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I read long form. Do you?

December 2nd, 2010
Cobalto couch

Image by courtneyp via Flickr

Like Evernote, which I wrote about a few weeks ago, Instapaper has changed the way I live my life.  It’s an app that allows you to save the full text of articles to read later.   The cool bit is that the text is formatted for you to easily read on your device — I use it on my iPhone, but there are versions for other devices (including iPad and Kindle).  I really love Instapaper and now that I’ve been using it for months, I can’t imagine doing without it.

Saving full text seems like such a small thing, but there are several nice features that make Instapaper a pleasure to use:

  • Saving an article to Instapaper removes all extraneous content.  Key photos that illustrate the article are retained, but ads, sidebars, links to other weblogs or stories, are not.
  • The text is appropriately formatted for the device you are using.  I’ve only used it on my iPhone and on the web, but it looks great on both.  I understand that iPad users really like the way text is displayed on it, although I’ve not seen that in person.
  • Typically, the full text of the article is saved, even if it goes across several pages on the website.
  • In the rare situation where the full text is not saved, there’s a link at the bottom of each page that quickly loads the next page.
  • You can organize the articles in folders, and easily remove articles once you no longer want them, so that they aren’t taking up space on your device.
  • You can easily email full text or links of articles directly from Instapaper.  The really nice thing for me is that I can email the full text of articles directly from Instapaper to Evernote.  This is a surprisingly powerful feature.
  • You can install a bookmarklet that allows you save an article to your Instapaper account with just one click.

When I first bought this app, I thought it would be useful for reading in doctor’s offices, between meetings and other interstitial moments.  It’s great for that, but it has also fundamentally changed the way I use my feeds and other content sources.  As the Instapaper FAQ says, “The times we find information aren’t always ideal for consuming it. Instapaper helps you bridge that gap.”

For me this translates into “lean forward” and “lean backward” activities — finding information is an activity I do while I’m leaning forward in work mode and looking at a computer screen (laptop or desktop).  Consuming information is an activity I do while I’m leaning backward in a relaxed posture and looking at a smaller screen (laptop or iPhone).

Because of Instapaper, I read a lot more long, meaty articles and weblog posts than I used to — and because I can easily move content from Instapaper to Evernote, I’m more likely to be able to retrieve things later.  Instapaper is not ideal for reading very long items, like books. The Kindle for iPhone app works better for that. I have a few favorite sources for finding long, interesting articles.  I’ll write those up later.

(I’m not affiliated — I’m just a satisfied user).