Instapaper: The Key to Reading Websites on the Kindle

Why, then the world’s mine oyster,
Which I with Kindle will open.
((With apologies to Shakespeare, The Merry Wives of Windsor, 2.2.3-4, Pistol to Falstaff.))

My Kindle is many things: a library, a blog reader, a literary critique aide, and a pre-paid minute-by-minute hit of Twitter. ((Through the mobile interface of Twitter, , which works well with the Kindle’s web browser.))

One thing it is not, however, is a great browser for the web in general. The refresh rates for the very readable electronic paper, used by the Kindle and Sony Reader, are still too low for interaction with the web. You aren’t going to see videos and you won’t be playing games, and you need much patience to load many sites since most of them aren’t considerate enough to provide mobile interfaces—including this one (and that’s a little sad, which is why I’m thinking of reloading the current theme ((Spontaneous Derivation (20081011).png)) to be something rather simpler).

However, given that the Kindle is really for reading and not so much for browsing, I haven’t minded. But I much prefer to read on my Kindle than the screen, if only because I don’t feel like stabbing my eyes out after hours of intense reading.

Enter Instapaper, whose default interface is already geared towards mobile browsers.

On Instapaper

Instapaper (20081011).png

Instapaper is different kind of bookmarking service. It neither stores bookmarks efficiently/indefinitely, like; and neither is it socially-orientated, like StumbleUpon. Instead, it keeps track of sites you’d like to read later and, when you’ve later read it, marks it off as read.

Instapaper U (20081011).png

There’s a Read Later shortcut bookmarklet you can use so that a simple click will send the current website you’re looking at to your Instapaper inbox. The bookmarklet supports most modern browsers including the Big Three—Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Safari.

While I’m browsing the web—doing interactive stuff, Stumbling, commenting on blogs, and mucking around with my website—if I run across something that merits in-depth reading, I send it to Instapaper. Many sites, especially news sites, including a “print” link to a printer-friendly version of the article, which also happens to be mobile-friendly. That’s what I send to Instapaper whenever possible. ((Spontaneous Derivation has such a link at the bottom of every article or page. It’s infinitely better than simply providing a print media stylesheet, since the browser doesn’t have to download the HTML code for all those columns, rows, ads, special widgets, Javascript, and other junk that isn’t going to appear. This matters over a mobile data plan—or a slow e-paper interface.))

You can’t always use that print link however. There’s currently a small trend to restrict print-friendly pages to the web via Javascript—keeping up the website and ad views at the cost of the user experience. That’s what Instapaper’s Text link at the side of each article is for; it renders a text-only version for you.


Sometimes you’ll accidentally click on something you didn’t want to read just yet, or the Text link will have a temporary hiccup; Instapaper keeps an archive of what you’ve read at the bottom of the page:


Instapaper, of course, can also be used for your normal browsing experience.

Instapaper on the Kindle

And now, a gallery of using Instapaper in the Kindle’s web browser.

instapaper-home.gif Instapaper home on the Kindle. For a faster experience, I turn off images. They aren’t going to matter most of the time, unless you’re looking at really depressing stock market graphs. Which I could do without.

new-york-times-print.gifThe New York Times lets you access the print versions of their articles from anywhere, and it’s fairly nice.

textified-538.gif Most blogs don’t have entry print versions, so I use Instapaper’s Text link instead. It does quite well, although I’m starting to really hate websites that think that using “font-size: 75%;” as the default text size is a good idea.

538-no-textify.gif The same site without the benefit of Instapaper’s text-ifying. Also takes minutes to load, even without images. In the end, the thing is also 200 Kindle screens long

Instapaper and Kindle: I Wouldn’t Survive Election ’08 Without Them

  1. I really do love virtual train wrecks.
  2. Nothing is boring when you can watch the slapfight between the pundit blogs afterwards.
  3. There’s also nothing like watching shared misery across hundreds of websites, even if you are also one of the miserable.

And now, if you’ll pardon me, I’ve got a lot of reading to do….