This is an updated version of an article I wrote nearly a year ago about how you can revolutionize the way to read web content by pairing Instapaper with your e-ink Kindle.
This walkthrough will focus on using Instapaper with a Kindle Paperwhite. The Paperwhite is the latest in Amazon’s long line of e-ink reading tablets. It provides dramatic improvements over the previous generations and while not perfect I think it is the best e-ink reader available today. This walkthrough, however, will work in much the same way on older generation Kindles.
If you use Instapaper for your asynchronous reading of web articles (and you should), you may be using it while totally unaware of one of the best features of the service. Instapaper can deliver your Read Later queue to your Kindle for perfect offline reading.
Before diving into the details I want to try and explain why this feature is so incredibly useful and has changed so fundamentally how I read content from the web. The Kindle is a device with a singular focus, reading. While it isn’t without flaws, the experience of reading long-form content on the Kindle is the best of any device I’ve tried. The e-ink screen is gentle on your eyes. The insane battery life and tiny size means that you can always have it with you. But most importantly it can only be used for reading which enforces a mental focus that I find very relaxing.
Within that context reading my Instapaper queue on my Kindle is the most comfortable experience I’ve found. I even find it better than the iPad app, which will good in its own right but provides far too much opportunity for distraction.
You can manually download your Read Later queue onto your Kindle. I rarely use this option, but it allows use in a few cases where automatic delivery wouldn’t work.
- It allows you to export folders of articles other than Unread.
- It permits the export of more articles than the automatic delivery mechanism in some circumstances. This is particularly useful when doing extended travel.
- If wireless internet isn’t available you can still load up your Kindle.
To generate a Kindle formatted file, simply login to Instapaper then navigate to the folder you want to export. In the bottom right corner there is a link to download for Kindle.
This will generate and download a file with a name like
Connect your Kindle to your computer with the USB connector, then drag the file to the
Documents directory of the Kindle drive that appears. You’re set.
Automatic Delivery Setup
My preferred method for delivery makes use of the Kindle Personal Documents service. This basically allows you to email documents to your Kindle. While not necessarily intended for use for automated delivery, Marco has bent this system to his will and made it work for seamless automated delivery.
To enable reading on the Kindle you you need to login to your Instapaper account at instapaper.com. Once logged in you will need to click on the Account link in the upper right.
Then click on Manage my Kindle settings
First, you need to setup your Amazon Kindle account to recognize Instapaper as an approved source. The steps are clearly laid out in the upper section of the control panel.
Click the given link to your Kindle Personal Documents Settings page.
Click Add a new approved e-mail address then enter the @instapaper.com given in green on your settings page.
At the top of this Amazon page, locate the assigned email address for your Kindle. Copy this value to your clipboard you’ll need it in a minute. Return to the Instapaper settings page and look at the My Kindle’s email address area.
Paste the @kindle.com address prefix into the text box. Be sure you read the discussion about whether to use @kindle.com or @free.kindle.com as your suffix. If you don’t have a 3G capable Kindle it won’t matter but if you do then decide if you want mobile delivery or prefer cost free delivery.
Manual Wireless Delivery
If you want to send your current article compilation immediately you can do this by visiting the Account Settings page and click the Send Now button.
Scheduled Wireless Delivery
You can also schedule automatic delivery of your article compilations at a given time each day. This also includes options for choosing how many articles to send and how many new articles are needed to prompt delivery.
Check the Send my Unread articles to my Kindle automatically option.
Adjust the options in this panel to your tastes. I often set this up to send me my most recent 50 articles each night at 5PM. That way I have all the day’s news waiting for me when I get home from work.
If you aren’t an Instapaper Subscriber, you will see a note indicating that you can expand the upper limit of the compilations being sent by subscribing. I’d highly recommend this, partly because the utility of the option, but mostly because it supports this excellent service built by an indie developer. The subscription is a steal at $1/month.
Save those settings and you are all set. You will now begin receiving your Read Later queue wirelessly to your Kindle everyday.
Single Article Send
If you want to read a single article on your Kindle you can drag the bookmarklet from the Kindle settings page to your browsers bookmark bar. This will send the current page to your Kindle without saving it to your queue. This requires that you have configured your email settings as described above.
On the Kindle
Once you have your articles on your Kindle, you will see an entry on your Kindle’s home screen titled Instapaper: [Date of Compilation] in List View or an I icon in the Cover View. Click on this item to start reading.
The reading interface matches what you’ve grown accustomed to when reading periodicals on the Kindle. Articles are laid out sequentially and can be navigated tapping the bottom info area. Within an article you navigate using swipes or page taps as you do when reading anything on the Kindle.
Tapping at the top of the screen then on the Table of Contents icon will present a quick Table of Contents for the compilation. You can use this to quickly jump to a particular article.
The feature of the reading experience that really pushed it over the edge for me was the inclusion of links that can manipulate your reading queue right from the Kindle. These are given at the beginning of the compilation and the start/end of each article. Clicking these links you can:
- Archive All: This will archive all the articles in this compilation (not your whole queue).
- Download Newest: This will ask the Instapaper server to send you a new compilation with your latest articles included. This paired with the Archive All button can be used to easily devour your backlog.
- Archive: Send the current article to your Archive.
- Like & Archive: Mark the current article as Liked and then move it to your Archive.
- Like: Mark the current article as Liked but leave it in your Unread queue.
Tapping on any of these links will bring up the Kindle’s horrible web browser and perform the desired operation. Once the page has fully loaded just click the Back (‹) button to return to your article.
Getting an $119 Kindle Paperwhite and pairing it with an Instapaper Subscription will revolutionize your reading of web content. There is nothing more peaceful, when looking at a backlit LCD panel all day, than heading home and picking up an e-ink display to read all your favorite authors.