Friday, March 8, 2013

Bottom line: Instapaper and Readability are both great ways to read digital media on your computer, mobile device, or Kindle.

I've told several people about Instapaper, a service that has really helped me keep up my non-school-related reading.  Basically, it strips way all the distracting backgrounds, ads, and colors from what you're trying to read and presents you with clean text (see before/after of LA times article).

I also really appreciate Instapaper's $5 iOS app that works on both iPhone and iPad, presents you with similarly tidy text, and has great autoscroll and place-saving features.  There is also a free version, that doesn't have as many features.  Instapaper also has settings that will automatically send your list of articles to read to your Kindle in a very aesthetically pleasing format (I love this feature, feel free to ask us to help set it up if you're a Kindle user).
There are a number of ways to add items to your Instapaper queue, such as a "bookmarklet" (an internet bookmark that you just click and it works like magic on your computer / iOS device / etc), or you can also email articles to a special address that Instapaper provides for you.
Instapaper also has integration with a wide variety of other iOS apps.  For example, I might come across an interesting blog article on my phone, but I don't have time to read it and/or don't want to read it on the small screen.  I can just send it to Instapaper and read it later in a much cleaner format on my computer or other device.  Being able to save an interesting article for later (without worrying that I'll forget about it) helps me stay more focused on the task at hand... and I need all the help I can get.  The last cool feature is you can connect Instapaper to your social accounts (Facebook, Twitter, maybe others) to share articles that you like with your friends, and browse articles that they've enjoyed.  Great way to get some variety into your reading list.

Readability is a similar service that presents an equally (or perhaps more) aesthetically pleasing page of text when you feed it a webpage you'd like to read.  Readability has a slightly different business model based on a monthly subscription fee ($5/mo minimum, you can choose to give more).  The neat part is that they guarantee that 70% of your fee goes directly to writers on the web.  My understanding is that they keep track of what articles get read (anonymously, no worries about privacy issues) and send the authors compensation based on the number of people reading their work and the number of Readability users.

They do offer a free browser extension and bookmarklet (available here) that works great, and it features a "send to kindle" button that works great!

One trick that often comes in handy when using these tools: If you have the bookmarklet or extension working, but you run across a page that it doesn't work on, you can frequently get it to work by using a "Print" link or a "Print view" button or equivalent.  For example, I mentioned "UpToDate" in the title of this post (mostly in hopes of getting your attention).  The problem is that we only have UTD access at school... and we don't want to spend all of our time reading UTD articles at school.  One option is to use the "email this article" button and email it to yourself.  A second option (my preference) is to click the "print" button -- but not to actually print it.  Once you've got the "print" view (wider screen, less frames, white background), you can either:
  • Use Readability to get a much cleaner article to either read or send to your Kindle
  • Select all and copy (Ctrl or Cmd + A, ctrl or CMD + C) and pase (ctrl or cmd + V) into an email, which you can sent to your Instapaper email address for easy reading on iPhone, iPad, computer, Kindle, etc.
Unfortunately, this doesn't get around the fact that UNM doesn't provide home access to UTD.  However, it is a great way to save an UTD (or other) article to read later at home once you've found it at school.

If you have any questions regarding Instapaper or Readability, don't hesitate to contact us!

Best of luck,


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