Monthly Archives: October 2010

Excellent Things: Instapaper and Longform.Org

A while ago, Steve started an Excellent Things meme that I never got around to participating in.  So, here goes.

I discovered, almost by accident, that long form journalism may be my favorite genre. It was some combination of DFW essays and a subscription to The Atlantic that brought the realization. And that makes longform.org, a curated blog/tumblr-type thingy of links to such stories, just about the best thing ever. In fact, I’m slightly embarrassed to say that I’m thinking about dropping my subscription to The Atlantic. I’m getting much more variety of sources from longform.org, I’m still picking up the most important pieces from The Atlantic, and I’m not supporting the creation of another horrific Hanna Rosen train wreck. (My embarrassment comes from the fact that, with the notable exception of Ms. Rosen, I’d like to support the continued creation of long form pieces like those showcased by The Atlantic.) I’m working my way through the Editor’s Picks from longform.org and: Wow. Just. So. Great.

But the thing that makes this reading possible is Instapaper on my iPhone and iPad. Instapaper is an app that lets you grab stories from the web to read later. You install a Javascript bookmarklet in your web browsers, and hit it when you want to save something for later. The Instapaper web service strips the text (and key images, usually) from the page and stores it in your account. The next time you start up the Instapaper app, it automagically syncs with your account, making the text available to read, online or off. I while away the hours rocking the baby by reading stories in Instapaper. I’m reading more non-work text than I have in years.

And it’s worth noting that, for me, these two excellent things are much more than the sum of their parts. I was using Instapaper before I discovered longform.org, but I was only using it sporadically, when I would come across a link that I just didn’t have time to read right then. And if I had discovered longform.org without a tool to help me make my way through the articles, then I might have ignored it as just another firehose of interesting stuff that I don’t have time to read. But together? Totally excellent.