Instapaper: A Blog Reader’s Killer Service

Any power user or RSS lover that reads a lot of Mac-centric blogs may have heard of Instapaper which is most easily defined as “A simple tool to save web pages for reading later.” After only four days, I’m completely convinced that this is not a tool I could live without.

Instapaper’s success is mostly due to the ease of getting content into it. I can send items to Instapaper via a bookmarklet, Chrome Extension, Firefox Extension, NetNewsWire and even my iPhone’s Twitter client. Saving any webpage to Instapaper takes two seconds on a 3G connection and I can read the full webpage (text & images only) on my iPad later.

It’s difficult to write about Instapaper without sounding like a total fanboy, but it’s really incredible. It’s probably a good idea to explain how I use Instapaper throughout the day as part of my workflow. First, the app costs $4.99 as a universal app, which means you pay one price and it runs natively on both iPad and iPhone. This is a big deal as most developers will penalize or capitalize on users who own more than one type of device, but the developer feels $4.99 per user is a good price to pay. Of course, Instapaper is also web-based so, if you have an iPad with both Wi-Fi and 3G, the price of entry is free, but you won’t get the experience that’s offered from a native app.

My Instapaper Routine

I wake up at 7AM and grab my iPad and open my RSS app of choice, which at this time is Reeder. I expand the folder called “Tech News” and because a few of my favorite blogs truncate their feeds (only showing the first two lines of each post), I click on the ones that interest me and then click “Read it Later” and a small window shows up that says, “Sending to Instapaper” and after a second it’s done. I do this for about 45 items in the morning and especially for those feeds that are truncated. When in a rush, I’ll skip the iPad ritual and sit down at my iMac, open NetNewsWire and select a feed that’s also preview only and click Option+P and the post sends to Instapaper. The result is fast and painless…if only I could do this in batches by selecting multiple posts and sending them all to Instapaper.

Just before heading out to catch the bus, I open the Instapaper app on both my iPad and iPhone and in under a minute, all posts have downloaded to the device ready to be viewed on the bus, subway and train that I take to get to my work 20 miles south of San Francisco. Instapaper caches the text and images and sometimes advertisements (but not always) of every post I’ve marked to read later.

While on my way to work, I can click on a post, view it in portrait or landscape mode and adjust the font type, size and brightness to meet my preference. When the train goes in a tunnel, I can switch the text to white on black as to not disturb people sitting next to me with the ultra bright display. Once I arrive at work, I hit the sync button in Instapaper to make sure the cloud is up to date with what I’ve read, archived and even where I left off on an article prior to closing the app when I arrive at the office.

Instapaper stays in sync across all devices and with the website which makes consuming news on my time so much easier as it’s like a DVR for news reading and because the data is cached. It works great with my iPad Wi-Fi as I only have an Internet connection at home, work and sometimes at Starbucks where I stop to get a coffee before boarding the train.

During the Day

At work, I don’t have the luxury of slacking off and reading RSS feeds (which I subscribe to over 70 of). Instead, I see links posted in tweets by friends, articles in my RSS feed and miscellaneous stories or posts that I want to read where before I’d have to bookmark in Safari can finally be marked as “Read it Later” and available on my iPad for the commute home. I find myself really reading more content more attentively since I’m not rushing through a post in an effort to avoid getting caught slacking off by my boss and things I’d skip because they were too long fit perfectly in the long commute. The only downfall is that I might rush to catch the train home and forget to sync the iPad with Instapaper and I’m stuck with a blank screen for that long ride home. Oh well, there’s always a book waiting for me in iBooks.

Even for people who don’t have a long commute, Instapaper allows your to save posts just as I have and read those on your lunch break or at night before bed. Instead of emailing URLs to yourself or bookmarking them, you’re just opening Instapaper and reading clear crisp text content with no other web ads or ultra distracting elements like navigation bars or comments to distract you. From Instapaper, you can click a button and view the full article in the built-in web browser if you’re connected to the Internet.

Of course, if you like commenting on blogs, Instapaper isn’t for you. It’s just reading and it’s the best way to read blogs on the go and a perfect example of how good cloud based services can be if executed properly. If only Apple could manage iOS documents and other data using such a perfect way as Instapaper does, we’d be much happier mobile users. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a few unread posts to read from today that I must read.