Arc90, the team behind Readability, is today introducing Readlists, a new website / web app that lets you create your own ebooks from your favorite articles online. We got the opportunity to have an early look around and, while not perfect, it's an interesting and useful idea. The concept is simple: click "create Readlist," paste in whichever URLs you'd like in your book, add a title and custom descriptions, and share.
You can export your book in either the near-universal ePub format, or send it directly to your Kindle. The option to send to iPhone/iPad does exactly the same thing as "Email e-book," and seems to be there just to push Apple users in the right direction. Sharing options are pretty standard — each readlist has a public URL for viewing, and a public edit link which you can send to people you want to collaborate with. There's also an embed tool that lets you add lists to your website or blog.
The books created are basic, but readable
The books created are a little basic, but definitely readable. Powered by Readability's new Iris engine, Readlists does a good job at picking out only the relevant content, casting comments and unnecessary distractions to one side so you can focus on the text. In the standard ePub books, articles appear in the form of chapters, and on the Kindle, you'll get the same view as you would if you subscribed to a newspaper. We recreated the May 20th edition of our weekly feature, The best tech writing of the week, and Readlists handled it almost perfectly. Our only complaint was that the custom descriptions aren't separated properly from the articles themselves, and so are effectively attributed to the original author. As this is day one for the site, hopefully the developers will rectify the issue with an update soon.
Arc90's favorite lists will be promoted on the front page of the site, which should help in the discovery of quality articles. If you sign in with your Readability account, you'll get a public-facing profile which lets other users view all your creations. The devs say that "a Readlist is a mixtape for reading," and that's exactly what it feels like. It's a novel idea that's been well executed, but ultimately its success depends on getting enough users contributing to the site. If it can cross that hurdle, we can see a lot of potential for future development of the site.