Top 10 Tools For Better Reading, Online And Off

Who has the time to read anymore? You do, if you make the time. It's easier than you might think, with these tools and tips that find, recommend and format good reading anywhere you want to dive into it.

Photo by Let Ideas Compete.

10. Make your reading bookmarks stand out

If read-later services aren't your thing, your browser's bookmark bar can be a convenient place to stash articles and posts you plan to getting around to. You can do what Lifehacker reader leftymcrighty does, though, for better placement: reduce your permanent bookmarks (email, search sites, banking, etc.) down to icons by removing the names, and let your other bookmarks, with titles, serve as a reading list. Simple, no software required, and bound to get you reading more, lest your bookmark bar clutter up too much.

9. Read while working out

If the weather or convenience put you on an exercise bike, elliptical, or other machine where you've got little to do but stare ahead, it's not that hard to get more self-improvement done by reading at the same time. This Instructables post on a handlebar-mounted book holder shows that nearly any model can be fitted with a cheap, easy-to-affix book stand. (Original post)

8. Speed up your reading

You should savour clever fiction. Your average memo, however, can and should be hacked through at a faster pace. Speed reading guide Kris Madden explains in the video above how voicing out "A-E-I-O-U" or "one, two, three, four" as you read actually cancels out your subconscious tendency to read with your larynx, just below the audible level. This not only moves you quickly through the text, but provides a more visual, memorable read. There are plenty of apps on the web, too, that can help you speed through a particular text and learn to do it on any text: Spreeder, WordFlashReader, and ZAP Reader are just a few. (Original post)

7. Read Better on iPhones with Stanza

The Kindle's great, we're sure the Nook is a proper reader, and, sure, Sony's device is good at what it does. But when it comes to beautiful presentation of digital reading on a small screen, Stanza's got it all over those clients, at least on the iPhone or iPod touch. It has its own book store, offering copies of popular contemporary works, along with quite a few sources to grab free historical works, like Shakespeare's complete works, Edgar Allan Poe, and whatever else you're looking to get educated on.

6. Find your next read

Not all of us have a local book shop staffed by the most knowledgeable and well-read workers on Earth. For recommendations on what you'd like, based on what you've just finished, we can turn to many spots on the net. What Should I Read Next? is a straight-up recommendation service, fed by the reading list you provide. WhichBook is a bit more subjective, asking you to move sliders to indicate how much of any element (monsters, dystopia, romance—oh my!) you want in your reading. For the social take on what your friends have read, are reading, and recommend, try BookArmy or the veritable GoodReads. (Original posts: WhichBook, BookArmy).

5. Convert any audio file to an audiobook

If you've got a spoken word MP3, or an audiobook you ripped yourself, you'd probably want your MP3 player to save your place as you make your way through the narrative. Starting with iTunes 8, it's easy to convert files to audiobook format, complete with variable speed listening and place marking.

4. Find instructional and how-to PDFs

Some how-to projects and tasks only require a single web page of instructions. Other times, you'd really like a deeper read. Search PDF is a custom Google search that brings back only PDF files, opens them in Scribd's no-software-required viewer, and hones the search in on tutorials, instructions, and manuals. For alternative PDF finders, there's the ebook search at PDF Search Engine and simply using filetype:pdf in a Google search. (Original post)

3. Collect articles with Instapaper & Read It Later

Which mark-for-later, read-anytime app reigns supreme? Depends on how you like to use them. Read It Later tightly integrates with Firefox through its extension, which also hosts your want-to-read articles offline, but also offers bookmarklets for every browser, including the iPhone. Instapaper seems to have the more focused iPhone app, but offers the same multi-browser bookmarklets. Come to think of it, they're both pretty great in their own way at making lengthy web reading accessible anywhere.

2. Get new books for old ones

Unless you only read leather-bound first editions, there are probably a few books laying around your shelves that could find a better life in a book swap. The internet abounds with places to do it: Zunafish, currently offline but offering $US1-per-book trades, PaperBackSwap, and the free BookMooch are just a few. If getting a new book isn't necessary, you could simply tag your book with a BookCrossing tag and watch it travel the world. (Original posts: BookMooch, BookCrossing)

1. Make web text more eye-friendly

Instapaper and Read It Later, mentioned above, do a decent job of converting news articles and blog posts to a stripped-down, text-forward format. With customizable browser bookmarklets, though, you get your reading exactly how you want it. Readability is an early and popular entrant in the category, while Clippable and Readable App aim for even more minimalism and customisation. If you're an RSS fan, Readefine Desktop, an Adobe Air app and web project, can lay out your daily feed reading in newspaper-style columns with minimal interruption. (Original posts: Readability, Readability 2/Clippable, Readable App, Readefine)

What web, computer, or other tools do you use to make time for reading, make reading easier, or just find new things to read? Tell us all about your own little library tweaks in the comments.


    My #1 and only tip for how to improve reading books...

    Audible turned me from someone who read no books/year, to now reading 45-50 per year. The best part is I did NOTHING to create the time needed. Simply by driving to and from work, walking on the beach, cooking, housework, gardening, etc... all things I was doing anyway... I'm now a person who reads a LOT. And good audiobooks are MUCH MUCH MUCH better than dead tree version. A quality reader makes an audio book 10x better than any movie or TV show.

    You too can read 20-50 books / year and not allocate ANY extra time. The only real problem is getting home at night and sitting in the driveway for 20 minutes because my book is so engrossing :-)

    Audible = WIN !!!

      I wonder if there has been any research done about audio books versus paper books. For example I find my written English improves quite a bit when I read regularly, however I wouldn't have thought this translates to audio books. I also find audio books take some of the imagination out of reading as reading a paper book invokes your internal narrator rather than being stuck with the audio books narrator.

    What got me reading again is Reader for the iPhone. Hands down the coolest ebook app. You don't even need to install it just go to

    You add your own books, check them our from the library, or you can just copy/paste articles from new york times or anywhere else for that matter. It has auto-scroll, dictionary and nighttime mode (to save your eyes).

    If you are an avid reader then finding new authors and books to read can be hard, so thanks for pointing to the 4 sites above, 2 I had never seen before. I also like where popular authors can recommend their favourite authors, found some great new writers this way.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now