Some carry the notion that the habit of reading, especially of books, has dwindled over the last decade. If the number of words or the kilobytes of text read by us online is tracked – text in email and IM, RSS feeds, occasional interesting links, online news, e-books and e-zines – it would far exceed the ancient man’s paperwork and pages perused by the bedside lamp. However, the experience of reading from the glowing computer screen is far from satisfactory. This is the reason for the buzz surrounding e-readers. I do see a possibility of us reading less than we ever did once video/multi-media becomes the primary format of content and communication, but I digress.
Google’s FastFlip, like everything Google, is about speed and a single stop. It attempts to make reading news from a number of reputed news sources (with whom Google partnered and shares ad revenue) fast by allowing the users to flip through various pages of the newspapers and choose among them.
You wade through thumbnails of a number of pages with headlines and opening pictures in them, click the one that superficially interests you, read a larger size of the page to decide whether it really is worth completing, and go to the original source of the complete article.
It really is blazing fast, but something feels wrong, apart from the disappointment of having to go to the original source finally. It is possibly that picking an article from its thumbnail is so much more difficult than picking a magazine from its cover page.
Anirudh Sasikumar’s Readefine is a Flex app that makes reading feeds, text and HTML easy on the eyes, the way Times Reader does for the New York Times. Anirudh wrote an overview of the app on his blog. I am eagerly awaiting the AIR alternative while I use the NewsReadability SWF.
If you download books from Project Gutenberg or read online fiction magazines, I strongly recommend Readefine to you. Like Anirudh wrote, it works smoothly with feeds and plain text on your desktop, though it finds HTML content quite confusing.
In the future I would like to be able to open multiple items and minimize the large header. Because it does so well with RSS/Atom feeds, it would be great if Readefine can become a full-fledged feed reader as well.