Float Reader aims to make reading social, courtesy of Scribd

Jul 29, 2011
Tech

I don’t really feel like my Internet reading needs to be more social, but the team at Scribd, the web publishing company, feels a bit differently, as evidenced by its new social reading app Float Reader, for iPhones 3GS and 4 and third- and fourth-gen iPod Touch. I’ve hit my personal limit for social networks, […]

I don’t really feel like my Internet reading needs to be more social, but the team at Scribd, the web publishing company, feels a bit differently, as evidenced by its new social reading app Float Reader, for iPhones 3GS and 4 and third- and fourth-gen iPod Touch. I’ve hit my personal limit for social networks, so it’s a good thing that Float is more than a timeline aggregator. My immediate impression of Float was that, although it still needs work, the app offers a solid concept with striking design.

For its launch, Float, which is a digital reading service, has connected with 150 publications — such as Time, the Atlantic, GOOD and Apartment Therapy — all of which are viewable in Float’s soon-to-be signature formatting, which was my favorite part of the app. Float strips out formatting and advertisements, presenting readers with clean, moveable copy. The text “floats,” which means that if you prefer it to be larger and pinch to zoom, the type automatically adjusts and rewraps. It’s exactly what’s missing when you’re reading websites on iPhone’s small screen. Float also offers a number of fonts and backgrounds to choose from that gives flexibility for reading, including serif and sans serif typefaces, decreased brightness for nighttime or sunlight reading to help with surrounding glare.

You’ll find the included sites — you can’t access content manually right now — in the favorites tab. Here you can add sites to your favorites or find stories to download and add to your offline reading list. You’ll see continually updated feeds of a site’s content. Swiping across each story will give you the intro and a button to add it to your reading list. You can also tap the story to open it immediately. All content you view is stored in the library tab, which could be useful if you need to reference something in the future.

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I enabled sharing of my social networks, which enables Float to work a bit differently than traditional timeline readers. Instead of pulling in all posts from Facebook, Scribd or Twitter, Float only pulls in posts with attached links, allowing users to keep on top of what their friends are posting. It’s a cool idea — if Float were functioning correctly. My social feed is stuck on information posted three days ago, and neither the pull-to-refresh function nor shutting down the app, will override the problem. (As I write this, the five most recent tweets on my timeline all have links attached, so this isn’t for lack of available content.)

The service can sync with the Web app, and an iPad version is in the works. Float might not be free forever, though. According to Wired.com, Scribd will be including ads in Float and is considering a paywall for subscribers in the future.

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