Review: Readability

Readability is a web service that converts online articles into an ad-free, more readable format. Here's a quick comparison of what an article looks like before conversion by Readability:

And after conversion:

It's a lot cleaner. Readability works as a browser plugin in Firefox, Chrome, Safari, and smart phones. It's really simple. Navigate to an article you'd like to read, click the browser plugin (or bookmarklet) and then Readability will work in the background transforming the page in front of you into a nice, clean, more readable format. You can then change the font, font size, background color, and page width. You can also remove images and make links show up as footnotes instead of as clickable links. In my experience, this helps me focus on what I'm reading by preventing me from clicking through to another page. If you'd like to try out an article for yourself, click here.

Most people probably don't care what their news articles look like when they read them. I didn't really care, either, until I discovered this tool. Now reading articles normally is a big pain in the ass. When I describe Readability to people I tell them to imagine reading a book with colorful, moving advertisements and photos on either side of the page. Instead of opening up a book to two full pages of text, you only get one page—the rest is ads. Readability allows you read things the way they were meant to be read: cleanly and without a bunch of bullshit on either side of the page.

There's another dimension to Readability that's just as cool as cleaning up webpages so they're nicer to look at. It's free to convert articles to the Readability format. But if you want to keep a list of all the articles you've converted and create a "reading list" of articles yet to be read, you have to set up an account. The base price is $5.00 per month, $1.50 of which goes to Readability. The remaining $3.50 goes to the folks who wrote the articles. You can find an explanation of how Readability divys up the money here. For example, in July I converted 84 articles with Readability. Fifteen of those articles came from, so they get $0.63 of my $3.50. As I understand it, OregonLive has to get in touch with Readability to collect my contribution. If you're interested, here's a full list of my contributions.

I can't say enough about Readability. It's an awesome service that accomplishes two critical things: making online reading more pleasurable and providing an easy way for me to support the talented people whose work I enjoy. Give it a try.