For the last 4 years, Pocket has been a key part of my reading and writing process. It’s been the place I store articles or blog posts to read, where I read and highlight things: the first stage of a knowledge-making practice. After Twitter and Safari, it’s the app I use most, from anything between 30 minutes up to 2 hours per week.

It’s brought me a lot of benefits I’ve been happy to pay for:

  • Bookmarks stored in the cloud, for reading on iOS or through a browser
  • Offline versions of articles, for when signal is patchy commuting by Tube or train
  • An archive of things I’ve read, which feeds into my bookmarks, weeknotes and reading lists
  • A list of highlights I can review when researching on a topic
  • Something to read that isn’t social media

However, in a couple of areas it’s lacking.

Pocket doesn’t let you do anything with your highlights. It’ll offer you a list of every passage you’ve highlighted, but there’s no way to sort those, to tag them or add notes.

It offers ‘full-text search’ but the search results suck. It favours tokens over phrases – if you search for design system it’ll return a heap of results for design – and has a wild relevance and weighting strategy. Even if I search for a document using its exact title, it’ll return a bunch of different results as more relevant.

When it can’t parse a web page, you lose the ability to highlight passages on iOS. I’m not sure why some websites break, but curiously it seems to be those using simple HTML. It struggles to recognise any pages published in the ‘90s, which tend to have simple HTML and little styling.

This was pretty annoying, until I stumbled across Reader from Readwise. I joined the private beta last week and it’s outperforming Pocket, after one week’s use. Great search, parses multiple document types (including ebooks and videos), and hooks into Readwise’s highlight tagging and reviewing. It’s a great product, and I admire what they’ve done: taken a look at the way people involve the web in their knowledge-making practice, and built a tool that wraps a clean experience around it.

So I’ve cancelled my Pocket subscription. I’m thankful to the teams who worked on it, the product really did solve a problem for me. But Reader pipped Pocket to the post.