Instapaper iconNear the top of my essential apps list (and I’m using this in the broadest sense of applications that run on PC and Mac OS X platforms, the iPad and iPhone) is Instapaper.

What is Instapaper?  It is a free app/service for web browsers ($4.99 for iPad/iPhone) that allows you to send the text of whatever web page, blog post, e-newspaper article, e-whatever to a server, where it is stored until you want to read it later.  The ads are stripped out, though it preserves article graphics, and it is reformatted beautifully.

To use Instapaper create an account at, install the Read it later link in your browser and in Safari on your iPad or iPhone (the installation of the bookmark on these platforms is a little arcane, but the instapaper help files do a good job of walking you through it) and then just click Read it later… to save the article to your Instapaper account.  Later on you simply login to your Instapaper account and read the articles you did not have time or the inclination to read.  You can also add the Instapaper send features to Google Reader and even connect your articles at Instapaper to your Kindle for consumption.

Consuming Instapaper content in your browser amounts to little more than revisiting the site where the article resides, but on the iPad it is spectacular.  The text is download and reflowed for beautiful formatting, and built-in controls allow for font family, size, spacing, margins spacing, and brightness controls.  Links within articles are preserved, and articles can be marked as favorites, deleted, shared or printed.  From your master list of articles you are allowed to create folders in which to organize them, archive them, or disseminate them to your friends or social sharing services.

Instapaper Font Controls

You often hear people say “I didn’t have time to read it…” when what they really mean is that among the thousands of articles and information sources we are exposed to in our daily lives on the Internet they were not willing to commit the time to read something  long or the least bit complex because it would have robbed them of time to read the remainder of the wide array of materials they need to get through.  Instapaper solves this problem by making these longer form, more complex articles available later.  You will still hear people say that they didn’t have time, but we all have the same amount of time.  Bringing your attention to bear on what you need to read when you do have the time is the key, and that’s where Instapaper comes in.  It allows you to read on your iPad, phone or laptop while standing in lines, in lobbies, on buses, trains, wherever.  It expands your time horizon, to put it grandly.

To store resources for a research project I would not recommend Instapaper.  I would recommend Evernote and Zotero.  But for managing the vast amounts of reading we must do each day, Instapaper is great.