Resources for Reading Online Content

I’ve recently started a program that involves a lot of online reading. I deeply dislike reading in a web browser. Here’s what I do when I have a lot of web-based reading to do.

The Problem

Reading in a web browser is a pain. There are ads, popups, sidebars, and a whole list of other things that take away from the content itself. It’s also an inflexible format as far as the reader’s ability to customize the reading experience.

My Solution

Use a service like Instapaper or Pocket to save the articles. This has several advantages:

  • Articles are available offline
  • Articles can be read on a computer, phone, or tablet
  • Only the article content is saved, so there’s no sidebar content or other elements of the webpage to distract or take up space on the screen
  • Text size and color scheme is easily adjustable
  • You can highlight and take notes as you read

Both Instapaper and Pocket have free and paid versions. The features they offer in the paid tier can be nice, but they aren’t necessary if you simply want to gather your reading materials one place and keep track of them. I’ve been using Instapaper for quite a few years so that’s my first choice, but Pocket seems to be a good piece of software too. (I have no formal relationship with either service.)

Instapaper -
Pocket -

A Quick How To

After you create an account with one of these services, the first thing you should do is install their browser extension or bookmarklet. This gives you a button that you can click to save an article to your account.

How to save to Instapaper -
How to save to Pocket -

I open all of the articles I need to read in different browser tabs. Then I go to each tab and click the Instapaper extension so that the article will be saved to my Instapaper account. I then go to Instapaper and double check that all the articles appear there. My last step is creating a folder in Instapaper so I can put all the articles together. (This is optional but helps me keep organized.)

I prefer reading on a tablet or phone to reading on a computer. The mobile apps for both services are very good and give a nice environment for reading.

Other Alternatives

If you use Safari, either on an iPhone, iPad, or browser on a computer, you can use the Reading List function. It’s similar to Instapaper or Pocket, though with fewer features.

If you want to print articles or save as a PDF, try the Mercury Reader Chrome extension first - This gives you a clean version of the article without any sidebar, ads, or other distractions. You can then print or save as a PDF. This is also a nicer way to read articles in your browser. If you’re on Safari there’s a built in version of this called Reader View.

Reading Digital Content on Analog Medium

I love to read blogs. There are so many amazing resources available online on so many topics. When I decided to cut back my device time as much as possible, this was the first thing I missed. I wanted the knowledge available on websites, but available to read in a non-screen medium.

The simplest solution is to print everything. I don’t want to do that. It’s cost prohibitive in the long term and very wasteful.

I dug out my scarred but still functional Kindle Keyboard. This old war horse has been with me a long time. It doesn’t have a backlight or a touchscreen. This is probably as close to paper as I can get without paper.

Next I needed to figure out how to get blog content on the Kindle in a sane way. I know there are browser extensions to send web pages to Kindle. If this were just for a few articles that would work. However, I read a lot. My Kindle would quickly be full of individual articles, making books difficult to find on it.

The workflow I landed on has three steps.

Find Content

I use the RSS feed service Feedly to bring in content from the blogs I like. I’ve never needed anything beyond Feedly’s free tier. I skim through and anything I see that looks worth a read is sent to Instapaper.

Compile Content

Instapaper has been around a long time. It’s a nice way to collect articles and gives options for tagging, searching, and taking notes. I use Instapaper’s “Send to Kindle” feature to compile all the articles from Feedly into an ebook and send to my Kindle once per day. This is a feature of Instapaper Premium which costs $2.99/month.

There are several settings you can use to control the amount of articles sent to Kindle. I set the minimum size to 10 articles. If there are fewer than than in Instapaper they won’t be sent. Instapaper has nice browser extensions so you can add interesting articles to your feed as well.

Each morning I go into Instapaper and archive the articles that have been sent to Kindle. I’ve adjusted the send to Kindle settings a few times to get them dialed in. I love that Instapaper compiles articles into a book that has navigation shortcuts like commercial ebooks have, with a table of contents and the ability to skip between articles using the buttons on the Kindle.

Reading Content

This is the fun part. :) Each digest of articles sent from Instapaper is dated. This is helpful so you can tell them apart. Amazon sees these as personal documents. If you’re familiar with the way Kindles handle content that will help you find the digests on if you ever need to. On the Kindle I delete each digest after reading it. This keeps things uncluttered. If I ever want to go back and redownload it’s available in the Personal Documents section of my Amazon account. All articles are available in my Instapaper account as well in the Archive section.

There are other methods to do this. Calibre, the free ebook software, has an RSS feed feature and a way to send content to Kindles. Pocket also has a similar “send to Kindle” function. I’ve used Instapaper for many years and enjoy their app design so that’s what I went with.