The Thing About Kindle You Might Not Know

September 16, 2010 | 8 Comments

In some of the discussions weighing the pros and cons of ebooks, there is one significant point that I think is often overlooked. For my use, it is one of the most important. And Kindle ebooks do it best.

I capture digital notes from most books that I read. That might be underlined passages, or notes made in the margins. It’s good review of a book, and often a helpful resource later in the searchability of SimpleNote. With a Kindle e-reader, these notes are captured in a text file, but that doesn’t work if you are using the Kindle app on an iPad or iPhone. But…

Kindle has a fantastic website for referencing your Kindle notes and highlights at Most people don’t seem to be aware of it — I don’t recall how I found this as it’s not linked prominently on Amazon.

Once you login, the site offers you the ability to review flashcards of some of your notes from books that it selects. You can adjust what books show up, and how often. I’ve not used this, but I can see how it might be useful in some instances.

What is most helpful is that all of my purchased books are available, and I can see my highlights and notes, and even the most frequently highlighted passages from others. I’m finding this helpful in a couple of ways:

  1. The Kindle app won’t let you copy text to the clipboard. But, if I’m reading and find a quote I want to blog, I highlight it. I can jump into these notes, copy the quote and post it. It’s more steps than the clipboard would be, but it’s also saved for the longterm, which brings me to…
  2. When I finish a book, I go into this website, copy all of my notes from a book, and drop them into my book notes in SimpleNote/Notational Velocity. If I have sometime, I’ll even spend a few minutes reviewing them to let some of the highlights of the book sit with me.

This feature alone makes the Kindle app my reading app of choice. I’ve read one book with Apple’s iBooks app. It lets you browse your highlight, but there is no means to access them otherwise. As for the Nook app, I’m not sure as I haven’t used it. Can anyone else speak to that?

  • That’s great feature, isn’t it?

    Note that some publishers don’t allow their content to be published, in the form of your highlights. I can’t get my notes from Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, for example; I can only see that I have 101 highlights in the book.

  • John

    Strange. I did have one book that only let me view a portion of the highlights, so that has since changed. I supposed Amazon is working with publishers on an ongoing basis on this.


  • Pat

    yeah, I can get notes and highlights from the others, but for that one book, I get the little message that says that some publishers only allow Amazon to display a certain percentage of the book, and so they’ll only show the first n highlights.

    In this case, it won’t show me a single highlight. Could be a bug, I guess, but it just looks like a cranky publisher 🙂

    I could go delete some highlights, but that book is awesome and I’m not sure what I don’t want to remember from it 🙂

  • I really like this aspect of Kindle too. Kindle is so much more ubiquitous than other ebook services, and this is just one more example of that. I, too, have encountered books that do not allow annotations to show at I wish they would relax this.

    Ebooks are in a funny place right now. It just feels weird that the text is on a screen but it’s more off limits than other digital media. I’m so used to being able to blockquote a blog or web site by copying and pasting, but doing it from an ebook takes a lot of extra effort.

    I’d like to see publishers make it easier to share ebook content online. There is a vast wealth of information in books that never appears in google search results. As a society, we need to change that.

  • John

    Thanks for the good insights. There are some issues to work out with ebooks. I’d also add that there are several books I’ve chosen not to buy recently because the ebook is going for more than the paperback on Amazon.


  • Jim Davis

    The newest version of ibooks does seem to permit emailing all the notes from a book as a way of exporting them. Have not used this other than to confirm that it works.

    • John Chandler

      Thanks. It appears it can only do it on a note by note basis, but I couldn’t get it to work with highlights. Perhaps it’s only available on certain books. Or perhaps I shouldn’t have attempted it before having coffee.

  • Matt Anstey

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! I’ve been looking for ages to find somewhere where I can easily get my highlighted text into something I can copy and paste and I’ve found it! Yet it does leave me feeling as though I would have liked this process to be a bit easier… if only Kindle had made it a little easier to find!