January 2, 2012

Instapaper, ReaditLater, Readability, Klip.me, Evernote Clearly, etc.

I’ve been experimenting with all of these for a little while (ok, Clearly the most recently since it’s new). For those who aren’t already familiar with these tools/services, they provide distraction-free reading when you’re browsing online.  I’m not surprised that they’ve become so popular since webpages look increasingly like Times Square; these tools make reading so much more comfortable.  If you don’t already use one, I highly recommend you choose one—maybe after reading this post.

As they get more popular, there’s more competition.  Since I’ve grown unhappy with my current service (ReaditLater), I decided to try out the others and see if it was worth a switch.  I’ll be looking at Instapaper, ReaditLater, Readability, Klip.me, Evernote Clearly, and the old standby iReader.

Before I actually get to the reviews, let me clarify that I’m a researcher.  I need to be able to not only get a nice clean view, but I needed to be able to do something (such review more closely, highlight, etc.) with the articles I found; it’s not enough to just be able to view them, I needed to be able to do something with them. So after much experience, here are the features that I realize I needed or wanted.
  • browser integrated FAST clipping
  • organize them in some way via folders, tags, etc. (tags are better than folders because the same article can have more than one tag- although I don’t see why these are mutually exclusive)
  • get them out– via email, Twitter, Facebook integration of some kind
  • iPad support
  • Android support
  • Kindle (though less of a getting them out place, but very friendly reading)
  • desktop support (ideally offline as well)
Clips
Tags/Folders (organization)
Sharing (email, Twitter, Facebook, etc.)
iPad
Android
Kindle
Desktop / Offline support?
Instapaper
good
yes
(yes, but no Gmail)
(yes; $4.99)
3rd party
send up to 10 articles at a time
--
ReaditLater
good
yes
(only in mobile apps)
(yes; $4.99)
(yes; $)
--
--
Readability
good
(no, but maybe in forthcoming mobile app)
(no, but maybe in forthcoming mobile app)
forthcoming
forthcoming
--
--
Klip.me
ok
--
--
--
3rd party
yes
yes
Clearly
very good
(in Evernote)
(in Evernote)
yes
yes -- yes

Instapaper

PROS: Let me start with Instapaper.  I tried out Instapaper very early on, but I have to admit I never loved the website. That’s not to say that there isn’t a lot to love here.  For one thing, it’s FREE and the guy who runs it is really nice (so refreshing).  He’s since introduced a subscription service but free users still get about as much as subscribers and the subscription is paltry $1/mth (in fact, he was so nice about adding this paid subscription service that I almost want to subscribe just to suport the service).  Instapaper has quite a few bells and whistles.  Notice that you can organize what you save into folders, you can export as CSV, and one of the greatest all time features, it has support for sending to Kindle (non-subscribers can send a compilation of up to 10 unread articles at a time):. Here’s a screenshot:


CONS: Despite all the good things about Instapaper, I found it somewhat cumbersome to move around the site.  Moreover, I wanted a way to easily get my stuff out of Instapaper.  You can link your account to Evernote, Twitter, Facebook, Tumbbler, and Pinboard, but I also wanted Gmail integration.  Plus the iPad app cost $4.99 and there was no native app for Android (there are several 3rd party apps, but it peeves me a little when folks just ignore Android or Windows users entirely and the Android apps usually weren’t free and had mixed reviews).  That said, I should point out that the iPad app has some of the best reviews.  At any rate, I didn’t stay with Instapaper but chose ReaditLater instead.

ReaditLater

PROS: I used ReaditLater a lot and for a long time. I even paid for both the Android and iPad apps.  I found the site much more elegant and easy to use.  It’s pretty actively developed and there are numerous platforms it supports (iPad, Android, Kindle Fire, online, other devices, and tons of 3rd party apps).  Moreover, it’s about to introduce a Digest view that looks really promising.  For one thing, tags can be viewed in it and there are different ways to sort it and search in it.


CONS: But I’ve grown increasingly dissatisfied with it and its shortcomings are fast making it a dealbreaker.  Despite the new view, there’s still no way to organize the links in the browser; in other words, unlike Instapaper’s folders, you can’t add tags or folders in the browser.  That means that in the browser, the links are either Favorites (selected by adding a star), Archive, or Active.  That’s it.  This becomes cumbersome.   

It’s also kind of difficult to get stuff out of it RIL (although there is support for RSS, but then you would still need to view your readings somewhere else (in addition to the mobile apps, I use Google Reader)).  Since there’s no way to send or share the articles in the browser app, it means that if I wanted to move an article somewhere else, I had to save it, then go to one of the mobile apps to tag it or email it to someone (usually myself) or send it to Evernote.  Finally, they’ve been talking about Kindle support for ages, but it still hasn’t materialized. So I started to look elsewhere.

Readability

PROS: In the search, I went back to something I had only flirted with.  Readability was one of those services I looked at a long time ago, but I didn’t go with it because it wasn’t free.  They’re back and now it’s mostly free, but not entirely.  From their website:

You can always add as many new articles as you want to your Reading List. With a free account, you can read your most recent 50 articles, plus up to 50 Favorites. As a Premium Subscriber, you can read your full Reading List, Favorites, Archives, and have a Kindle Digest delivered daily.

The Premium service costs $5/mth ($60/year). They do note that 70% of these fees go to support writers and publishers.  They write, “Readability keeps track of the web sites you visit and earmarks money for them.” Of course, today when there’s a whole lot of people contributing content for free, I’m not sure how they manage to support these people…

As you can see, pros of Readability include support for Kindle and they’re creating FREE apps for iPad and Android.  Moreover, they’re well integrated with sharing to Twitter, Facebook, and Email.  The clipping is also pretty easy—one of the few services that allows for true one click clipping in the form of keyboard shortcut by just pressing the Grave accent key (the key next to the number 1 on the keyboard).  Most of the other programs require key combinations.  This sounds like a silly thing, but in the end, you’d be surprised how much you can like just pressing the one key.


CONS: Still, there’s quite a few limitations.  First, I didn’t like the way the browser looks:


As you can see, there’s an awful lot of wasted space at the top.  It’s just cumbersome to view it this way.  Moreover, like ReaditLater, there’s no tagging or any kind of organization in Readability (at least in the browser).  Emailing is also limited to sending only a partial view of the article with a link to the permanent webpage where the article first came from and sending to Kindle requires a paid subscription.  Given all these limitations, I just can’t see paying $60/year for this service.

Klip.me

PROS: I found Klip.me by accident because I was desperately looking for a way to get things into Kindle besides Instapaper.  Klip.me is free and you can set it up to send to Kindle, RSS to Kindle, or Send to Evernote.  It’s superfast at clipping and like Readability allows for using just the Grave accent key. 

There’s also offline functionality in the form of Klip Deliver but to be perfectly honest, I haven't looked into it too much.


CONS: What I didn’t like so much is that the clips aren’t nearly as well done as some of the other services.  And like many of the others, there’s no real organization in Klip.me other than the usual Recent, Starred, or Archive.  Moreover, the initial clip offers no option to send it anywhere, only to save it to Klip.me.  Then once in Klip.me, there’s no way to send the article either.  In short, the best thing about Klip.me was probably the VERY fast single key clipping function and the Kindle integration.

Evernote Clearly

PROS: As you may have guessed, I’m building up to my new favorite clipping service—Evernote Clearly.  I find that it clips really well and once in Evernote, I tag it, share the full, clean article via email and other social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook, etc.  And since Evernote has a great iPad app and pretty good Android app, I can read the articles on either of these devices.


CONS: There are some caveats here, you can only read Evernote articles in Android without a connection if you’re a pro subscriber ($45/year which is still cheaper than Readability’s $60/year with a great deal more functionality). 
The other thing that Evernote Clearly is missing is Kindle support—there’s no way to automatically send from Evernote to Kindle (see here), but since I can do much with the article once in Evernote, I’m inclined to overlook this.  I’m even willing to set it up to clip something twice—first to Evernote, then to Klip.me to send to Kindle.  I’m so happy with Clearly that I’m seriously considering paying for a pro subscription to Evernote for the first time (this has coinciding with my deciding once and for all to keep all my research related stuff in Evernote (I actually spent yesterday consolidating my stray notes from Springpad (I’ll explain why in another post).

iReader

As a final note, there are times when you come across an article that is perfect for someone you know, but you don’t really need to hold onto it.  On these occasions, I use the iReader extension (in both Firefox and Chrome) to email them to someone (you may choose to use Gmail as the default client by going into options and selecting Gmail as the email client).

Conclusion:

So, my final solution is Klip.me for sending to Kindle and Clearly to get things into Evernote where I can tag, organize, email, reread, etc. to my heart’s content.  I’ll also keep iReader installed but now I’m going to uninstall other bookmarklets including Readability, Instapaper, and ReaditLater.  I also use a great service called Diigo but more on that later.

If this article hasn’t been enough for you, you might also want to check out: Evernote's Clearly V/s Readability V/s Instapaper V/s Read It Later

7 comments:

  1. Your browser sucks. That's why readability looks weird. It should not look the way you have it shown here.

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    1. Hhhmmm, I tried it on Chrome and Firefox and had the same problem...but I'll try again.

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  2. Replies
    1. Thanks, Dina! I just re-read this post and I should report that I'm still using RIL quite bit as well as Evernote's Clearly.

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  3. Wonderful breakdown; been battling through this exact use-case--want an article in Evernote (nicely cleaned up) and on Kindle. Such a simple thing, but incredibly, still unavailable without a few extra steps.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for reading. I'm glad you found it helpful. Meanwhile. I just stumbled on this: http://paidcontent.org/2012/08/15/kindle-read-it-later/ Apparently, there is now an "send to kindle" extension for Chrome.

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  4. When will you be doing another article on this subject? 

    Amela
    desktop support hertfordshire

    ReplyDelete