Instapaper, Digg, iReddit and More

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My goodness! There are so many articles talking about ereaders these days that you’d think we Americans are an exceedingly literate bunch who’d prefer to hunker down with a good book than have our minds numbed and our bottoms widened by sitcoms and game shows.

If only that were true.

I’m kidding, of course. The good old U.S. of A. can boast that 99 percent of its 300+ million citizens can read and write at some level of competency. That is to say that most of us can at least sound out a traffic sign and scrawl our names. It also means that a fairly large number of us can, and do read, a lot, and our reading material is somewhat more weighty than the books chronicling the Adventures of Dick, Jane, and Spot.

What and how much we read is a matter for much debate these days given that a traditional source for information — the printed page — has been taking it on the chin now that more people get their info from the Internet rather than through books and magazines.

Take the encyclopedia for example: There was a time when owning a set of encyclopedias was almost as necessary to a child’s education as pencil and paper. Along came computers and the Internet and suddenly those 20 or so tomes of collected knowledge are about as relevant as spats.

Most kids these days find the answers to all of their burning questions in a variety of places around The Web, which is a good thing. Several points of view on any given subject can be reviewed and analyzed. Photos and videos offer new depth and personalization that no dusty volume can compete with. And, of course, the information is fresher on The Web.

Encyclopedias publishers aren’t the only ones seeing tougher times, dictionaries and thesauruses have largely gone digital (I carry three dictionaries on my iPhone, and use them), and best sellers, both fiction and non-fiction, are now being release digitally as well as in paper forms. Some authors have even released books in Web-only or ebook-only versions. In fact, the written word is mostly typed now, directly into a computer where it is edited, refined, pasteurized, homogenized, and categorized where it can be then capitalized.

We read. This is a good thing, and ereaders are making it easier, even cool, to do so.

There’s a lot of stuff to read, too. Articles in periodicals appear more often now because the process for getting them in front of readers has been drastically shortened since so much of it is destined for the Web; just edit and publish electronically. In seconds the ideas that flowed from your noggin into your computer becomes accessible by anyone in the world with Internet access.

The affect of this, of course, is that it becomes increasingly unlikely that any significant number of people will ever read what you’ve written. A blade of grass in a vast meadow has a better chance of being stepped on that your published musings are to get read. Even if someone did notice, they likely won’t stop to read. People just don’t seem to have the time.

Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a way to let people save an article like yours for reading later, even offline? And wouldn’t it be nice if the article was magically cleaned of ads and other distractions?

Well, lucky you. There’s an app for that.

Instapaper is a service which lets you mark a website or article for reading later. Once marked the article appears in the Instapaper Free app sans ads and ready for you to read anytime whether you’re connected to the Internet or not.

This is a pretty nice app. The interface is clean, giving you four default folders in which your saved articles are stored: Read Later, Starred, Archive and Editor’s Pick, which contains articles from various places around the Web. I like this feature because I can usually find something to read that I may not has noticed on my own.

You have to get an account at Instapaper.com, but the account is free and you can let others see what you’re reading.

The Instapaper Free app is ad supported, but the ads aren’t too obnoxious. If they bother you too much you can grab the “pro” version for five bucks.

If you read then you’ll want Instapaper Free.

Keeping readable content on your reader of choice (as long as you choose an iPhone) is fairly easy. All you need is Digg.com’s new iPhone app.

All sorts of topics, all sorts of content, and all sorts of comments presented with a nice interface. If you have a Digg account you can sign in and comment on the articles, and you can forward your favorites to others via email or save them for later.

I found the app to be more than a little sluggish on my iPhone 3G. You mileage may vary.

If your a Digg fan then you’ll dig the new free Digg app. Dig it!

If you’re not a Digg fan, but want some mental cotton candy then you might try iReddit Free, an app from Condé Nast that’s loaded with the off-center, often funny, and always interesting.

iReddit Free is colorful and, like Digg’s app, you can rate articles and forward them to friends and family. Another nice feature is that you can forward the article to Instapaper for reading later. Cool!

If what you see on the front page doesn’t float your boat you can just shake your phone and and a random article in the category you’ve selected will appear. I love this feature.

There’s a pro version, but I can’t see paying for it when this one has everything I need. Get iReddit Free. More stuff to read.

OK, that’s a wrap for this week. More free stuff below with direct links.

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