Readers, Reading, Readability

In earlier posts, I’ve written about a couple of tools to improve (or at least customize) the online experience of reading. Readability is a cross-browser bookmarklet that aims to create a “distraction-free” reading environment, and Stylebot is a Chrome-only browser extension that allows you to customize the appearance of any web page, overriding the design made by that page’s creators. This week, both Stylebot and Readability made significant announcements.

With “Stylebot Social,” users can share with each other the custom styles they’ve created for specific sites. So if you’re looking for a better layout for reading the Washington Post, for example, you don’t have to spend a great deal of time tweaking things yourself; instead, you can just search for what other users have already created.

Meanwhile, Readability has introduced a service that will charge users $5 a month, distribute 70% of that fee to the content providers the reader visits, and use the remaining 30% to continue development of the tool. The free version of Readability remains available, but the paid version allows you to save the Readability-transformed articles for later reading on the device of your choice.

Approaches like Stylebot, Readability, or the Apple Safari Reader function threaten the ad-revenue model of online publishing because they strip ads out of the user experience in order to create a more reader-friendly display. It seems that what Readability is doing, then, is an attempt to compensate for that lost revenue.

Do you use one of the above tools (or something like them)? If so, what do you think of these recently announced changes? Let’s hear from you in the comments!

[Creative Commons-licensed flickr photo by Tam Tam]

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