I don’t think I ever mentioned it here, but Erin and I made a deal not too long ago: if I averaged three visits to the gym each week (at a minimum of 45 minutes each) for two months, I could splurge and get myself a Kindle. And, I have to keep that rate up for two more months, or she takes it away.

Well, I’ve had my Kindle for just under two weeks now, and I love it. The original thinking was that it would fit on the little shelf on cardio machines better than a book would, and I would be inclined to spend more time working out if I had something to read. And that part worked - I spent well over an hour on the elliptical and stationary bike the other day, reading on my Kindle. But I’m finding that even away from the gym, I like reading on it better than other medium; for example, the e-ink screen doesn’t have the glare of glossy magazine pages, and is much more comfortable for long blog posts than a laptop screen.

Which brings me to Instapaper. If you do any significant reading on the web, Instapaper can make your life much better. This free service gives you a “Read Later” bookmarklet to click when you come across an article you’d like to (surprise) read later. Logging into their site will show you a list of the articles you have saved, and gives you the option of just viewing the text of each article without all the ads and whatnot. This comes in handy when used with the iPhone app, which can download just the text from all your saved articles. I used this every day on my metro ride to my old office.

That text parsing is also used to generate a Kindle-formatted file of your latest 20 articles - and this is where I get the most out of my Kindle. I save a crapton of articles in Instapaper, and every day I plug my Kindle into my laptop and download the latest 20 so I can read them comfortably on the Kindle’s e-ink display. As I read, I use the highlight function to note things I want to look up later or quotes I’d like to share on Tumblr.

Outside of Instapaper, I’m also fond of the PragPub magazine from The Pragmatic Programmers - also available in Kindle format - and I’m looking for more free periodicals that I can load on there.

When I first looked at the Kindle, I considered how many books I would have to read on it to break even. Most books are $10 for the Kindle version, which isn’t a significant savings over the paperback version, so it’s hard to justify $250 on a cost-savings basis. But I quickly found that most of my time with the Kindle will not be spent on regular books. Thanks to Instapaper, there’s no limit to the content I can read for free. Along with free magazines like PragPub and all the free post-copyright books available on Project Gutenberg, I doubt I’ll even wind up buying too many books on there. And even THEN - there are some that are free or dirt cheap, like The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.

In summary, I couldn’t be happier with my Kindle, even if the iPad does take a good chunk out of their market share (but I’ll get to that another time).