Why There’s A Read Later App On Your Desktop

The biggest read later service has a new app — but it’s for the Mac.

I’ve always figured much of the longform content and the services to read them, while not entirely restricted to mobile devices like phones and tablets, were primarily used in those cases: on phones going to work or waiting in line, on tablets in bed or on the couch. So the new Pocket reader for Mac is sort of strange to me.

It’s a read later app for the Mac that takes what Pocket does on mobile devices — pulls content from cluttered web sites and reproduces them in a clean, generally ad-free format for offline reading — and reproduces it for the desktop. Why not just read that stuff on the web, even on Pocket’s website? The resulting app is somewhere between a glorified bookmark manager and RSS reader — but much prettier than I make it sound.

The reason it exists is really simple, explains Longreads founder and Pocket editorial director Mark Armstrong: “Well, if you think about it, most people still spend most of their days in front of a laptop or desktop computer. So we wanted a native experience to support that.” Still, why not a web app? That’s how I’ve been using read later services on Microsoft’s Surface. Well, it fills a need — much like Marco Arment built Instapaper because he wanted a way to read articles during his commute to work, Armstrong says that he’s “a huge ‘MacBook Air on the airplane’ person, so Pocket for Mac lets me have the same access as when I’m on my iPhone.”

I’m not sure I’ll find a reason to use a dedicated reading app on my computer — there’s something about the energy of a computer, with a keyboard and so many things to do that makes it totally impossible to read anything more than a few hundred words. That said, in the wake of Windows 8/RT and its promise of new hybrid devices, with their varying proportions of laptopness-to-tabletness, the distinctions between a desktop app and a tablet app, and which one makes more sense, may not mean all that much for long. So if it really bothers me that much to read on a “computer,” I’ll just turn it into a tablet. Regardless, the new Pocket for Mac is really nice.

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