Introducing Readlists: Your Reading, Unbound and Remixed

Split spines: An occupational hazard of the old reading. (Credit Alice Volth.)

Quick, think back to the first time you cracked a paperback wide open. Not a guide book, not a novel, but a full-to-bursting, tombstone-scale tome. Recall that sudden stiff snap, the book shivering through your hands as its spine soundly split? Sometimes the binding gave way and stray pages spilled loose.

At times, reading online feels like that spine-busted paperback. Too often we’re leafing through loose pages, link to link, click to click, shuffling them around in our social circles, misplacing them in stacks.

Today, the spines of our individual and collective reading habits are being unmistakably transformed through technology. Linearity, materiality, readerly solitude: the hallmarks of print reading conventions are on a steady fade. After all, it’s never been easier than right now for a great many to access more reading material, to hop texts, to catalog and discuss them, and to distribute them, to more people. From e-books to apps, from the humble web page to annotations, the reading experience is facing a lasting, fundamental shift.

The makers and thinkers among us at Arc90 recently asked themselves a simple question. What’s the best way, in this new digital context, to collect and consume a collection of reading in a single standalone gulp?

Readlists, Fresh from the Arc90 Lab

We are pleased to release a new experiment today: Readlists, a free and incredibly convenient app for collecting, sharing, and enjoying bundles of articles, poems, recipes—you name it. It’s as simple as cutting and pasting links to ordinary web pages, that are then transformed into a clean reading view, but with the power to send them as specially tailored collections: to email, to Kindles, even as ePub-standard iBooks on your iPhone and iPad devices.


Here’s how it works.

It’s never been easier to rewrap your reading online, for whomever and wherever you want it. Harnessing the power of the Readability API, Readlists transforms conventional reading material into a clean standalone bundle for sharing and consuming. No software, no technical knowledge, and no fuss.

Why did we make Readlists? Two reasons.

When it comes to experimentation, we scratch our itches. Our technologists believe in the power of the open Internet—of APIs and web standards—and of the enduring draw of content, and content creators, as the centerpiece to compelling digital experiences. With clients or without, our product design credo has been to yoke our personal curiosity to our professional skills, and see the results through. We like to think there is no better advertisement of our people’s talent than seeing their sandboxed experiments shipped.

In that sense, Readlists isn’t just a proud addition to the Arc90 Lab, it’s an example of what we do best.

Rewind the Future of Reading

There’s another motive behind Readlists.

Readlists can be read on the web, Kindle, Apple iPad and iPhone—or any ePub-compatible reading application.

The future of reading is a tale of two cities: theirs—lousy with walled gardens and device lock-in; shabby with PDF tablet magazines—and yours.

Where do you want your reading to live?

When our books are cracked and busted, and reading feels broken, maybe it’s time to fasten fresh bindings. Let’s rewind, say, to the model of mix tapes to remix our reading, putting readerly intent and social impulses first. Stories, sonnets, blog posts: the rise of “read later” proves readers are rewrapping what they want, for when and how (and whom) they want it. And reading is hardly alone in going orbital. Music? Movies? All our content has fled its old containers, and it’s not coming back.

This is our aim with Readlists.

Our hunch is we are rattling the locks to the door of better days for readers and reading. (Better yet, we are not alone.) We hope the readers in your life find in Readlists a fresh spine to the new reading: a great many little living libraries—to collect, discover, and enjoy.