How To Read More (But Carry Less) When You Travel

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How much reading can you get done on any given flight?

If you’re like me, you stockpile all the best articles, books and magazines for the hauls and then stuff your briefcase and carry-on with what seems to be way too many words for so few air miles. I know business travellers who get so fed up with lugging around already-read material that they actually courier the stuff back to the office.

Luckily, technology has provided us with some very beta products, including things like the Sony Reader, the Amazon Kindle and even the iPhone or iPod Touch, which enables you to download the free e-reader application Stanza. While the technology looks promising (I’m reading Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species for free on my iPod Touch via Project Gutenberg), there’s still nothing like the tactile feeling we get from the printed page. Which is a big reason why we still read actual books and magazines and always will.

If anything, we’re reading more these days, not less.

It’s how we’re reading that’s changed. In a Twitter-crazed and Facebook-status-driven world, snackable content is king. But how do you aggregate and remember all of the amazing articles in magazines, free PDF e-books/white papers and other online delights you’ve noted, and then get all of them printed and ready for a short (or long) haul?

Enter Delicious (or any other online bookmarking tool).

While the tool is mostly used as a place to share your bookmarks with friends and family (think Facebook for saving and sharing information), one of the more popular features is “tags�? – words anyone can associate to a specific piece of content. Meaning, I might tag this article “enroute, inflight magazine, travel hacks�? and you might tag it “mitch joel, air canada, snackable content.�? Both sets of tags are valid and both sets of tags enable anyone to find and organize this content using those tags or by adding their own. Almost all magazines and newspapers re-publish most of their articles for free online.

So, here’s the trick:

Use Delicious – I also use a tool called ReadBag – and tag all of the articles you want to read on an upcoming trip with the tag “print.�? Prior to your next flight, hop over to Delicious, search your own profile for all content with the tag “print,�? print it up, drop it into your briefcase and you’ve got tons of great stuff to read.

It’s like being the editor of your own custom-made newspaper.

And when you’re done, toss the printouts into a recycling bin. No more extra weight to carry around, and if the content was important to begin with, you’ve already got it saved and accessible online.

The above posting is my monthly column for enRoute Magazine called, Ultraportable. I cross-post it here with all of the links and tags for your reading pleasure, but you can check out the original versions online here:

enRoute Magazine – Flyer’s Digest – June 2009.


  1. I prefer my Kindle for this sort of thing – less recycling to be done. With Kindle plus free, open-source package Calibre, you can grab 150 or so of your favorite newspapers, any blog you want, and of course eBooks and have them available to you at a moment’s notice.
    Here’s a quick piece I did on directions for how to do this.

  2. While I can’t promote a service, I will admit I actually use instapaper to cover a lot of online text while offline or during a bus commute.

  3. Cool tip. I don’t mind reading on my iPhone, so I just use the free Instapaper ap.
    I have a Read Later button my Safari’s tool bar. When I find an article I want to, um read later, I just press that button. Before losing the data connection on a flight, I just sync it and all of the articles appear on my iPhone for offline reading.

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