How do you get your fiction fix?

This week marks my first time contributing to the Tecca WWIN (What We’re Into Now). I gushed about the Series 7 Gamer I just bought (more on this later) and made a sad face about The Closer finale, but I forgot to mention the fiction I’ve been reading.

This is a particular crime since my whole short fiction reading setup is very tech-influenced. I read way more now that I have a good device and good apps to make it all possible.

Short stories in the Pocket appJust a year ago I was complaining about how it was still an annoying multi-step process to get short fiction from my favorite magazines onto my mobile device of choice. Back then it was my eReader. These days I read on a tablet, but only because none of my eInk eReaders has the versatility I need for what I do.

The tablet I use everyday is a 7-inch Galaxy Tab, which is the perfect size for tableting, according to me. The two apps I use to grab short fiction are the official Google Reader app and Pocket (used to be Read It Later). Sometimes I have to use the browser.

Many of the online magazines I read have RSS feeds, so I subscribe to them in Google Reader. Every month I go to the Fiction folder, find the stories I want to read, then Share them to Pocket. Even if the RSS feed doesn’t have the whole story, it doesn’t matter. Pocket goes to the source link and pulls the webpage into their app.

Share to Pocket in the browser

For the magazines without an RSS feed, I go to the browser1. Same deal there. I find the stories I like, then Share them to Pocket.

Pocket is awesome. It pulls in and saves all the links I share to it, then has the full text waiting for me to read whenever I want. It automatically caches everything offline, so if I’m on a plane or on the subway I can still read my stuff.

I used to use Readability, but that app went wonky on me too much and also wasn’t reliable with the offline cache.

Pocket's web page view

Pocket makes reading a bit easier on the eyes by offering some control over background colors and font size. Settings aren’t as robust as eReader apps like Nook or Kindle, sadly.

So, you ask, why can’t I do this on my eReader? It’s not that I can’t, I just don’t like the options available for eInk eReaders.

Most of the services available for saving web pages (which is where these stories reside) exist for the Kindle. There’s Instapaper, which I used for a while, and now there’s a new Chrome extension for Kindle that works similarly to Pocket. Problem is, I much prefer Nook to Kindle.

The reason I can’t get stuff automatically sent to Nook is entirely Barnes & Noble’s fault. For whatever reason, they don’t feel the need to create a WhisperSync-like system where you can easy send stuff to the Nook via email or syncing to a cloud service. Instapaper does have a way to download your saved pages as an EPUB file for Nook, but then you have to transfer it yourself. An extra step.

It would be worth taking if Instapaper’s formatting wasn’t extremely odd. What I like about Pocket is that it gives you text or the actual layout of the web page. Nothing janky.

Instapaper might be better at this now, I don’t know, it’s been a while.

Still, being able to click once and know that the story I want to read will be where I want to read it is a big thing for me.

Several online magazines have started creating eBook versions for people with eReaders, and I think that is awesome. Some will deliver to Kindles automatically, but not Nooks. This has something to do with how ridiculously hard it is for a magazine to get into Amazon and Barnes & Noble’s newsstands. And perhaps it’s prohibitively expensive, too.

Once again, the eBook sellers are putting barriers between me and the stuff I want to read, thus costing both themselves and content creators money. All by making stuff far more complex than it needs to be.

Anyway, this got me to wondering how other fiction lovers read stories from their favorite online magazines? Do you get the eBook versions, save them to your phone/tablet/eReader some other way, or just read on a computer?

  1. I should point out here that I only bother to do this with magazines I really, really like. If I come across your zine and it has no RSS feed and has no track record with me, I skip it. Shorter: Magazines, get an RSS feed. It’s 2012. Come on. []