A few months ago when I got the iPhone, I was amazed at how much reading I could get done on long commutes with the device. Usually, I’d fire up Techmeme or Google Reader and read through everything from gossip rags to whole NYT fluff pieces — something I could never get done on my laptop because of my developed skimming habits and short attention span while at the desk.
I decided to transfer much of my laptop skimming into a “to-read” list I setup using Google Bookmarks (set as my iPhone homepage), so that everytime I wanted to add something to the list I’d do so by clicking the “Read” bookmarklet, and every chance I got with the iPhone was spent getting through the list. The process was far from efficient, but it did the job. And now Instapaper, a pet project by Marco Arment, takes this exact idea — what I’ve been doing with Google Bookmarks for the last few months — and transforms it into a simple, focused, practical, usable, and pure genius of a product.
You’ve probably grasped the idea by now, and if you haven’t, you might as well go ahead and try it anyway because of how damn simple it is. You sign up, drag the bookmarklet into your toolbar, and everytime you want to add something to your reading list, you click it. Painlessly, a window saying “success” pops up and disappers. Now, when you want to come back to the reading list (or go to it on your iPhone/other device), point your browser to http://www.instapaper.com/u and go through it. Each time you click a link, it marks it as read (which you can mark back). You can also skip, edit, and delete any link.
If you haven’t noticed, this is the exact product I was after a few months ago, and had to settle for Google Bookmarks (because delicious seemed a little too overkill.) You can argue how much of a niche idea it is and how many little users it’s going to have in the next six months, but having used it for the past couple days I have to say it’s made my life significantly better. When a mere pet project, a neat tool, a weekend hack-job, has this kind of an effect on you, this is when your hope in good ideas and products boosts ten-fold. Keep ’em coming, you neat innovators.