Curate your summer reading

Summer has kicked into high gear here in the northern hemisphere and this is when I like to retreat from the heat with a proverbial good book — but certainly not a “book” as my great-grandparents would have described one. Today, there are apps and devices that let you curate your summer reading from varied online resources and onto hand-held devices. With a little bit of time, an Internet connection and some free software, you can create your own digital reading experience and bring it to the beach, the hotel or even your favorite quiet corner of home.

Below, I’ve described several services that allow you to save or bookmark online articles for later reading. Once captured with the various apps, the articles are presented beautifully and legibly, as if you’re reading a digital book or magazine. Advertisements are stripped out, as are distracting sidebar ads and colors. You’re left with a great-looking and largely distraction-free reading experience. Best of all, these services are free and work on a variety of platforms, from iPads to Android devices to Nooks and Kindles.

Pocket

Online: getpocket.com
Cost: Free
Compatibility: iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, some Android devices, Amazon Kindle Fire, various web browsers

The web service Read It Later was recently re-branded as Pocket. Once you’ve created a free account online, you can add a special bookmarklet to your web browser. Then, when you come across an article you’d like to read later, simply click the bookmarklet. A small window will appear confirming that the story has been saved to your Pocket account. You can further organize things with tags at that point. For example, “beach reading,” “research” or “kids.”

When you’re out with your mobile device, launch Pocket and you’ll find all of the articles you’ve saved. Some of Pocket’s useful features let you browse articles by tag, add a star to favorites and view videos and images you’ve saved in addition to articles.

Readability

Online: readability.com
Cost: Free
Compatibility: iPhone, iPad, some Android devices, Amazon Kindle, Nook Tablet, various web browsers

Readability works much like Pocket. Create a free account, install the bookmarklet in your browser and send articles to your mobile device. There are important differences, though. For starters, Readability’s bookmarklet is much more robust. You can opt to read an article right then if you like, and Readability with present it in a beautiful, distraction-free layout. You can also send it to your Kindle or Nook Tablet with a click. Once you’ve synced your devices, you can access your reading list when offline.

Instapaper

Online: instapaper.com
Cost: Free with optional subscription plan
Compatibility: iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, some Android devices, Amazon Kindle and Fire, Nook Color and Nook Tablet, various web browsers

Instapaper is among the first of these distraction-free reading services. Today it’s available on a huge number of devices and supported by a passionate developer and legions of fans. The iPhone and iPad version has some unique features, like tilt scrolling. This lets you scroll through a long article simply by tipping your device back and forth. There’s no need to swipe with a finger.

You’ll also find lots of layout customization options, like font size, several color schemes, spacing and brightness. After a minute or so of fiddling, you can get Instapaper’s articles to look just how you’d like.

Flipboard

Online: flipboard.com
Cost: Free
Compatibility: iPad, iPhone, iPod touch and Android

Flipboard is unique in that you don’t add content to it. Instead, you tell Flipboard what to find for you. It will search the web for stories, photos and videos across several categories, including sports, technology, travel, photography, news, music, film and so much more. It will even pull content (articles your friends have linked to) from your Twitter and Facebook accounts, presenting all of it in a beautiful layout that’s reminiscent of a high-end design magazine. You can even add local news and your favorite RSS feeds. It’s such a great-looking app and has become my favorite way to browse Facebook.

There you have four services that will let you curate your summer reading, across several devices. Now start collecting, get reading, and enjoy these lovely, lazy days.

9 Comments for “Curate your summer reading”

  1. posted by Jess on

    It sounds like Instapaper, Readability and Pocket are all very similar; what’s the key feature that distinguishes each? Or does it really not matter which we choose?

  2. posted by Amy on

    I’ve been cutting down the number of apps i access to read stuff. If i want to save it for later I put it in Evernote (articles and pdfs). Otherwise, I use Google reader (for feeds) and Kindle (for books)

  3. posted by Maggie on

    I agree with Amy on the number of apps. They are super distracting. It makes you want to access them all.
    Although, I use evernote for my articles/notes, pocket for my offline articles and I am still on the lookout for a good rss-reader for my ipad. Right now I use mobileRSS.
    For reading I use iBooks. It’s a lovely app.

  4. posted by Jonathan Harford on

    Spool (getspool.com) is inferior in most respects, except that it also works on (uh, some) videos.

  5. posted by Karyn on

    For my summer reading, I bought a bunch of good old-fashioned paperback books–everything from historical fiction to farcical comedy of manners–at a used book sale during our local Pride celebration. :-) E-reading is convenient, but it will never replace the feel of a real book in my hands.

  6. posted by Woo on

    You can try the read_later services for yourself but for me Instapaper is the winner. The site works transparently and the iPhone/iPad app is excellent ($2.99).

    Both Readability and Instapaper also offer free bookmarklets to give you distraction-free reading while on any webpage. If you’re on a news site, for example, just click the intalled bookmarklet and you get refotmatted text with all the other columns and ads hidden.

  7. posted by Dora on

    I just tried Readability to send articles directly to my Kindle and loved it. I was not aware that these kind of apps existed, to be honest. Thanks!

  8. posted by Jimena on

    I’m on a round-the-world trip, and I often need to access information when I don’t have an internet connection (reading about the upcoming city while riding the bus). I checked your list, but none of the apps you mentioned work for a laptop, only for mobile devices. I researched for many many days, trying to find a simple way to save websites to a computer, not just RSS feeds (RSSbandit).
    after a LOT of work and frustration, I found an app for Firefox (even though I prefer chrome) called Scrapbook. It works well, I can save an entire wepbage, even follow a few links for connected articles. I was even able to save the reference folder into my dropbox, so my travel partner and I can easily share data across our netbooks.
    this system too me a LOT of research and heartache for something that should be so simple! I’m hoping to share the info with other people and save them some work.
    cheers from India!

  9. posted by Baer Bradford on

    You should take a look at Feedly if you already use Google Reader, it curates the data for you really well.

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