The Weekly Review

by Chris Bowler

Reading List

Like many other geeks, I'm constantly evaluating my tool set. With Google Reader’s imminent shutdown, I've been considering the alternatives for RSS, as well as the options for getting news in other ways.

And in the category of bookmarking and read-it-later services, I've moved back and forth between different services over the years. The news of Instapaper’s sale got me considering the options once again.

I've tried the big ones. I used Instapaper fairly early on and it's a wonderful app. However, it’s never been the most lovely service to look at. The iOS apps are decent, but the web service could use some love.

At some point I gave Readability a long look. It was also a good service, much more nicely designed than Instapaper. But the model was not — there’s been a lot of controversy over how they handle content. Next up for me, after a switch back to Instapaper, was Pocket. Yet another well designed free service with complementary apps. But it also left me wondering when the service would simply disappear, bought out because they never figured out a way to earn income.

Most recently, I've given Flipboard's magazine option a try. The Flip It bookmarklet has done the job and Readability is a wonderfully designed app with a lot of little details that delight. But again, it's a free service.

My confidence and trust in free services is at an all time low. Like many other geeks and early adopters, I'm focused on using services that I've paid for and for whom I am the customer and not the commodity (except Twitter … I love the idea of app.net, but most of the people I follow are still slinging the tweets). So in the arena of read-it-later services, I've been thinking about options where I would be considered the customer.

I realized that one company that I do trust, for whom I am the customer, offers such a service. But it's one I never gave any consideration since it launched, I suppose because I was already enjoying some other service at the time. This company is Apple and the tool is Reading List.

Right There Under My Nose

Reading List has been my tool for saving items for several weeks now and there's a lot to like. It's nowhere near these other tools in terms of features … but that is not a detriment! Here's what I like about it:

  • it's fast; there is no waiting for a javascript bookmarklet to “finish” it's thing
  • it's always there, no matter what device I'm using
  • it includes absolutely zero social features, which I never used in any of the other services listed above
  • I paid for it when I purchased an Apple computer or iOS device

There are a few negatives. It's not the most visually stunning feature. But it doesn't need to be. It's simply a list of pages with a few bits of data stored for each. One other negative is there is no way to group, categorize, or tag the items in this tool. That can be an issue for some.

The genius of Reading List is that it’s included in Safari, a great web browser. So while Reading List itself does not have a strip-out-everything-but-the-content feature like Instapaper, Safari does (Reader). There are no options for typography choices like Readability and Instapaper with Reader, but it's a tradeoff I can handle.

And while Reading List has no social sharing functionality, Safari does.

Did I mention it’s fast? Adding a web page to Reading List on the Mac is a short CMD+Shift+D away. If you decide that you want to bookmark the page more permanently, CMD+D adds it to your bookmarks. And it’s baked into the OS, so any application can add support to put items in Reading List as well (please Silvio!).

Last, Reading List separates unread items and all items.


The more I consider the idea, the more I realize it’s Safari that is a fantastic tool. And unless I feel the need to share my bookmarks and items I'm reading, using Reading List and Safari’s bookmarks is a perfect solution.

A good example is the negative I mentioned above: organizing and categorizing is something you can do in a service like Instapaper, but not Reading List. However, I can organize my bookmarks in Safari to my heart’s content. Leaving my read-it-later items in one long list is perfect, the organization should happen after I've read it and decide it’s important enough to reference in the future.

Using Reading List has worked well for me. It’s only been a couple of weeks, and I'm a self admitted switcher, but for now, this is my setup.

&