Readability: The Web Wins, Again

For all the hubbub about native mobile apps, sometimes the web is still better. Case in point: the Readability app. Apple’s new in-app subscription rules made it impossible for the new reading service to add a free app to the iOS App Store without giving 30% of their subscription fees to Apple. So, instead, they turned their focus to creating a HTML5 mobile app that lets readers on all modern mobile devices read their favorite articles on the go. The web let them sidestep Apple’s restrictions and make their app multi-platform at the same time.

So, what is Readability, and why did their service cause such a stir with Apple? Keep reading to learn more about Readability, how it can help your online reading, and how their mobile webapp shows a new future for cross-platform mobile apps.

What is Readability?

Readability started out as a bookmarklet from Arc90 that strips away all of the extra contents of webpages, leaving you with just the article text and images formatted beautifully like you’d expect in a leading newspaper. The script was so popular, Apple even incorporated it into the latest desktop version of Safari as the Safari Reader feature. This year, Readability has been relaunched as a new service that lets you archive articles you want to read for later, or view them now online in a clean, easy to read, and customizable interface. The new webapp is a subscription service, but 70% of your subscription fee will be divided between the authors you’ve read from each month. This way, you can make the web a nicer place to read and support those who write the content you enjoy.

Online reading without distraction

Signing Up

When you signup for a Readability account, you can choose how much you wish to pay per month. You’ll need to pay at least $5/month, but can choose to pay more if you want. Either way, 70% of your fee will go to the writers you read after each month. Now, just enter your normal info, and checkout with your Amazon account.

Choose how much you want to pay; 70% goes to the writers

Once you’ve signed up, you can login to your account and start adding great content to read later. The easiest way to do this is with their browser extensions that let you either view the current page you’re reading in Readability, or archive it in your account to read later, much like Instapaper. Alternately, you can add the new Readability Bookmarklets to your browser so you can quickly add new pages without messing with a menu.

Integrate Readablity in your browser with bookmarklets and extensions

Save Your Reading

Now, with your new Readability account, you’ll never need to stop and read every new article you discover throughout the day. Instead, add them to your Readability account, and then come back and read them when you have time to relax and read. With the flow of information online that bombards us daily, it’s hard to really concentrate on what we’re reading. Readability can bring that back by letting you save reading for later.

Your reading list can be read in any modern browser, on your computer, tablet device, netbook, and more. If you like an article, add a star to favorite it. Then once you’re done reading an article, archive it to clean out your reading list. Again, this looks and works very much like Instapaper’s iPad app, only this time, it’s all in your browser. Plus, you’re getting to support the writing you enjoy with your Readability subscription.

Read your articles anytime

Readability on Mobile – Even Offline

The most interesting part of Readability is its mobile webapp. After being rejected by Apple’s App Store, Readability focused on developing a mobile app that would work on any modern mobile device and still let you read your articles wherever you are. Just browse to from your smartphone or tablet, login with your normal account, and your articles will be downloaded to your device in an HTML5 database. The mobile webapp actually feels more full featured than many other offline reading apps, with a tabbed interface, style settings, and an option to add new links that will be downloaded the next time you’re online. Interestingly, the webapp only works offline on iOS devices directly from Safari; if you add the bookmark to your home screen, it’ll only run online. Even still, it’s impressive they’ve done this much with their offline mobile webapp, and hope to see more developers focus on creating cross-platform mobile webapps like this!

Read articles on the go, even when you're offline


Readability is a very interesting service that shows how much one little bookmarklet can turn into. From a small snippet of code that Apple baked into Safari to a new reading service that supports writers and skirts Apple’s iOS restrictions, Readability has gone farther than you could have ever imagined from the start. Their unique service gives readers a great way to give back to the authors they love, while making it easier to enjoy their favorite articles anytime, anywhere.

The service is very similar to Instapaper and Read it Later, two other popular mobile and web apps for saving articles. With Readability’s web-only focus, though, it’s a unique fit for Web.AppStorm readers, and is definitely an interesting idea for writers and readers alike! Also, the monthly subscription fee may seem high, though if you’ve been wanting to give back to online writers you enjoy, this might be a great option for you. Best of all, if you want to support writing but prefer Instapaper on your iOS devices, you can add your Readability account to Instapaper for the best of both worlds.


Readability makes reading on the web or your mobile device nicer by cleaning up pages and giving you the text that matters, and a chance to give back to the writers.