Well, that was fast. Google Gears hasn't even been announced yet, and already Google Reader users can install it and wallow in the splendor that is offline reading. Yep, Google Reader now offers the ability to download the 2000 most recent unread posts, so that you can read them when not connected to the internet.
The link shows up as a single innocuous red word, "offline", at the top right of your Google Reader screen. Clicking on it takes you to a page where you are invited to install the beta of Google Gears. So far we've only tested it on a Mac with BonEcho (a Mac-specific version of Firefox), and it works great. Since Google Gears is going to be available for all major platforms, we can assume this will work just as well on Windows.
Now the wait for what we're drooling after: Offline Gmail. Please, Google? Pretty-please?!