Readwise Reader - Integrating read-it-later, spanning multiple information sources, enhancing the reading experience

Post Title Image

I saw the 海總理’s tweet earlier mentioning Readwise Reader which can directly generate subtitles from YouTube videos and found out that this reading tool was open for trial. I couldn’t wait to throw all the articles in Instapaper to try it out.

What is read-it-later?

  • read-it-later tools separate two tasks, allowing them to be performed independently and asynchronously: finding information and reading information.
    • Finding information:
      • Discovering information, accumulating it in the inbox, using web scrapers to retrieve articles, removing visual styles based on semantics, saving the content, and waiting for the user to schedule time for reading.
    • Reading information:
      • Reading the content, highlighting text, making annotations, later integrating it into personal PKM workflows, and exporting it.
  • Common read-it-later tools:

Challenges of read-it-later

  • When using read-it-later, you may encounter the following issues:
    • “Some websites require login to access articles, and read-it-later cannot retrieve the content.” 👉 Previously, Hypothesis could be used with the original URL as a reference index, but now it adds another tool to maintain.
    • “Even if the article can be retrieved, the content may not be fully captured (e.g., text without images or charts).” 👉 In such cases, you need to open the original web page for reference or read the article outside of read-it-later, using Hypothesis alongside. However, this interrupts the reading experience and may cause distractions. 👉 Remember: “Tabs lead to distractions” (boom XDD).
    • “When highlighting or making annotations within the read-it-later environment, they are not visible when revisiting the original article (e.g., when referring back to charts).” 👉 Now, you might rely on Readwise Reader along with the browser extension Readwise Highlighter to handle this.
    • And so on…
  • A mediation tool is needed to bridge the gap between read-it-later and personal note-taking systems, and currently, Readwise is commonly used.
    • Therefore, it makes sense for Readwise to introduce Readwise Reader to integrate the workflow between upstream and downstream, creating a cohesive solution.

Exploring Readwise Reader

  • Readwise Reader offers a browser extension and a standalone app for mobile devices.
  • You can receive articles directly from sources like Instapaper and Pocket into Readwise Reader. So, apart from being a Read-it-later tool, it can also be used as a reading app to explore various information sources1. It’s not limited to reading online articles only.
  • The first impression of using Readwise Reader on a computer is that it provides rich reference information (metadata on the right) and a reading progress indicator (outline on the left). It should be beneficial for those who frequently use parentheses, annotations, and notes while writing.
  • However, if you prefer the minimalist and distraction-free interface of Instapaper, then the style of Readwise Reader might be different.

Comparison with Instapaper

  • I tested several articles to compare the article scraping and processing capabilities of Readwise Reader and Instapaper. So far, Readwise Reader seems to have the edge. While the variations mostly depend on how well the website’s web pages adhere to proper usage of semantic structures, I found that Readwise Reader generally provides smoother context. In comparison, Instapaper sometimes includes the beginning paragraphs of ads along with the article, making it difficult to determine if it’s an ad or part of the article, which can disrupt the reading experience (even though the layout may be appealing, the scraping process loses points).
  • The screenshot of the beginning of the original article 2 is shown below. You can compare the text paragraphs between the two pictures above and the one below.
  • Open the browser extension Readwise Highlighter to read and highlight directly from the source.
  • This reading experience is similar to Hypothesis, allowing you to read and annotate any web article.
  • Previously, you had to go to several places; some articles were saved to Instapaper for reading and annotation, and then imported to Readwise; some articles were annotated using Hypothesis and then imported to Readwise. But it was only one-way storage. 👉 Now, with Readwise Highlighter, you can synchronize highlights between the original text and the read-it-later reader in both directions.

Using Readwise Reader on Mobile

  • After logging in, the main entry to use Readwise Reader app is Inbox, Library, and article list.
  • Enter a certain article (I try to use the same article for testing and comparison).
  • There is a function to add tags. The favorite tag on the screen is guessed because I originally marked the article with a heart on Instapaper, so Readwise Reader helped add the tag.
  • On the left side, you can open the title, hierarchy, and outline of the article.
  • On the right side is the related information, attributes, and metadata of the article. There is a subscription function, which may gradually replace the previously used Feedly.
  • There are some actions and settings that can be adjusted. You can listen to it.
  • Test the situation after adding the other tag productivity.
  • Readwise Reader highlights have a brighter yellow background and yellow underline, making it easier to read.

Install Readwise Reader Browser Extension

Bottom line

  • Currently, the articles fed into Instapaper will still be synced to Readwise Reader, so I will keep my original habit of throwing them into Instapaper so that both sides have the same article.
  • I plan to try using Readwise Reader as an article reader to temporarily replace Instapaper for a few weeks or months to see how it works (e.g. comparing the number of articles read, number of notes taken, reading experience, etc.).
  • If I have time, I will try to update my Personal Knowledge Management (PKM) workflow for the past year.

Further Reading

Loading comments…