Palimpsest: For Lovers of the Long-Form

While it may surprise some, it certainly surprised me, since acquiring an iPad I have actually found myself reading more. Not simply more articles and short newsflashes, although I tend to read a lot of both of these, but more long-form articles and essays; pieces of writing that engage with you on a deeper level and challenge your perceptions.

One of the iPad apps that has had a dramatic influence on this trend is the wonderful Instapaper, which is synonymous with reading longer articles offline. Another, more recent, influencer of my reading habits has been Palimpsest, which presents you with a personalized stream of interesting articles from renowned sources.

Read on to find out whether Palimpsest could be the perfect app to augment reading on your iPad, and a way to break free from the incessant brevity that’s prevalent on the web.


On first thought, the interface of a reading app may not appear to be that important – is there much you can do differently? The truth is that the layout of the text, and the mode of interaction, actually has a great effect on the enjoyment of the reading experience.

Palimpsest goes with a design that emphasises simplicity, forgoing any pagination or neat effects in favour of crisp text and a simple scrolling mechanism. All of the controls are found on the slim bar at the top of the application, and are relatively self-explanitory. You have:

  • Thumbs Up – tap this to indicate your approval of an article.
  • Thumbs Down – the reverse of the above.
  • Read another article – gets you a new article from the archive.
  • Information – gives you information about the articles available and the sources.
  • Settings – two configurable options, change text size and connect an Instapaper account.
  • View Original – switches to show the the article in its original form, gives you further options to Instapaper the article or view recent history.

Main view.

The first thing you probably notice when looking at the app is that the box that contains the text doesn’t fill the whole screen. No matter which way round you hold the iPad, the width is always reduced.

While this might be slightly annoying, there is actually a good reason behind it; it’s important that this third-party app push you towards the sources of the articles. This is why (when you have a connection) the original article appears faded behind, and around, the text within Palimpsest.

It’s also why the saving options are only available in the original article view, but not to worry, you can still save articles to Instapaper without a connection.

Saving to Instapaper without a connection.


Palimpsest only works because of the high quality and diversity of its sources, many of its available articles come from highly renowned magazines and publications, much of its inspiration comes from a varied list of curators. The list of curators and sources includes:

  • Arts & Letters Daily
  • Long Reads
  • Long Form
  • Something To Read
  • The Essayist
  • The Long Good Read
  • The Best Of Journalism
  • In-Depth Stories

Over time, you’ll find yourself reading articles from publications such as The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, and GQ – dependent on your personalisation of the articles presented to you.

View Original

When I am in a situation where the app is connected, I quite like reading the articles in their original form as it helps their character to come through, and images of all kinds are included. The browser is simple but does exactly what you need it to do, it’s designed to be contained.

The lack of any kind of indexing or search feature, while it has frustrated me before, is understandable to a point. Again, the app has to make an effort not to be thieving content – any qualms with the design of the app must come from an understanding of its position as a personalised source of curated articles, not the creator or owner of said articles.


Before the update, new articles would push out any article that was currently on screen – even if you were in the middle of it! Fortunately that’s not now the case, you can see a history of five articles from the View Original window.

It’s definitely worth saving any great articles you find to Instapaper, there’s no way you’ll lose them there. It’s also a nicer way to read them, if you’re not as fan of the original or reduced width views.


Palimpsest uses a simple Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down method to gradually bring you more of the kind of writing that you love. It takes your votes into account and learns your tastes based on the article’s subject matter, writing style, length, and many other parameters.

Not convinced by the name...

This is a great selling point, but if I’m going to be honest I don’t think it’s working for me. The quality of the curation is such that I find myself giving every article a Thumbs Up!

It’s also worth noting that Palimpsest saves an archive of articles for use when you’re offline.

Final Thoughts

Any issues I have with Palimpsest (apart from the slightly awkward name) are simply appeasements to the original sources of the articles, which is something that I’m happy to deal with.

The quality of the writing is consistently enjoyable, engaging, and worthy. If you’d like to branch out in what you read, or know that you enjoy long-form reads, then Palimpsest is definitely worth a look.

You, like me, might find yourself engrossed immediately!


Palimpsest is a great way to engage with fascinating longer articles on your iPad. The curated sources and personalisation providing a stream of engrossing reads!