How I Work: Reading and Consumption of Text

I consume a lot of information, much of it in a textual format. News of all sorts, various industry articles, magazine-like content, personal blog posts, and heck even a book now and then.

Here’s how I consume text information.

RSS: Reeder

I’m a heavy user of RSS1 to have news, blog posts, articles, and other content delivered to me. Google Reader serves as my reading hub and main subscription management location (although it’s not how I usually read… more below on that). As of this writing I’m subscribed to 625 RSS feeds.

What’s in my feeds? These sorts of things:

  • News
  • Industry-related articles
  • Personal blogs of interesting people
  • Feeds for interesting Flickr groups
  • Feeds for interesting discussion forums
  • Funny stuff

How do I read RSS? Mainly through the Reeder app. It’s a beautifully-designed feed reader that works great for basic users as well as those who want integration with services such as Instapaper, Pinboard, Delicious, Twitter, Facebook, and more. That’s how I read… I suppose the other question is when I read. The answer is throughout the day whenever I have time. I’ll generally do a big chunk of reading from a computer early in the day, around lunchtime, and in the evening. In between I’ll check headlines on my iPhone or iPad as I have time.

One other RSS tip is to store feeds in folders or collections based on how important they are. I don’t read every feed every day. Heck, there are feeds that I rarely read (but I can if I want to). By storing feeds in a folder structure based on importance I can ensure that I keep up with news, key industry happenings, and the lives of important contacts while allowing other less important things to sometimes go unread for days.

Here are links to get it from iTunes or the Mac app store:

RSS is my method of choice for getting frequent updates, and I will read short articles in Reeder. For longer pieces that will require more reading time (either from Reeder or things that I come across on the web), see the next section, which is aptly titled…

Longer Online Articles: Instapaper

Instapaper is a lovely online service which stores text articles that one wishes to read at a later point in time. A (free) Instapaper account allows one to use the web interface to store articles (either manually or with a bookmarklet) and browse them on the Instapaper website.

While the website is nice (and the web services provide the glue/plumbing), the Instapaper iPad app is lovely and is my preferred method of reading. The app allows for reading in either portrait or landscape orientation and presents the articles in a choice of color schemes. The app also works in offline mode, allow for content to be loaded and then read when disconnected (such as on an airplane or a camping trip). There’s also an iPhone app available which is nice but doesn’t provide quite as great of a reading experience due to the small screen size.

One big feature of Instapaper (regardless of how you read the items) is that text is reformatted for better reading, with extraneous advertising and other distractions removed from the page. Save an article and that’s just what you get: the article without any sidebars or such. It’s awesome.

Download the Instapaper iPad app from iTunes.

Books: Kindle App on iPad or (gasp) Paper

I don’t read a ton of books… maybe one a month on average and they’re almost always nonfiction of some sort. Photography books (where a nice visual image is part of the experience) still get ordered on paper (thank you Amazon Prime) but for everything else I’ll purchase the Kindle version of the book and read it on my iPad.

After Reading Online: Bookmarking with Pinboard

If I read something interesting online and feel that it might be useful reference information for a later date, I’ll save it with Pinboard, my bookmarking service of choice. Pinboard alows for saved bookmarks which can be tagged, described, searched, sorted, and shared easily. I use Pinboard along with the Postalicious WordPress plugin to create the “Other People Say” posts here.

Up Next: Writing Tools

The next in my series of “How I Work” articles will look at the tools and techniques I use to write and publish.

Instapaper – Marco Arment


  1. Not sure what RSS is? View this video by the folks at Common Craft. 

  • Anonymous

    One thing I love about Instapaper is that you can convert your saved articles to epub format and then read them as an ebook, with an ebook reader.

    • http://www.picturepundit.com Aaron Hockley

      I didn’t even realize this was an option.  Thanks for sharing!

  • http://vegasgeek.com John Hawkins

    Thanks Aaron. You’ve inspired me to write a similar series. I love reading about how other people I know do their thing. I like knowing what tools others are using because if somebody has found a more efficient way to do something, I want to steal… borrow it!

    • http://www.picturepundit.com Aaron Hockley

      I’d love to see similar information from you so that I could, um, borrow it as well :)

  • http://twitter.com/lbautist bautist

    Been using “Send to Kindle” from Klip.me a lot to push articles to the Kindle 3. Not as portable as ePub, but works great if you have a Kindle 3