I’ve made it clear in previous posts that I believe e-readers like the iPad are here to stay. One of the best features of a device like the iPad is that it not only provides a platform for reading, it provides limitless possibilities for what I call e-book “companion” apps. Google Maps, Wikipanion, and the Dictionary.com app (just to new a few) allow you to instantly learn more about something you see on a page. It’s all right there – on one device. Navigating back and forth takes only seconds.

We’ve never had technology that allows us to instantly translate a French phrase, see the topography of a battleground site in Europe, or read biographical information on a famous person by simply moving our fingers across a screen. Sure, you could find the same information on a laptop, but the iPad’s size, shape, portability, and instant-on nature make it a much more natural device for reading and synthesizing information.

I recently heard someone remark that the iPad “isn’t just a thing; it’s anything.” From an information perspective this statement rings more true with every app added to the App Store.

Instapaper as an e-book companion

Instapaper is my favorite service for reading web pages that I “capture” during the day. The Instapaper iPad app is my favorite way to read my Instapaper content.

Recently, I discovered another great use for Instapaper that also puts it in the category of e-book companion apps I just mentioned.

I like reading classics, and I often use Cliffs Notes or SparkNotes for help in understanding characters, plots, etc. Surprisingly, neither company has an app in the Apple Store – at least not as of the date I’m writing this.

Going to the actual websites of these study aid sites on the iPad is easy enough, but it only works when I have a WiFi connection (I don’t have the 3G version). There are also a lot of ads to work around once there.

It occurred to me that I can invest a little time upfront archiving these reference pages in Instapaper for a book I’m reading. I can do this either on my iPad or Mac. It doesn’t matter. Once synced to the Instapaper app on my iPad, they are all there. I star each one and archive. This keeps them separate from my other “read later” material and also makes them easy to find. I can simply go to starred items.

When used in this way, Instapaper becomes a clutter-free repository for temporary reference material that I can jump to anytime I want, even in the absence of WiFi.

I think Evernote could be used for the same purpose, but I prefer to store temporary webpages in Instapaper. Once I’m done with information in Instapaper, I can simply archive or unstar it, and it goes away.

Sometimes letting go of information is just as important as capturing it. Instapaper does both well.