Highbrowse: always have something to read

TIR staff

So long, boring bus rides to work—and welcome, Highbrowse!

Highbrowse—highbrow.se—is a brilliant new website that aggregates writing (poems, stories, essays, interviews, book reviews) freely available on the websites of literary periodicals like The Iowa Review, The New Yorker, Witness, Ninth Letter, Los Angeles Review of Books, Poets & Writers, Virginia Quarterly, Bookforum, The American Scholar (and lots more), presenting the titles in an easy-to-scan format, including—get this—the approximate time it'll take you to read each piece.

And each title links back to the original website where the text is posted, directing much-needed traffic to litmag websites.

We were so excited that we begged Highbrowse's developers, Sam Griswold and Chris Laursen, for a quick interview:

TIR: What led you to create the site?

SG: My main inspiration was simply feeling overwhelmed about how much good writing there was out there that I was missing or didn't even know about. I was actually looking to subscribe to a new magazine/journal and wanted to get an overview of what was out there and then came up with this idea. I also feel like a ton of great writing goes unnoticed and deserved to have an audience and a chance to be read. 

I feel like there are some good sites like Longreads that point out some good writing, but Highbrowse is a way for people to get it from the source. When you stick with the same sources, sometimes it becomes hard to discover something new and different.

TIR: Did you have primarily mobile-device users in mind? 

SG: I didn't initially have mobile users in mind, but my partner in the project (Chris Laursen), really pushed that angle and now, yes, I believe that the site is better geared toward mobile readers in that it allows people to find stuff to read on-the-go and to fit their time schedule/commutes with the reading times. I would hope, though, that people will use it both on mobile devices and regular computers—basically whenever anyone needs something to read!

TIR: How do you keep the site up-to-date? Do you manually check each journal's website for new online content? How often? Can we help to make your job easier? 

SG: Right now, we update the site entirely manually. We basically have all our sources on a calendar and check them whenever a new issue is due out. It is a lot of work, and I hope that one day we can come up with a system of having the sources themselves upload their free articles and maybe include a short description along with it.

CL: It would definitely help to have an RSS feed from each site. Sources should also make sure their content is accessible to services like Instapaper, Readability, and Pocket. They should also consider having OpenGraph data on every article—http://ogp.me. This makes it easier to share the articles via Facebook and other platforms.

Thanks, Sam and Chris! Love the (high)brow graphic. 


Screenshot: screenshot