Too much to read

I have a reading problem.

The velocity at which new articles are entering my Pocket seems to be accelerating, while my reading speed and the time in the day have remained constant.

Just yesterday I added… well there doesn’t seem to be an easy way to see how many articles I added yesterday, but I would guess about 20 articles added from TweetBot, Flipboard and the Pocket Chrome extension — all without ever opening the Pocket app to read any of them.

Currently I am sitting at 735 items in my Pocket*: 735 articles, audio segments and videos about media, technology, entrepreneurship, advertising, social marketing, public relations, journalism, gadgets, apps, web development, user experience, graphic design, architecture, soccer, baseball, data, film, food, drink, sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll, writing, publishing, photography, psychology, politics, the environment, style and comedy, to name just a few of my interests.

Aside from cleaning up my inbox, I typically spend the quiet time around the holidays catching up on reading. In 2011, it was Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs biography and my Instapaper queue. This past season, it was my Pocket (having pretty much made the switch from Instapaper, though I still have unread items there too). Add while I read plenty during my time off, I added to the pile too. It feels like no dent was made at all.

And it wasn’t just my Pocket queue. I bought some Kindle Singles, downloaded some Readlists, subscribed to Marco’s The Magazine, was constantly drawn to interesting Quora posts and finally learned to enjoy the Medium experience. And… what’s that? Oh, a push notification, the new issue of Bloomberg Businessweek is waiting for me.

All the while I dreamed of a Blackstrap and a Kindle Paperwhite (there I was reading Nick Hornby’s Pray: Notes on a Football Season on the iPad’s backlit display like some sort of about-to-be-blind animal).

And what a terrible problem to have, like having to many great restaurants to choose from for dinner, or being loved too much.

This pile of reading has a way of causing me anxiety. Yet, I am slowly coming to accept that I will never be caught up. I will never reach the end of the Internet. There will always be more to read.

But maybe I shouldn’t give up? Maybe I should learn speed-reading techniques? (I’m pretty sure I have an article about that in my Pocket.) But, no…

So perchance did I have some reason in writing this? Some grand conclusion about information and democracy?

I’ll let you draw your own conclusions. I don’t have time for introspection; I need to get back to my habit of media hyper-consumption.

* Again, Pocket doesn’t make this stat easy to find. I had to scroll to the bottom of my queue, grab the generated HTML from the DOM with Chrome’s developer tools and count the number of times li class=”item” occurred. A quick glance of the docs and it looks like this information isn’t even available via the Pocket API.

5 thoughts on “Too much to read

  1. Sam

    You can find out how many unread items you have in your Pocket by selecting the ‘Show App Badge Count’ option in the iOS app’s settings. The number of unread items will then show up as a badge the same way unread messages do in iOS. And by the way, I didn’t understand your footnote.

    Why did you switch to Pocket? Cause I’m a Pocket user and contemplating switching to Instapaper in hopes that there would be more iOS integration (Saving anything to Pocket on iOS is rather cumbersome, don’t you think?)

    1. doug Post author

      Thanks for the tip. I think I will leave that off to keep my anxiety down.

      Don’t really remember one clear reason for switching as it was several months ago. Instapaper is a fine product, but I do recall being intrigued by the ability to save video to Pocket (though technically, I think, you can do this with Instapaper too). And the ability to search your queue is a nice feature of Pocket.

      As for iOS integration, I find them to be pretty much equal, at least in the apps that I frequently use. And you can always e-mail links into either service if a particular app you are using doesn’t have native support.

  2. Nathan Jessen

    I’m not a fan of using App Badges so to get my article count I just scroll down to the bottom of my queue on my computer and insert a bit of javascript into the console to do the counting for me $('.queue_list .item').length

  3. Andrew

    So, I’m a little late in commenting, but I have the same problem, only much worse: I currently have over 10,000 unread items in my Pocket. I blame Wikipedia. I’ll be reading one article, but then that one links to 5 other things I’m interested in reading about, and rather than stop and read each one before finishing the first article, I just send them to Pocket. It’s getting to the point though that I think I’m going to have to just delete everything and start over, because, as you said originally, the number of articles is increasing, but my free reading time has remained constant.

  4. Ankita

    I totally get you. I set up an IFTTT recipe that automatically started adding articles to Pocket and a few weeks later, I have like… 4K articles already! And the anxiety! 🙁

    I’ve switched off those recipes now.. some respite!

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