Monday, November 30, 2009

Cool Monday: Instapaper

As excited as I am to get onto dice variants and Warhammer 3e, I need to maintain discipline. Monday posts exist primarily to remind myself that the internet has cool and wonderful things within its bounds. This offsets the other 6 days of the week when I face reminders of the cesspit parts.

There's a lot of good stuff to read on the Internet, but the simple reality is that it's a pain to keep track of it all. An RSS aggregator, like Google News or NetNewsWire goes a long way towards making the good stuff easier to keep track of, but it doesn't give me any extra time to read. That becomes a problem on those occasions when something very long and very thoughtful merits reading.

Historically, my solution was to see if they had a print view (because nothing says fun like clicking through 6 times to get through a piece) and either bookmark that or print it out in hopes of getting back to it later. Sometimes it worked, but even when it did it tended to result in a pile of stuff. That's not terrible, but it's lossy.

I've been much happier about these things since I found Instapaper.

So, Instapaper is sort of a clipping service, a lightweight and smartly designed one. It works like this: I find an article I'd like to read later, and I click on the Instapaper bookmarklet.[1] I get a little popup, and that's that. Later on, if I go to the Instapaper site, they've got the article archived for me, either in its original format or with much of the formatting stripped out (which makes it much easier for screen reading).

So far that's nice and convenient, but where it really shines is in how it works with other technology. First and foremost, you can export bundles of the articles you're reading into a variety of ebook formats. I have a fat batch of articles stores on my kindle to make for random reading anytime I need.[2]

Perhaps even better, there's an iphone/ipod touch app (both a free and paid version) which syncs with your account and keeps the articles on your device. As a touch owner, this has been a godsend. Because it archives them locally, I can read my articles while I'm offline.

Instapaper is the brainchild of Marco Arment, a name that might be familiar to folks who pay attention to Tumblr development. He is my current nerd rockstar, because so far as I'm concerned, that's a fantastic 1-2 punch.

Anyway, if you have a lot of stuff online you want to read, and you want to make you're life easier, then check out Instapaper. You'll know pretty quickly if it's the thing for you or not.

1 - That's nerdy term for a bookmark that does something. It's nothing technical that calls for installation or anything weird. It's just like any other bookmark in your browser.

2- It won't mail directly to the kindle, but that's more a function of Amazon's policies than a technical limitation.


  1. I'll have to consider if I can develop the new habits necessary to make use of this technology, because it sounds pretty freakin' intriguing.

  2. You hooked me onto this a week or two ago, but I'm still waiting for it to come out for the droid.

  3. I have this pattern, too. I'd been using a combination of tabbed browsing and to make it work, but I'll have to give Instapaper a try.

  4. Paul: Me too, with the occasional addition of the Readability bookmarklet into the mix.

  5. Rob, I finally got around to installing this in my browser and on my iPhone. I have a long plane trip coming up so I plan on making use of this tech to read articles off-line. Thanks for the post.
    Follow Your Bliss,

  6. HOLY COW. Believe it or not I was systematically going through your rather awesome blog and marking pages "read later" for InstaPaper, which I just discovered a few days ago. Bang, I run into this article. I LOVE INSTAPAPER. I'm using it on an iTouch. It's such a simple idea but so dead-on useful.


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