I once bought a book called How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading, which I probably found in a recommendations list from HBR or related site which inspired me to pursue literary greatness after reading its seductive title. Alas, I barely made it through the second chapter with my full faculties intact despite the visceral assault of boredom levied upon me. I think it’s time for a chapter to be written for the modern day reader.
The reality is that 90% of my reading is comprised of articles published on the web. Reading a book from beginning to end is a challenging committment. That’s like reading 30 feature-length articles from The New Yorker in succession! I certainly couldn’t pull that Olympian feat off.
If I had to re-write that ill-fated reading excursion to mirror my web reading habits though, this blog post would be it. Enjoy.
Minimize the distractions
When I purchased the Kindle Paperwhite about 2 years ago, it was for one simple reason: my eyesight.
Scrolling ceaselessly through a 30-minute article while gazing upon the harsh display inevitably discouraged me from reading anything longer than a thousand words on my laptop. My eyes strained easily over prolonged periods of onscreen time, despite the introduction of apps like Awareness to remind me periodically to step away from the screen and f.lux to combat late-night eyestrain and curb my poor sleeping habits.
Over time, I’ve discovered one other important reason why I devote the vast majority of my reading on my Kindle: fewer distractions. No more pings, pop-ups, enticing links, fleeting urges easily satiated with a couple taps and keyboard presses. Smartphones are the worst offenders of this which is why I’ve always marveled at people who read entire books on these attention-depriving ghouls.
Bless Amazon though for their shitty built-in “web browser” on the Kindle. It’s so slow and unusable, no wonder they still label it “experimental” (which sounds like something created during a hackathon).
When it was announced in 2013 that Amazon had acquired Goodreads and soon thereafter a software update introducing Goodreads integration for Kindle readers, I had mixed emotions about the latter news. I feared that the sterile, blissful reading experience that I had come to love greatly would somehow be degraded. Alas, my fears were of the ‘Apple is doooomed’ variety, and Amazon delivered another slow and unusable software feature that I’ve yet to revisit since I last deigned a peek when it was released. Bless your noble efforts, Amazon.
Alright, here’s the special sauce to my reading endeavors: Readability.
I use the Readability Chrome extension to send articles I want to read to my Kindle. Using the custom keyboard shortcut Option+K (as in Kindle), articles are sent in seconds to my device. If this isn’t magic, I don’t know what is anymore.
You can also have articles you send to your Kindle be saved to your Readability reading list or archives (I prefer to latter) which makes it easy to search for later if the need ever arises.
Instapaper also offers a similar “Send to Kindle” feature but in the form of a bookmarklet. Their Chrome extension at time of writing only lets you save articles to Instapaper. However, I do use it for one purpose: The New York Times. As a subscriber, it was rather irksome when I discovered that I could not send full articles using Readability (it serves a login page, ie “the paywall”). When I tried the same thing using Instapaper’s bookmarklet, I was able to send the articles without a hitch. Huzzah!
A Kindle Reading Peace of Mind
I’ve barely scratched the surface of how reading on the web can be vastly improved to not only be less distracting but also more efficient and even delightful. If you have any interesting ways you go about reading pixels, share your thoughts in the comments below. I might even read them on my Kindle.