
Readability offers very nice integration with web browsers (via extensions), works very nicely with the Amazon Kindle (with an instant “send to Kindle” function), and generally offers more polish and better style than Instapaper, both on its web site and its apps. But the most important reason why Readability is a better product is because of a unique and very powerful subscription model.
You see, the ability to strip out all of the ads, pagination, navigation, and other chrome from an article and just get the pure text is a wonderful thing for the end-user, but it is not at all good for the publisher. Those ad impressions are what pay for that content. As long as I have used Instapaper I have always felt a little bit dirty.
How to solve this philosophical conundrum? Readability facilitates this in a very innovative and cool way. You decide how much money you want to pledge every month towards a content “subscription,” minimum $5. Readability keeps track of what you read over the course of the month and divides up your subscription pricebetween the publishers of the articles you read, minus a 30% cut. They take care of aggregating all of the subscriptions and paying each publisher every month. The more people read a given article, the more they get paid.
Simple, elegant, and very fair. Once I discovered Readability, I felt bad about being a leech for so long, and I felt bad about Instapaper, the service that has let me do so. And for that reason above all, I am now a proud Readability subscriber, and you should be too!