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How Instapaper Ruined Me as a Reader

By Stephen Silver | for Entertainment Tell [1]

[2]I used to read books and magazines. Really, I did. I’ve subscribed to Sports Illustrated for as long as I’ve known how to read, and prided myself for most of my life on how many books I could read, and on how full my bookshelf was. Heck,  I even used to read a newspaper on a semi-regular basis.

Thanks to the digital revolution, sadly, those days are over in my house. Downstairs, I’ve got a stack of magazines eight inches high; upstairs, my stack of unread books is taller than both of my children.

No, I haven’t switched to an e-reader. I used a Kindle for awhile, but it didn’t take. And while I’ve read the occasional book and magazine issue on my iPad, that’s not really my favorite thing to do either.

So what happened? Instapaper [3] happened.

In case you’re not familiar, Instapaper is a cloud-based service and mobile app. If you’re reading something in the browser on your computer, or even on your smartphone or tablet, simply click the “Read Later” button, and the article saves to your Instapaper account. You can even save articles people have linked to from Twitter and Facebook, which I do often.

As an editor of multiple websites and a relatively busy writer, much of the reading I do is geared towards either coming up with content ideas or reading up on background information. To that end, each day I do two or three sweeps through my Google Reader [4] account, which has a few hundred RSS feeds. When I come across things I don’t have time to read right away, I save them to the Instapaper app, which I can access on my iPhone or iPad.

Right now, my unread articles on Instapaper go eight pages deep, with 30 articles per page; the oldest article is from about six days ago. And it’s been worse than that in the past.

Between work responsibilities and two young kids, I don’t have as much time for recreational reading as I once did. But what often ends up happening is this: When I have extra time, I’m spending a lot of it reading those articles on Instapaper. Which means my books and magazines gather dust.

If I have a half-hour before bed in which to read, my choice is often “start reading book that’s been sitting on my nightstand for weeks;” “get started on one of those five unread New Yorker issues;” or “knock out a few things from the top of my Instapaper queue.” Once in a while I’ll proclaim a “no computer night,” and use that to catch up on books and magazines. But I don’t usually make much of a dent.

Of course, I realize having too many things to read is far from being the worst problem in the world to have. In fact, this column reads like it’s tailor-made for the “white people problems [5]” hashtag. But if you’re wondering why I have a stack of books next to my dresser as tall as the dresser itself, this is why.  At least my kids like to read books. My older son riffs through magazines all the time. But of course, he loves the iPad, too.

It’s not that I don’t recommend Instapaper; other than email and maybe Facebook, it’s the mobile app I use the most. Just don’t expect to stay caught up with your paper reading once you start using it.

2 Comments (Open | Close)

2 Comments To "How Instapaper Ruined Me as a Reader"

#1 Comment By RockDaMan On November 27, 2012 @ 6:28 pm

I am completely and totally in love with Instapaper.

At one time my queue was like yours, absolutely overflowing and out of control. I ‘declared bankruptcy’ one day by buzzing through it and deleting everything out of it.

From now on, no new articles go into it unless they are 1. long-form and 2. time-resistant (I sometimes fall weeks behind) and 3. I’ve read the first several paragraphs first and feel a really strong desire to keep on reading. If it looks interesting, but I can’t be bothered to read 3 or 4 paragraphs right then, I figure I’m not really ‘feeling’ it and move on.

I also never let my collection go beyond the first page, which is twenty articles, and I usually start trimming when it gets to 10 or 12. Remember: those articles are still out there on the web…you can always go back and get them again if you change your mind, I never do because there’s always too much new stuff being written.

Nowadays when I open Instapaper and skim my to-be-read list I feel really drawn to the material there, not overwhelmed. I look forward to yanking out my Nexus 7 or downloading a few to my Kindle to get caught up.

Current in my queue:

The Grandmaster Experiment by Carlin Flora
The Hunt For “Geronimo” by By Mark Bowden
The Boy They Couldn’t Kill by THOMAS LAKE
Secret of AA: After 75 Years, We Don’t Know How It Works By Brendan I. Koerner

#2 Comment By RockDaMan On November 29, 2012 @ 12:06 pm

Just added this one to the pile. Looks fascinating!


The hook:

“Plainly speaking, it refused to die. It appeared to age in reverse, growing younger and younger until it reached its earliest stage of development, at which point it began its life cycle anew.

Sommer was baffled by this development but didn’t immediately grasp its significance. (It was nearly a decade before the word “immortal” was first used to describe the species.) But several biologists in Genoa, fascinated by Sommer’s finding, continued to study the species, and in 1996 they published a paper called “Reversing the Life Cycle.” The scientists described how the species – at any stage of its development – could transform itself back to a polyp, the organism’s earliest stage of life, “thus escaping death and achieving potential immortality.” This finding appeared to debunk the most fundamental law of the natural world – you are born, and then you die.”