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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We wrote about the Kindle when it was first released back in November of last year. Upon its release, Amazon underestimated the demand and a waiting list was awaiting customer orders. Amazon has since increased production and the Kindle is now available for immediate shipment.
From Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos:
Ever since we released our wireless reading device Kindle last November, we’ve been unable to keep it in stock, and we’ve had to work hard to increase manufacturing capacity. Today, we’re excited to announce that Kindle is in stock and ready for immediate shipment.
We’ve also been adding selection. Since launch, we’ve added 25,000 additional books, blogs, magazines, and newspapers that you can download wirelessly to your Kindle, bringing the total to more than 115,000.
Go forth and read all the e-books you would like without worrying about bookshelf space.
Since Amazon launched its Kindle e-book reader, I’ve been closely following reviews of the product online. With more than 90,000 titles available for download from Amazon, it seems like a terrific way to keep book clutter out of your home. Except …
… and that’s just it, there is a giant “except” ringing in my mind.
Audio books downloaded onto my iPod seem to make so much more sense to me as a digital version of a book. I already carry my iPod with me, and have no desire to tote around an additional device. With an audio file on my iPod, I can “read” while I’m driving or doing something else, and there isn’t a book cluttering up my shelves at home. E-book readers have to be held while reading, are larger than an iPod, and have only a little more functionality than a regular book. If I’m going to have a digital form of a book, I prefer the audio form. This just seems to me to be a way for Amazon to skip out on the costs associated with storing and shipping products since the e-books are downloaded (in a proprietary format) from their site.
The Kindle device costs $400 and is not currently available for purchase because of high demand. Average book download price for the Kindle e-book device is $10, which is comparable to all of the Audible plans for audio books.
Two of the reviews I keep re-reading about Kindle are from Scobleizer and Management Craft. I think they say a great deal about the product, so I suggest reading them to help formulate your own opinion:
Scobleizer’s one-week Kindle review
Do any of our readers have the Kindle device yet? Have you used any of the hacks to get it to read other non-Amazon e-book files? Please chime in to the comments section to let us know of your personal experience. I’m interested in knowing if my hesitations are way off base.