Part of what makes a profession a profession—and not just a job—is that a professional is, or should always be, trying to grow in their job knowledge and skills. For me, part of this growth process involves lots and lots of reading. The web has exploded the availability of professional reading for crime analysts.
A while back I posted on using Google Alerts to search the web for news stories that interest you. Tools like Google Alerts, RSS feeds and email lists can generate tons of articles that you need to read. For me, I find that my workflow is best if I segregate activities like professional reading to certain times of the workday. But it seems like new stuff to read comes at me all throughout the workday. How best to generate a reading list for later in an easy, non-intrusive manner?
I found a cool new tool a couple of months ago that has really helped me to manage my reading list. This tool is Instapaper.
Instapaper bills itself as “A simple tool to save web pages for reading later.” If you have a long article you want to save for later, you can save it to Instapaper and go back to it later without having to keep up with a long, obscure URL.
Even better is the ability to strip out all the ads, irrelevant graphics and such and just read a simplified text version of your saved web page. This feature works hand in hand with the Instapaper iPhone app which can download your saved links for reading on your iPhone or iPad should you want to do your reading on these devices.
Part of what makes something like Instapaper useful, is the ease of getting your reading materials into it. This is an area where Instapaper really shines, you can install a bookmarklet in your web browser so when you find a page you want to save, you click the bookmarklet and the page is automatically added to your Instapaper account. You can also use the “Send To” function in Google Reader (one of my favorite ways to add items to Instapaper) or even email a URL or long email to Instapaper to get the articles into your account.
Once you’ve added articles to your account there are a number of ways to read your items. You can organize your articles into folders, “star” the important ones or your favorites and even subscribe to an RSS feed of them. You can view the original article with all the formatting or the text view. You can also download or send a Kindle or other ebook reader file to your ebook reader for reading on those devices.
Instapaper has a couple of companion iPhone apps as well. Both a free one and a fuller featured paid app. Both iPhone apps have the ability to save your items for offline reading in case you’re in an area where Internet bandwidth is limited or you’re in airplane mode. The paid app has so many additional features such as folders, Twitter/Tumblr integration and more articles that I gladly plunked down the $4.99 for it.
Instapaper has been a great way for me to organize and keep up with my professional reading.
Scott Dickson is a crime analyst in Killeen, Texas. He blogs at The Crime Analyst’s Blog and can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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