How Can I Improve My Online Reading Experience?

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Q: I have a hard time reading long articles on the computer, even really good ones. Google is making me stupid, etc. How can I improve my online reading experience?

ToolkitInBody.jpgA: You've got a couple of good options. Instapaper is a little bookmarklet that sits in your browser. When you get to a deep article that you'd like to read with less distractions, hit the little button and it will transform it into a special format. When you go to Instapaper.com or one of the apps available for phones and the iPad, you'll find a simple, "undesigned" interface of black text on a white background. We find it much easier to digest long stories in this format, particularly on mobile devices.

The website Readability offers a similar service. Readability looks better on most browsers, but Instapaper's device integration is really dynamite. There is no better way to read on a offline on a phone, which makes it great for plane or train trips.

Take a look for yourself below. The uncluttered interface makes it easier to focus on the words themselves. Here are screenshots of Nicholas Carr's story "Is Google Making Us Stupid?" as presented on (pre-redesign) TheAtlantic.com and then as displayed by Readability and Instapaper.

Tools mentioned in this entry:

More questions? View the complete Toolkit archive.

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he oversees the Technology Channel. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer calls Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science Web site in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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