Issue 44 Aug 27, 2023

Finding the perfect read it later service

Long time followers know that I'm a big fan of read it later services. Meaning, a service to which I can save things – articles, tutorials, even videos and tweets – to read later. My journey has been a long one, from bookmarks back in the Netscape days, to Instapaper, Pocket, Safari's Reading List feature, Pocket again, then Instapaper again, Matter, Readwise, Upnext, and so on. While I wouldn't say I've tried them all, I've tried a lot.

My usage is pretty simple: I want to save things to read later. While some of these things are research, I rarely highlight or annotate them. Services that push the highlighting feature, like Readwise for example, are not for me.

Another important thing is that the service needs to work everywhere I stumble upon things. Meaning, in the web browser no matter the type of computer I use, and natively on my iPhone and iPad for easy saving. Luckily, this is almost universally true these days, but it is worth mentioning.

I also don't want a bookmarking service first, with read it later features tacked on as an afterthought. There are a few of those, some really good, that could've worked fine. It just hits the wrong note for me. The exception to the rule would be GoodLinks, had it not been an Apple ecosystem only kind of thing. That's a shame, it does manage to be both a link saving tool, and a read it later service, albeit perhaps not the best at either.

I've been using Upnext, a fairly new read it later service, for quite some time now. It's great, but like all of these services, it struggles with parsing some content. That is another key feature, how they present the content to you. Do they manage to strip away unnecessary clutter? Do they keep relevant images? Are quotes from the articles presented as copy, thus confusing you, or can the content parser separate them from the rest of the text? Upnext does a great job at this, but it's not perfect. It's been struggling with several newsletter providers, and although it's getting better, perhaps due to my constant pestering of the developers, it's not quite there.

If you subscribed to my now defunct Switch to iPad letter and site, you know that I slammed Matter, a hyped (and VC backed) read it later service, for being atrocious on the iPad. That, to me, was a deal breaker, since I do almost all my longform reading on my iPad mini. Well, for some reason I decided to reinstall Matter, and lo and behold, there were ample settings for column width, line height, font size, and the like. Articles now look better in Matter than in Upnext, which was one of the main reasons for giving the latter a go in the first place. So now I'm switching again, to Matter, to see if it sticks this time.

It's not without problem, switching read it later services. My library of saved content in Instapaper, back in the day, was so big that I had to wipe it all clean when I moved to Pocket. Then, I did a wipe there just to clean things out, but years later, despite being, I thought, vigilant in terms of saving and clearing out links, I found myself importing a ridiculous amount of content into Matter when I decided to give that a go. Alas, Matter didn't stick, and I moved over to Upnext, which could import content just fine.

Now, I'm facing another purge, this time from the Upnext library. Matter, despite being a modern startup, doesn't offer imports from other services than Instapaper and Pocket. This is a bit of a turn-off, I must say. I'd expect more from a service like this, but at least you can export your content. I'll take this opportunity to clear out my read it later queue, but that'll take time, and I'll have to keep my Upnext subscription while doing so.

Which brings me to the last thing to consider with read it later services: Costs. They're all subscriptions, and the new ones – Upnext and Matter – are quite pricey, I must say.

That's a lot of money, and yet another subscription to chew away at the bank account. I'm fine with it though, I use this for work, but even if I wasn't, and be a paying subscriber. You can get away with free accounts on some of these services, but you'll be limited in terms of features. If you're a heavy user, like me, you'll want to pay up. For lighter use, and less devices, there are more options. I'd love it if Safari's Reading List would cut it for me, but when I tried it, it got flooded too quickly. It also lacks proper sorting features, which the amount of content I save and go through in a week desperately needs.

Matter it is then, for now. I'll no doubt return to this topic in the future, as I'm wont to do. It's a bit weird, I know, but I honestly look forward to cleaning up my reading queue and starting fresh. I had a lot of old things saved in my Matter account, and sitting down with a cup of coffee, trimming it down to the bare essentials, was a nice change of pace in a hectic week.

That's what reading, and always having something to read, is to me: A change of pace. Having a read it later service I like is a big part of that.


🤡 Donald Trump returns to X / Twitter to post his mug shot because of course he does. That mugshot is such a PR campaign in its own right. See also: The Harsh Glare of Justice and Trump’s Mug Shot Is His True Presidential Portrait.

🤖 Stephen King has thoughts on his books being used to train AI.

📖 How dyslexia changes in other languages was an interesting piece, worth a read.

🎮 PlayStation Portal is a portable PlayStation device that streams locally from your PS5, and doesn’t support Bluetooth so you’ll have to pick up PlayStation Link earbuds. And, nothing else, for $200, which is a hard pass.

💭 Giving up the iPad-only travel dream makes me, as an iPad advocate, a bit sad, but it’s not unreasonable in any way. The iPad platform is in a weird place.

Got something I should read? Send it to me, either by replying to this letter, tweeting to @tdh, or hitting up on Bluesky. Thanks!


📚 Not much reading this week, so I'm still in Tad Williams's mammoth book, The Dragonbone Chair.

🎵 The Killers have a new single out, "Your Side of Town", which I'm sure I'll like a lot when I've heard it a couple of times more.

📺 If you haven't seen The Bear season 2, you're in for a treat. The final two episodes were pure gold.

🎮 Yep, it's been more Baldur's Gate 3 for me. It's good, but I'm also annoyed by stupid sync issues that already cost me a few hours of gameplay. Hopefully the recent patch has fixed it. I guess I'll find out tonight...


"LinkedIn AI" Yeah, no.

It's been another hectic week, and the next looks like more of the same. I can see the light at the end ot the tunnel at least. Some of the things that have been going on will come to light in the next letter, unless I can't keep myself from posting it on the site on Tuesday...!

Have a good one, and I'll talk to you soon.

— Thord D. Hedengren ⚡

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