Webwissen Tooltime: Instapaper ❤ Kindle. Reading web articles offline.

I’ve been using this set-up for a few years, but with every holiday and train journey my appreciation for it is renewed. Now with Instapapers recent acquisition by Pinterest, formally premium-only features make it frictionless, free and accessible for all to move articles from the web to your e-reader with a click.


Estimated reading time: 5 minutes.

Laptops, desktops, tablets, mobile phones.. they all encourage skim-reading & an interactive „nonlinear“ experience, completely unconducive to actually reading & digesting content. The backlit blue light LCDs burn out your retinas and we’re usually hunched over these devices at work or on the run, in usually the wrong modus for a deep reading experience to really absorb whats written.

Most of the time, this is fine. Like most average internet users out there, you jump in, read the intro perhaps, scan the sub-headings and bullet points, grab what you need and jump out again. Perfectly suitable for getting a quick news fix or reconnaissance-style information gathering.

This modus doesn’t suit consumption of all types of written online content however. Some of it deserves your full attention, some of it requires contemplation & some of it (like that long-form true crime piece about a guy who digs up a million bucks worth of cocaine) is just bloody long and needs time.
Not matter if its that old Rolling stone interview with Kurt Cobain I never got around to reading, or this creative directors death-bed rant about the advertising industry.; these discoveries get saved with Instapaper, a ‚read it later‘ bookmarking service used to add articles to my collection. The intention is of course to well.. ‚read it later‘. Later, is hopefully going to be in a nice calm & focused place, with plenty of time to kill. But ‚later‘ rarely seemed to arrive, especially not in the same context where these links were being saved. The collection quickly became a stagnant silo, full of gems, but difficult to extract and easily forgotten. Ideally I wanted the articles delivered away from my workplace (& work headspace), in an optimised reading format, and on a device who’s sole intention is to deliver that particular type of content to me. And of course I wouldn’t want to actively do anything to maintain the process myself.

This is where the Kindle (or any other E-Reader for that matter) came in. Like many of you, I like reading on my Kindle, and can do so for hours on end. Its made for reading books. So instead of me being „constantly ejected into a different level of Super Mario Land“ I get the closed and complete format of a book reading experience. Delivered on a naturally lit, no-glare matte e-Ink display contributing to a more healthy, focused and enjoyable reading experience.

These worlds of content and delivery needed marrying up. Wouldn’t it be nice if all those stumbled across articles from the web, arriving at the wrong time and place, were delivered at the right time and place..? On the right device.. And with zero hassle! Thankfully I wasn’t the only one thinking that. Over the past few years the services have indeed been married up nicely and porting your bookmarked Instapaper (or Pocket) articles to your Kindle is a painless ’set-up & forget‘ process.

Instapaper on the Kindle

The Set-up

You’ll need an Instapaper account, the Instapaper bookmarklet and a Kindle with its associated Amazon account.
Of course there are a plethora of other comparable services and devices this is possible with (multiplied times a million via IFTTT), but this is the set-up I can vouch for and its simple.

Instapaper used to have a few limitations on its free account that limited the amount of links that could be imported in one go, but this has thankfully been mostly removed (Limit: 50) thanks to its acquisition by Pinterest in November 2016. Furthermore, a whole bunch of previously premium-only features are now available for everyone at no cost. Notable amongst them are the Text-to-speech and speed-reading features included via its mobile apps (iOS).

Kindles are cheap-as-chips and the set-up is super easy, so I won’t go into details there. But basically Amazon will give you a unique email retrievable in the digital content area of your amazon users settings. Inside ‚Manage your content and devices‘ and ‚Settings‘ you’ll find the email assigned to you and the options to turn on ‚Whisper-sync‘ which will push the content to your Kindle in the background.

With the Amazon Kindle email you can head over to Instapaper.com, input it in the dedicated settings panel and set up digests to be sent to your Kindle at your desired time intervals and so forth.

Instapaper settings

The only remaining step is to install the Instapaper bookmarklet or Chrome extension. That will sit up in your browser bar and all you need to do is give it a click when on the webpage containing your desired ‚read it later‘ article. Like those 10 things you didn’t know about Fleetwood macs ‚Rumours‘ album you couldn’t quite get into in that meeting earlier.

Adding the bookmarklet for your mobile browser is a little more effort, but just go here on mobile and they will explain it step-by-step rather nicely.
Easiest is to just install the free app & then you’ll have it available in your usual share panel, at least on iOS.

From this point, your articles will be collected together into nice little packages of 10, 20 or 50 articles and automatically downloaded to your kindle when it goes online, at the time intervals you’ve set up.
No need to do anything more but have your Kindle connected to your wireless…

And add articles of course!

If you need any help with that, here’s a few links I recommend for long-form. Mostly non-fiction:

  • Blendle – ‚Proper‘ articles from top printed magazines, with recommendations & available online for a few cents each
  • Brainpickings – Article curation from reader, writer, interestingness hunter-gatherer, and curious mind at large, Maria Popova.
  • longreads.com – curating longer non-fiction articles from various sources including ‚The Atlantic‘
  • longform.org – As above, but with some nice filtering options. Both do great ‚Best of‘ lists
  • theguardian.com/ – the long read series – Also has a great long form journalism format thats well worth the time

And of course keep an eye on our blog, and in particular our (erratically updated) Recommended Reading, to stay up to date on articles concerning our services and our take on the digital world. Your German will need to be fairly good though!

Happy reading!

Full disclosure: I am in no way affiliated with the products or services mentioned in this post.

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