I do a lot of reading on the web spread across my laptop, phone and Kindle, so I’ve spent a lot of time with read-it-later apps like Pocket and Instapaper (Readability’s Android app hasn’t been updated in forever, and it looks truly awful). Both apps are fabulous in their own right, but I need to pick one, so I’m going to list out the pros and cons of each. Hopefully by the end of this post I’ll have figured out which one to keep.
- Search is fast (search as you type) and free
- Supports tagging (I love tags!)
- Displays inline images very well (full-width images)
- JUSTIFIED TEXT! Such a small but important feature. It drives me crazy when the text isn’t justified. (I’m looking at you, Instapaper)
- Handles Tweet attribution better, so saving links from Twitter is more convenient.
- Pocket Highlights is a cool way to come back to some of the better articles
- Browser extensions for both Chrome and Firefox.
- It’s free, so I’m not sure how the app is sustaining itself. I don’t want to get Google Reader’ed.
- No Kindle integration
- Doesn’t do much in the way of article discovery. Then again, I have a huge unread count, so this matters very little.
- Fantastic Kindle integration! You can send upto 50 unread articles to your Kindle wirelessly, every day or every week.
- Bookmarklets for a text-only view of any webpage and to send the current article to your Kindle.
- Highlights, a feature that lets you highlight passages and save them inside a special “Highlights” folder. This is a new feature, so I’m not sure how useful it is.
- The ‘Browse’ folder shows you some really cool longform articles from places like The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Mental Floss and Ars Technica. Very handy when you’re bored and want something to read.
- Has a nicer-looking (redesigned) webapp with better content organization and typography
- Android app automatically switches to a dark theme in the evening
- Better integration with Twitter, Evernote, Tumblr etc. Of course, you can use IFTTT to do the same with Pocket.
- Search requires a subscription ($12/year)
- NO JUSTIFIED TEXT!
- No tags, poor organization. I can’t really be bothered with folders.
- No (official) support for Firefox
- Inline images are really small and left-aligned.
I think I’m leaning towards Instapaper. The subscription thing isn’t a big problem, it comes down to just INR 60/month. The lack of justified text does bother me, though. I think I’ll write to the devs requesting that change. I’m also optimistic about the Highlights feature. The biggest pull for me, though, is the awesome Kindle integration - If I didn’t own a Kindle, I wouldn’t have considered Instapaper at all, in which case Pocket would’ve been a no-brainer. The Kindle is an awesome reading device, so having my articles delivered to the Kindle is such a joy!
Update 1 - There’s a service called Crofflr that automatically delivers unread articles from Pocket to your Kindle for a one-time fee of $5. At the time of writing, their server was ‘Over Quota’ which doesn’t exactly inspire confidence, but I’ll re-evaluate this once my Instapaper subscription expires in June.
Update 2 - After much back and forth, I’ve found a system that combines the strengths of both. I use the Pocket Chrome extension to save articles for later (it’s faster, supports tags and is available on Firefox too). I use an IFTTT recipe to push all Pocket articles to Instapaper, so I have an identical reading list on Instapaper. For my actual reading, I use Instapaper, for its web/Android app is (slightly) better than Pocket on most counts. (Search isn’t really a necessary feature, and my Pocket/Instapaper queue is archived on Evernote anyway.)