Grounded & Steadfast

The journal of Chris Bowler, a collection of thoughts on faith, business, design, and the creative process. Also learning to code.

A Young Problem

All the recent hubbub around Readability is fascinating. And exciting.

So many insanely talented folks are chiming in on this discussion, I have little to add, other than this: I'm a bit surprised that more people haven't brought up the fact that Marco Arment also profits from the creation of other content producers. When you talk about Readability, it's almost impossible not to bring up Instapaper (I'm also surprised I haven't seen Read It Later mentioned at all in the discussion). One started as a tool like Safari's Reader functionality, one as an archive of items to be consumed later. The former then morphed to be more like the latter, but with the added aspect of attempting to create a model where they profit, and can then pass those profits on to the content creators.

That is the claim of Readability, and so far I give them the benefit of the doubt that their intentions are pure. The model is not perfect, but calling them scumbags is harsh (and obviously from the reaction, inflammatory).

Both Marco and the folks behind Readability profit from the writing of writers and the reading of readers. Marco uses ads and paid applications, Readability a subscription model similar to Apple's app stores (Of course, the glaring difference between Apple and Readability is that Apple does not collect money from developers whose work is not in the app store). But Marco does profit from the work of others. Instapaper itself is his work, a great service, and I believe he should be compensated for it. But reality is, if there was no demand to read the good work of writers at a time and place convenient to the reader, Instapaper would not be what it is today.

Personally, I have paid for both services and want both to succeed. I prefer Readability for reading, but am not a paid subscriber. Yet. The model does need improvement, but I'm confident they'll get it right. Or, someone else will.


I no longer subscribe to a television service. Haven't for about six years. I rarely watch movies. Instead, I spend a portion of each day reading the thoughts of others online. This is my entertainment.

That's why all this discussion is exciting. It signals the crucial fact that people care about compensating those whose work they admire. We want to support writers who have used the Internet to hone their craft and broadcast their thoughts. This is our entertainment, and it's much more personal and intimate that the entertainment forms of the 20th century.

And it's just the beginning — the space is still so young, the problem new to us. We'll be seeing other smart people attempt to fill this need. And I'm betting sooner than later.