13 June 2010

Reading on the iPad

I'm finding that the two most useful applications on my iPad are Instapaper and GoodReader.

Instapaper is a service for reading long articles published on the web. There's a little javascript link that you can bookmark in your browser that tells the Instapaper service that you want to read the article. The service then intelligently extracts the article content out from the navigation, advertisements, and other cruft, and makes that content available in a standard, readable format at InstaPaper.com and on your iPhone and iPad.

Over the past several years I've read more and more long-form stuff on the web, and it's always been a pain: often the articles are published in poorly readable formats, and more significantly if you find something you really want to read, you have to either read it right when you find it or keep track of the link to find it later. With Instapaper, I can find something interesting, hit the link to tuck it away for later, and know that I will read it eventually.

GoodReader is a PDF reader, and it has completely changed my relationship to PDFs. It used to be if there was something I wanted to read that was published as a PDF, I resented it: it meant either reading from a computer screen or printing it out and schlepping around the printout. This has deterred me from reading a lot of stuff. Now, I'm delighted when something is published as a PDF, because it means that I can get it immediately and I'll have it with me to read at my convenience.

Since I bring my iPad with me almost everywhere, with these two apps I know that even if I cannot connect to the internet, I always have a wide variety of interesting things to read: long and short, light and serious, improving and entertaining. Since I'm about to transition into a more public-transit-intensive lifestyle, this is a godsend.

Both applications include a simple foldering system for organizing your stuff, and after a little experimentation I've converged on a satisfying set of folders that I use for both:

  • Art
  • Big ideas
  • Design
  • Games
  • Kulturkampf
  • Occult
  • Popkultur
  • Public interest
  • Technoscience
  • Weirdness

I'm almost embarrassed by how much I enjoy looking at that list.

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