Posted on Oct 26, 2010

Kindle and Instapaper Review

Amazon Kindle with Instapaper on the screen

I’ve had the new Amazon Kindle in my possession for over a month now and have still managed not to spend a cent on ebooks or any other content, yet I use it every day. Initially I had signed up to the Irish Times subscription free trial, but quickly realised that paying €16 per month for content that was free online was a little silly.

Thanks to the online application Instapaper (works in your browser via a bookmarklet – even works with Safari for iPhone and the Twitter for iPhone app) instead I am able to queue up articles I wish to read later in a Kindle friendly format. This applies to all the online content I come across and many of the industry specific blogs I am subscribed to publish very long articles that I usually don’t have time to read during the work day (or go cross eyed trying to read them on my computer screen).

Instapaper on the Amazon KindleThe Kindle friendly file you end up with is split into sections (one for each article) and can even handle images, and hyperlinks – so if you’re reading an article that mentions a secondary associated article you can click that link and the Kindle browser will open, you can even switch to “Article Mode” in this browser, and the Kindle will autofocus on the text content for you. Though I’m certainly not blown away by the “experimental” browser, it’s obvious that surfing the web is not something the Kindle was designed for.

With Instapaper I queue up blog posts, newspaper articles and more and then at the end of the day (or sometimes at lunchtime) I download the Kindle friendly file, transfer it to the Kindle using the USB cable and then have a great read, with no distractions, almost like having a highly personalised magazine in front of me. Admittedly it’s very relaxing, and I have no desire to tweet or check my email, so I’m not skimming anymore, instead I absorb the information I’m reading and feel like I’m really getting worth out of the content and not wasting my time.

Kindle vs iPad?

I’m doubtful it would be the same experience with something like the iPad, because reading on the Kindle is an absolute pleasure. I certainly don’t get as tired as quickly when reading on the Kindle in comparison to trying to read a long document on the iPhone or laptop. However, for those of you without a Kindle but with an iPhone there is the Instapaper app for iPhone which makes reading on your iPhone screen that much easier, there is an iPad version of Instapaper too, but I’ll be sticking to my Kindle!

The e-ink screen on the Kindle is incredibly close to reading on paper, but the key factor in how good the Kindle is to read on is the fact that it’s not backlit, so there is no glare when the sun shines on the screen and it won’t keep you awake at night. I’ve written here before about how the bright light of electronic screens suppresses the production of our sleep hormone melatonin, thus making them unsuitable for bedtime use. The readability of the Kindle in low lighting is comparable to that of a paper book, you will certainly need a book light if you plan on reading in low light, but this is preferable to the inability to sleep after using one.

The other great thing about the Kindle is how it’s cut down on paper/printing costs, instead of printing out long drafts of work documents they’re read on the Kindle and I write my feedback into my moleskin. Overall, I feel that it has increased my productivity and I’ve even started reading for pleasure again, by picking up a number of free classic books in ebook format via the Free eBooks by Project Gutenberg website.

Instapaper - Marco Arment


  • Niall says:

    How bad is it that I hit Instapaper’s Read Later in my browser before I even glanced at the content?

    I use IP all the time with my iPad and I find it really useful. The screen can get a little tiresome but the way I read (in bite-size chucks) means that I’m never affected by it. Still if it works well with a Kindle that might be a better way forward…

  • Sinéad says:

    I do exactly the same thing, I click “read later” the second I realise I’ve stumbled upon a piece of content that would be more worthwhile sitting down and concentrating on fully.

    Yeah I’ve heard that IP is great with iPhone/iPad too.

  • Matt says:

    I use Instapaper on my iPad, I don’t get tired while doing it though, as you suggest. That said, I don’t read it in bed, for the reason you say, that backlit screen isn’t great to read before you go to sleep.

    I don’t know why Instapaper doesn’t have one of those “cheaty” brightness controls like the Amazon Kindle app does. It’s easy to read the Kindle app in bed as a result.

    Can you access the Instapaper site from the Kindle? All that downloading and USB palaver seems like a bit of a pain.

  • I love Instapaper, on my Mac (bookmarklet for quickly sending stuff to my reading list), my iPhone (reading on the go) and iPad (my favourite environment for reading Instapaper).

    I don’t have the new Kindle, looks great though and I’d be tempted, even though I have an iPad, but I must be sensible!
    Instapaper & Kindle looks like a great combination.

    Reading on the iPhone will do at a pinch, but Instapaper on iPad is excellent. I don’t find the bright screen a problem, as Instapaper app seems to tone down the paper white somewhat. If you wish you can also reverse the paper/ink tones, so you have white text out of black – I have my iPad Kindle app set this way & find it much easier on my eyes.
    There are many blogs and sites that I actually prefer to read on Instapaper/iPad – it’s such a great app.
    Also a huge fan of Marco’s other work, Tumblr


  • Sinéad says:

    @Matt You can view a text only version of the articles you’ve queued to read later, but they don’t look as good. You can also set it up so it delivers via Kindle automatic wireless delivery.

    @David I had no idea about being able to reverse the paper/ink tones on the iPhone/iPad app – that’s very nifty. I also had no idea that Marco had been involved with Tumblr, I’ve been playing around with that myself, is a great way to share links.

  • Nice review. I love mine more and more every single day! I spend way too much time reading crap online so am keeping mine for books only for now as really is the only time I can actually escape the online world!

  • Sinéad says:

    Must agree with you there Niall about it being an escape, I think it’s making me appreciate the simple act of reading offline. Which can only be a good thing.

  • Just another one saying he has no known problem reading on the iPad before bed. I read (Kindle and Instapaper) with white text on black background with the iPad brightness turned right down. Within 5 minutes of putting my head on the pillow I’m asleep and seem to be sleeping fine.

    Then again, I do have a 2 year old so I’ve learned to sleep when the going is good.

  • Think Niall is on to something there – not only do I find reading on a Kindle a nicer experience than an iPad, but it’s a lot more difficult to be distracted – you don’t feel that urge to flick to twitter or check your email.

    I do *love* the Kindle syncing across devices – brilliantly simple.

  • Katie Jobs says:

    I have been so confused with all the new readers on the market like the Nook, Sony Reader and iPad. But after reading this blog and doing some research I think the Kindle is the way to go.