When I’m quickly doing the rounds on the Interweb, I often stumble across articles that seem interesting at the time, but seldom have time to read them in full over breakfast or a quick coffee, for example. When I go back in the evening, I’ve more often than not forgotten all about it. Yes there are services such as Google Reader, and even Twitter, which allow you to ‘favourite’ such posts for later reading, but particularly in the case of the latter, it’s not exactly that ideal in any sense.
Enter Instapaper and Read it Later. Two, ultimately very similar, services which aim to put an aim to these woes of the web. But the question is, which should you choose?
Instapaper was the first of the services which I came across and I immediately fell in love with it. It is a classic case of ‘exactly what it says on the tin’. The way it works is via a simple bookmarklet which you can drag into your bookmark bar if you so wish, and when you’re reading an article you simple click the link and it saves the article into your previously setup account for later reading.
Then when you have some time on your hands you can head on over to the site itself and begin reading the interesting articles that you’ve gathered throughout the day. It’s really that simple, but there can be a little more to it should you wish there to be.
For instance, as with many apps of this nature these days, there are dedicated applications for a host of mobile platforms. Besides the fact that Instapaper will load properly in any browser you throw it at in my experience, you have free apps for iOS (both iPad and iPhone versions), Android and more importantly, Kindle, which remains the ideal reading platform for me.
You won’t find any fancy frills with Instapaper, though you can have some sort of social scene involved, sharing articles with friends that you can hook yourself up with on the site á la any other social network. That’s not the focal point of Instapaper, though, although its a neat feature to include, it’s more about pure reading. Just collecting up your articles for the day in a simple list for later.
Read it Later
While it serves an entirely similar purpose to Instapaper, Read it Later brings it in an altogether more beautiful fashion. With Read it Later you get a lot more aesthetic value, and whilst you might be thinking that you only want it for the reading, it’s not at all a distraction from the text.
In fact, the mobile apps for Read it Later, which are available for iOS and Android as well as Kindle again via a roundabout synchronisation with Calibre, the e-book management software, include some useful tools for making the reading experience more comfortable. For example, excluding the Kindle, you can alter the brightness of the device by simple dragging along the bottom of the display, which is useful at night, particularly.
Unfortunately, to make use of the more advanced frills of Read it Later, you have to part ways with the relatively modest sum of 59p for the ‘Pro’ version of the mobile app. Alternatively, for purely the basics, you can get a free version as per.
Read it Later offers a little bit more in the actual reading experience than Instapaper, too, adding in more media content (photos, videos etc) into your saved articles, which are added in an identical fashion using a bookmarklet. Interestingly, when you’re in your browser, Read it Later offers a trio of bookmarklets, the first for saving an article, the second for marking it as read and the third of hopping straight to your reading list, though the latter is unnecessary in the mobile apps.
However, whilst the ‘Digest’ feature of the service may produce a wonderfully glossy magazine style for your articles, and it may look all beautiful and attractive, I have to say that I wasn’t that impressed with the formatting of the article. Instapaper simply rips the text from the article and tailors it to the device/app your are using, which is ideal for simply reading, but Read it Later takes a different approach by simply reproducing the web page, ads and all, within the app. It all seems a little more cluttered, and for a service which strives to add extensive eye candy, it goes some way to ruining the whole experience.
To be honest, these services are pretty much identical. Taking a slightly different approach in presenting the articles leaves it up to personal preference more than anything, and if you’re someone who enjoys the whole media experience, then Read it Later is probably for you, but as someone who simply enjoys the old fashioned written aspect of today’s media, I will remain an avid Instapaper user.