Arc90s Readability bookmarklet has long been a staple of my online experience. Once installed, the Readability bookmarklet allows you to see a clean, beautifully typeset text view of any article you are looking at. The service wipes away all the distractions from the site, which makes for a great reading experience – but for publishers, this can also make it harder to monetize traffic. Today, Arc90 launched a new version of Readability that goes far beyond its earliest incarnation. This new version introduces Instapaper-like reading lists and a micropayment system that pays publishers based on how often readers use the tool on their sites.
Here is how this works: when you sign up for the new Readability, you decide how much you want to pay for the service per month (the minimum is $5 and payments are handled by Amazon). Then, at the end of every month, Readability will evenly divide 70% the money you put into your account to all the publishers whose articles you read using the service. Readability keeps the other 30% to keep the service up and running.
For publishers, Readability offers an API, as well as a ready-made embed button. I just embedded the button here on the site. You can find it right under the logo image on the top right of this article.
The basic distraction free reading experience also received a major facelift. While you had to choose your presets before installing the bookmarklet before, you can now customize the reading pane at will whenever you are using the service.
A free version of the basic service remains available, though you will have to pay if you want to save texts to the Readability web service for accessing them later.
A Micropayment Flat Rate
This passive micropayment system has the potential to be a real game changer. One issue with micropayments is that users don’t want to feel as if a meter is running in the background while they are browsing the Internet. This system is more akin to paying a flat rate. You don’t have to worry about exceeding your allotment and paying overage charger. Instead, you simply decide how much you want to pay per month and Readability takes care of the rest.
Mobile Apps and Syncing With Instapaper Coming Soon
All of this would be quite exciting in and of itself, but Readability’s developers have also teamed up with Instapaper, one of the best services for time-shifted reading. Instapaper is not only building a custom iOS app for Readability, but according to that service’s developer Marco Arment, Instapaper users will soon have the option to sync their reading activity on that service with their Readability accounts. The two are already quite complimentary and it is great to see them working together.
It’s also worth noting that Apple used the open-source code of Readability to power the new “Reader” feature in Safari 5. We don’t expect Apple to support Readability payments anytime soon, though.