So, let me say at the outset that I love books. All my life, I’ve been a reader of books. I have at least 1,000 of them in my home (on shelves, in stacks on the floor, in boxes in the basement.) I have books of every type; novels, non-fiction, story books, picture books and more. Life feels better when I’m surrounded by books.
And I love the fact that my kids love books, that Tucker spent an hour at the public library yesterday, gliding through the stacks, pulling books down, sitting cross legged on the floor, testing them out, that the first thing Tess wanted to do when we moved last fall was organize her books. I totally understand why living in a house full of books is worth upwards of like three grades of literacy in school schooling.
So, with that bit of context, let me try to explain how my book loving brain got really, seriously rocked the other day, rocked to the point where I’m wondering how many more paper books I might accumulate in my life.
Last year, I put the Kindle app on my iPhone and downloaded a couple of books to read. I was surprised in that the experience actually wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. The first book, a great novel by Anita Shreve, was not much different from reading on paper. The story flew by, and other than being surprised when I got to the end (because I didn’t know how many pages I had left to go) it was a great reading experience. But non-fiction wasn’t so great. If you look at most of the non-fiction books in my library, you’ll see they’re totally marked up, underlined, annotated and messy. It’s the way I attempt to cement in those most important points, and it helps me recall the good stuff in a book more easily. On the Kindle, I could highlight, and take a note, but it just wasn’t as useful. The notes were hard to find, and the highlights just weren’t feeling as sticky. I wasn’t impressed; in fact, it was frustrating.
Last week, when I downloaded my first book to my shiny new iPad, things improved. The larger screen made a big difference, creating highlights and typing in reflective notes was a breeze, but I was still feeling the same frustration with the limitations; just because the pages were bigger didn’t mean the notes left behind were any easier to find, and stuff just felt too disjointed. I kept searching for a way to copy and paste sections of the book out into Evernote, albeit a clunky process on the iPad, but still worth it if I could make my notes digital (i.e. searchable, remixable, etc.) My searches didn’t come up with anything, and I finally turned to Twitter and asked the question there. Ted Bongiovanni (@teddyb109) came to the rescue:
@willrich45 – re: iPad Kindle cut and paste, sort of. You can highlight, and then grab them from kindle.amazon.com #iPad #kindle
Turns out my iPad Kindle app syncs up all of my highlights and notes to my Amazon account. Who knew? When I finally got to the page Ted pointed me to in my own account, the page that listed every highlight and every note that I had taken on my Kindle version of John Seely Brown’s new book Pull, I could only think two words:
All of a sudden, by reading the book electronically as opposed to in print, I now have:
- all of the most relevant, thought-provoking passages from the book listed on one web page, as in my own condensed version of just the best pieces
- all of my notes and reflections attached to those individual notes
- the ability to copy and paste all of those notes and highlights into Evernote which makes them searchable, editable, organizable, connectable and remixable
- the ability to access my book notes and highlights from anywhere I have an Internet connection.
I keep thinking, what if I had every note and highlight that I had ever taken in a paper book available to search through, to connect with other similar ideas from other books, to synthesize electronically? It reminds me of the Kevin Kelly quote that I share from time to time in my presentations, the one from the New York Times magazine in 2006 titled “Scan This Book“:
Turning inked letters into electronic dots that can be read on a screen is simply the first essential step in creating this new library. The real magic will come in the second act, as each word in each book is cross-linked, clustered, cited, extracted, indexed, analyzed, annotated, remixed, reassembled and woven deeper into the culture than ever before. In the new world of books, every bit informs another; every page reads all the other pages.
And I also keep thinking about what changes now? How does my note taking in books change? (Do I start using tags and keywords along with adding my reflections?) Now that I can post my notes and highlights publicly, what copyright ramifications are there? How might others find that useful? And the biggest question, do I buy any more paper books?
I know others might not find this earth shattering, but this is a pretty heady shift for me right now, one that is definitely disrupting my worldview. And it’s, as always, making think of the implications for my kids. What if they could export out the notes from their own texts, store them, search them, share them? Yikes.
I’m sure I’ll be reflecting on it more as it all plays out.
Brendan Murphy says
I hate the game changer moniker. but when I saw this retweeted three times I took a look.
Now I’m really tempted to get a kindle type device.
Tom Donovan says
I can’t claim credit for this idea, so I’ll quote Will DeLamater of Edukindle directly, on the power of synchronizing notes on the same book across multiple Kindles in the hands of students:
Will Richardson says
Very cool. Thanks for sharing that, Tom. I need to wrap my brain around that whole process a bit more. Can the Kindle actually sync up notes and highlights from different users in some way? Wouldn’t they all have to share an account? I have to say I don’t know of anyone using a Kindle or the app in the classroom…would love to hear from some that do.
Tom Donovan says
Notes are tied to the account, and a quick test showed that you have to log into that account to view the notes. I bookmarked my notes page, logged out and the opened the bookmark. I was forced to the login screen.
Nor can I find any way to make one’s own notes public. It sure would be cool if there was a way. Imagine if one’s notes/highlights generated an RSS feed.
Travis Warren says
Thanks for sharing. My journey on this is similar to yours (except for the part about always being a big reader). For me these new tools are enabling me to read more. I didn’t buy a kindle or download the iphone kindle app right away, but recently I turned a corner. For me it was when the Kindle app came out on the Mac OS that it clicked .. that’s when i jumped in. It was easy to install and just hung off my existing amazon.com account (i hate new usernames and passwords). From there I grabbed the iphone app.. my expectations were low, but I found it really handy. Everything sync’ed between the 2 readers beautifully and like you, I was amazed at how fast books flew by on the iphone.
I found highlighting very powerful too. I could fly through a book and then and revisit my notes for retention.. the highlights sync’ed to the mac kindle app on my laptop which i found made recovery of the info a lot easier. That said, still a little clunky.. but clearly heading in the right direction.
Now this. The idea of having a URL to my highlights . I agree. A complete game changer. A ton of potential with this. Love the idea of share highlights with others .. also, maybe someday being able to see what the most highlighted passages are in book. What a value add!
Amazon continues to amaze me.
They get it in so many ways.
Travis Warren says
Brendan, start with the app for the mac or pc.
no device needed..
Barbara Day says
My sister has a Kindle and loves it, but I have really debated whether it would satisfy those same pleasures that turning the pages of a favorite book does. Thanks for sharing your insights. Our school is soon to receive ten IPads and I’m really excited to give one a try.
If the book is engaging enough I don’t think you even notice the medium. I was happy with the switch.
Chris Lehmann says
iPad arrives this week. I’m even more excited now.
Last year I was standing in a bookstore and realized that I would not be buying anything more from there and walked out.
Further, with my Scan Snap s1500M document scanner (rapid, 50+ pages, double sided) I’m digitizing ALL relevant paper in my house (and recycling the rest), including books I may want to reference again (it will created searchable PDFs).
Next week we have scheduled a focus group at our school to pick between continuing to buy laptops as we expand our 1-to-1 program, or buying iPads. I’m hoping there aren’t too many teachers counting on Flash. If so, maybe 1-2 years before that’s not a problem (less?).
John Pederson says
I’m with you. With one minor hesitation.
I learned this workflow on iPad Day 2. Copy/paste into whatever app you want is great, but I’d like it to also attribute the book that I’ve referenced. (Say I wanted to push a quote with a link to the book/author/my Amazon affiliate link/etc.) This seems like a feature that an intern-level programmer at Amazon could/should figure out in about 30 seconds. It’s a no brainer business strategy for Amazon, publishers, and authors.
“What if we made it really easy for folks that visit our Kindle site to quote/attribute/tweet/like the passages they’ve read?”
This, in fact, is such a no brainer strategy that its absence scares me. Much like the fact that they haven’t changed the copyright date on the site from 2009 to 2010 yet.
Will Richardson says
I wonder what, if anything, that might have to do with the copyright issue. I may in fact be violating copyright by putting those notes into a public Evernote folder. You’re right that it would be nice to be able to do that, but I’m ok with the extra step in the meantime. ;0)
John Howell says
I have been writing and thinking about this topic for awhile now myself. I love reading and most of my books are completely marked up in the margins with my notes ~ I suppose it’s a way of holding a conversation with the author.
I have yet to delve into the eReader world but perhaps it’s time.
The research article you asked for is titled “Family scholarly culture and educational success: Books and schooling in 27 nations.” It can be found here
Will Richardson says
Thanks so much for the link. I wonder if the same results will hold true for families that have thousands of books in their e-libraries. I can’t help but think that the whole process of reading is going to become much more interactive. It sounds weird to say it, but I love curling up with my iPad and interacting with the text in this new way. All of a sudden, the whole annotation process feels more valuable and worthwhile. But what I love is still being able to choose to make reading an individual activity if I want.
Unfortunately, THIS is the kinda thing to worry about the aging and updating of data formats with.
Your highlighting and notes are going to be tr hardest part to carry over. Text carries over well, and even various sorts of formatting. But will you able able to access those bits of your thinking I 20 years?
Does this mean that the short and medium term advantages are not worth it? By no means!!!! But if this is what means so much to you, remember that there are serious long term issues there.
Will Richardson says
Agreed, Alex. We were having this “conversation” over on Twitter which unfortunately doesn’t port over here very well. I don’t think anyone is suggesting that this is holy Grail but maybe just a first step in the road to getting there. If nothing else, it pushes the conversation about the possibilities of digital reading and writing.
Gwyneth Jones says
Oh. Emm. Gee! My world is Rocked. I SO didn’t know that about highlighting! WOW!
I have a Kindle Dx…made real friends with it on spring break reading The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo sitting on an oceanfront balcony wriggling my toes in a quiet happy dance …and fell in love. though i wish they had page numbers…”Mom! i’m at 13% of this book and yeah, i’m madly intrigued” doesn’t feel right…but i get it. i will always love “real” books..the SMELL! but i see this is an enhancement not a replacement….for now. maybe in 20 years. who knows? it’s not a betrayer of books to love my Kindle.
we once had cave walls, papyrus, scrolls, wax tablets, and now this. i say…YAY! how exciting this time we live in! What next!?
“the experience actually wasnâ€™t as bad as I thought it would be” still doesn’t make me want to rush out and buy more future e-waste. Thanks, but no thanks. I still like flipping back and forth in the actual pages for some reason, especially in non-fiction. Old dog, I suppose.
My wife is the same way. She loves the sound on flipping pages. I call her a paper dork.
Will Richardson says
Thanks for the comment. Let me just say that the reading experience on the iPad is decidedly more enjoyable. I think they nailed the footprint almost perfectly in fact. I won’t be doing too much reading on my phone from here on out I suspect.
Alan Levine says
Annotation and sharing notes might take digital books to the next level, but it sure is awkward now. I’ve been doing casual reading on kindle app on the iPhone/iPad but had no idea they could by accessed by my Amazon account.
I like the idea; but I dont like it hinging on a proprietary service. Technical it should not be hard to outline a standard, some sort of Markup Markup Language- an ebook knows its own ISBN, it knows what page or place in the book, and it can save notes. That’s all data. Attach some identifier who you are, some means to where in the book it is, and you don’t even need to save the full text to the book- it is a reference to the text.
I’m not worried about copyright- how is this any different from taking a quote, publishing it in a blog, surrounded by your own comments? It seems with attribution, and selection of portions of a book, its not a copyright problem, but don’t lawyer me on that.
Anyhow, thanks for the thought; I’m going to consider reading something where I might take notes– as soon as I finished the 5 or 6 ebook novels I’ve half started 😉
Will Richardson says
Thanks for the thoughts. While not lawyerly myself, the difference, I would suspect, is that I could literally highlight the entire book and export it out (or at least copy nd paste it out) into another format and share it widely. Snips are one thing, but complete texts are another.
Buffy Hamilton says
Thank you for such a thoughtful post. I had already been working on a proposal and plan for implementing iPads into my library program for 2010-11, and am even more excited now that I’ve read your post since I have been teaching my students how to use Evernote. My mind is swirling with possibilities but also challenges as I don’t know how libraries get around the DRM issue just yet (although there must be a way?) and I have similar questions to yours as to how to pool/collect the collective body of annotations/reading notes from multiple students (I am thinking specifically about this because it could have a major impact on a new project I am starting this August with seniors).
Quick question—how are you pulling your single page of notes into Evernote? Are you clipping the whole page or just copying/pasting as a note?
Thank you for taking time to share your insights with the rest of us and push our thinking!
Will Richardson says
Right now im just copying and pasting as a note, highlighting the text and using my Evernote browser button to bring it in. My option that way (obviously) is to snip individual notes and organize them separately within a notebook I create for the book itself. Lots of different ways to think about it. Frankly, I like the individual note idea because it helps me reflect in the process. So right now, I’m highlighting and adding notes as I read, and then I go to the Kindle page to snip out the individual notes into Evernote, placing them in my “Pull” notebook, and assigning relevant tags as I go. While it might seem a little time consuming, that process feels like its helping me remember and reflect on the reading more deeply as I review it while saving it.
Hope that helps.
Buffy Hamilton says
Thank you for sharing your method of importing into Evernote. The “snip” method” makes a great deal of sense as you pointed since it supports the reflection process and maybe a more active form of importing your notes.
Thank you again for pushing our thinking!
Tim Wilson says
I was wondering how to save notes and highlights on the Kindle app. Thanks for the quick tip.
Like iJohn above, I’m surprised that they’ve left out something obvious. Why can’t I export my notes from a given book in OPML format for quick import into OmniOutliner or some other note app? It would be interesting to see if someone could do a Greasemonkey script that could generate one from Firefox. You should take that on as a weekend project, and let me know when you’re done.
Will Richardson says
Thanks for stopping by Tim. I think it has something to do with DRM, that for you or many others to be able to subscribe to my reading notes goes beyond the allowable sharing of the text. I wish I had half the left brain to do what you suggest. ;0)
Tim Wilson says
I did some checking on how hard it would be to scrape the contents of the Amazon page where your highlights and notes are presented. They’re doing something very clever (or devious) it appears. You can see the highlights on the page, but if you view the HTML source the only thing you see are your notes. Somehow they’re displaying the quotes from the text in such a way that it’s not possible to grab them programmatically. That shows pretty clearly that they’re taking a very cautious approach with respect to copyright on this stuff.
I don’t know enough to know if there’s a way to program around this, but at first blush it appears that we’re going to have to rely on Amazon to provide some way to export the highlights and notes in a way that can be imported easily into another application. Too bad.
fred lapides says
Read books. Use Kindle.Use whatever. Stop spending time whining. All things are good. Jefferson read lots of books and did not have an Itouch. He managed. shakespeare had no compter. He too managed. You can write on the net. You manage.
Molly Beer says
Hmmm… I, like you, have an endless library full of marked up nonfiction books and dog-eared novels (I dog-ear pages containing wonderful lines that somehow affect me and words I may want to investigate further). When I finish any type of book, I go back through and reread pages that are dog-eared or highlighted. This is pretty time consuming, and sometimes I don’t get to it right away, so I have a several surfaces throughout our house cluttered with books waiting to be revisited or finished. I have actually accepted the fact that books decorations in our house. I must admit that finding a way to organize my notes so that I could easily revisit passages and great lines is appealing, but I still can’t imagine giving the physical activity of holding a book and turning pages. Also, I wonder if the statistics regarding books in the home and three years of schooling for children would still be true without the actual books surrounding them.
Vanessa Olson says
I’m a middle school librarian, and we’ve just begun having some conversations about Kindles in the classroom, particularly for class novels. I’m still a bit reluctant to bring Kindles into the Media Center for students to check out, but I imagine they would be wildly popular. (I love mine!) Has anyone heard of middle school libraries checking out Kindles? I know there are some high schools out there that do.
Andromeda Jazmon says
This makes me want an iPad real bad. If only I had one all through grad school and could get the textbooks on it! Imagine writing all those research papers with these tools…
Steven D. Krause says
I blogged about a similar topic a couple weeks ago:
I don’t know if this is quite the game changer you are suggesting– at least not yet– but I do think there are a couple of ways that the iPad and its inevitable competitors might get us there. Besides books, I am a big fan of a software called iAnnotate. It makes annotating PDFs really REALLY easy, and since most of the reading I do for my teaching and scholarship is PDFs from journals (and since the Kindle doesn’t handle these documents particularly well), iAnnotate on the iPad is a potentially revolutionary change for me. I’ll find out more when I really start using it for teaching in the fall.
Christina Jenkins says
Has anyone read Craig Mod’s Books in the Age of the iPad? Because everyone should. Skip to the bottom if you want the summary; his point is that we need to distinguish between books that are “disposable” – that is, books that are formless and have no concern for their own physicality – and books that aren’t. An example of the former is Danielle Steel, and an example of the latter is Kramers Ergo 7, which I love. It’s huge (20×16), and that’s the point. This is why I disagree strongly with this comment above: “If the book is engaging enough I donâ€™t think you even notice the medium.” I think Will’s point is that the medium actually does matter – his experience with the iPad is significantly different from his experience with physical print. I agree with Neil Postman on Marshall McLuhan: ‘The medium is the message’ … implies that the critical content of any learning experience is the method or process through which learning occurs.
Barbara Barreda says
The implications for personal learning and education are immense. Speaking from personal experience one of the huge lingering issues after losing my home to a fire a year and a half ago is the learning I lost. I lost all of the books from my Masters program and all of the research for my thesis. How I wish I had an electronic version of those highlights and copious notes on the books I had used. How I wish I could re-vist the insights and learning from those years of work and maybe pick up a thread to revisit and further explore.
In many ways losing all of that has stunted my learning because I feel as if I have to start again and the only record I have is a few papers on my computer and my memory.
The issue of course is that we need to see more of the scholarly materials on the Kindle.
Lynne Thompson says
This is great! I think I was waiting for this to happen before I could embrace “e-reading”. I forwarded this to a friend who was considering the Kindle. it does change everything:-)LT
Dick Jordan says
Dang! Now I gotta go buy an iPad! There goes the “big $$$” from my L.A. Times Sitka story.
Suzanne Rhadigan says
Thanks for sharing your thoughts about this topic…the end of books…has been something I have not embraced yet. I love sitting with a good book, be it fiction, non-fiction, a biography…and I like marking it up. Sometimes I make marks to remember something, sometimes wondering why the author did something, etc. I found it very interesting that you could make notes and then find them again, I didn’t know this. This might help me to lean this way and try it. I’m not sure I would like the fact that you don’t know when the end of the book is near! My other concern is flipping back and looking at pages, sometimes I do that to remember what a character said, or something I forgot about…is it possible to go back and look? My other question, can you take it to the beach?
I was very happy to read this post, because it addresses the major reason I have not yet embraced digital books. So, right awayni tried it.
I cannot, however, find the link on my Amazon account to view the notes. You post only mentions, “When I finally got to the page Ted pointed me to in my own account”.
Where is this page?
I have looked everywhere and cannot find the page in your screenshot? Is it from some kind of premium service?
Will Richardson says
Login to your Amazon account and go here: http://kindle.amazon.com/kindle/list
Click on the book name and you’ll see the notes and highlights.
Oh, I see, the link was in the Tweet quote. I just checked it out. This looks very promising. I have always wanted this functionality. Maybe I’ll go over to ebooks in the end, after all.
Sorry about the typos in the earlier post, my iPad tying skills are not up to speed yet!
Jason Bennet says
I love how the new technology is becoming more earth friendly. Things like this could really reduce the environmental impact we have as a society.
Lars Lindstrom says
Great post – however, if you can’t wait for Kindle to bring you shared in-book comments across your classroom, you can already do this using the software from http://www.readcloud.com – this will come the iPad soon as well.
I wonder if it is really a game changer for everyone? Or is it more of a individual choice as to how much or how little it changes each individual’s relationship with books? Similar to the way in which one learns to read; there are certain ways of teaching reading which work but how each individual actually learns to read is uniquely their own.
Kenric Minges says
Sadly, Kindle is an investment that many of my students can not afford. The free app for Mac and PC seems like a doable approach, but most of my students do not have even a computer at home. Sometimes, and in some places, technology just moves slowly.
Kerrie Vytlacil says
I’m sorry to be entering this discussion so late.
I bought a Kindle DX for my birthday present in February. At that time, my only decision points were between the Sony e-reader and the Barnes and Noble Nook. After using it, Apple released the iPad. I started to think, should I have waited? No. Here’s why.
The reason I chose Kindle in the first place was because it remained so close to paper reading. I’m a military spouse, as well as an online student and teacher. I didn’t want my pages backlit, otherwise I would continue reading on my netbook or other device. I didn’t need to view other multimedia, because, again, I have a netbook or other device for that. The iPad still is backlit and it majors on multimedia, so I feel comfortable with my decision to use the Kindle, thus saving my eyes from the backlit burn.
And now that you shared how to retrieve those highlights and notes, I am really happy! =D I knew they were somewhere, I just didn’t know it was a whole different URL. I am sad that I cannot cut and paste them though. But at least I won’t be losing my notes anymore. Not only do I write in my books, which my husband can’t stand (he’s dyslexic), but I also have paper notes, notebooks, and journals. The Kindle was a way to collate and have something available during our moves. It seems I always misplace something.
And the reason I went ahead to forge into digital reading was because I needed to reduce all of this paper in my house (the weight of my library is half of our moving allotment) as well as to engage in the highlighting and notetaking features. I go through a lot of articles as a doctoral student. I am just disappointed that these scholarly sources are not e-reader friendly, much less available. And it does make traveling easier. Instead of carrying lots of books and binders, I just carry my netbook and my Kindle.
I hope to replace most of my books with their digital versions (they are much cheaper than the paper!). I can’t say all. Art books just have to remain in paper form. They’re in color which Kindle doesn’t support. Yes, an iPad may help with just my art book collection, but it’s not the same. Like another poster said, these types of books are big for a reason. That ScanSnap device another poster mentioned sounds like it could fit the bill here too.
I’m not familiar with Evernote or iAnnotate. That sounds interesting. I wonder if it’s something that could help with my upcoming dissertation? The problem is I don’t have much Mac. I work both platforms, but my Mac is a Macbook Pro. My phone is a Blackberry. And everything else is PC. I haven’t tried the Kindle apps for either one yet. I really prefer to have non-platform specific software like OpenOffice. That is way better than Parallels desktop btw!
Thanks for your post and sharing your tips. I have learned a lot more from this thread that I hope to implement very soon.
Jean Tower says
I really enjoyed the post and all the comments. As an avid reader and lover of books I resisted the Kindle – until this past December when I finally took the plunge. All I can say is no more dead-tree books for me. I love it for all the reasons Will shares, and more. Also, we now say “That’s a real page-clicker” in my house – I guess you iPad users have page swishers?
Tammy Gillmore says
This was a “light-bulb” post for me. Thanks for sharing!
Ilene Frank says
I read through the posts pretty quickly… did anyone note the “Popular Highlights” feature in the Kindle? http://kindle.amazon.com/ I saw them while I was reading “DIY U” by Kamenetz on my iPod Touch – Seemed like a nice example of crowd sourcing to me.