One of my favourite ways to read things is with Instapaper on my iPhone. Marco’s program is simple and easy to use and it makes me think that I would like it even more on an iPad. Instapaper is one of those apps that you may think that you don’t need until you start using it and then it becomes part of what you do.
The key to a compelling app is that it needs to disappear. Any good tool enables you do to things. If you think about it too much, it’s not working. Instapaper really effectively gets out of the way. It helps you read things later and it does that smoothly and efficiently. I started using Instapaper with my iPod Touch since you can’t always depend on reliable WiFi access everywhere. So as long as I kept it synced there would always be something to read when I had some time.
Reading in an RSS feed reader or a web browser can be a good experience, but the nature of reading on a laptop means that you can be distracted by other things. Jumping around between different things isn’t conducive to long-form reading, so changing modes to an iPhone or iPad can make a big difference. Switching modes makes it more fun and more casual. It’s closer to the mode of a book or a magazine. What you’re reading is the only thing on the screen so it allows you to disappear into the writing and that’s a very good thing.
Instapaper also plays very well with others. The basic sharing functions are usually mailing something to someone, but within Instapaper there are many possibilities for all sorts of workflows. Wherever I see something online now if it’s longer or if I don’t have time to read it, I’ll Instapaper it. (If something becomes a verb it’s a very good sign.) It’s easy to get things into it and it’s really easy to get things out of it as well. There are buttons for sharing in ways that I use often. The basic method is to email something, but that only scratches the surface. I can select a few sentences and post them as a quote to my tumblelog on Tumblr (or send it to the Tumblr app). I can send it out to Twitter with Twitterrific or Birdhouse. I can bookmark it on Pinboard (or have it automatically added to Pinboard) or I can add something as an OmniFocus task.
Now most of my online reading happens through Instapaper or through things saved there. It’s powerful, subtle and essential for me. It’s like a customized version of the web that always provides interesting things to read.