The other day, I entered a mini-conversation on Twitter where it was asked how someone could archive highlights and notes made in the Kindle reader (device, app, and service). My initial response was that you would simply go to Kindle.Amazon and simply copy and paste the highlights and notes into a text file, Evernote, Google Docs, etc. That’s not bad, and one route that I had one time started myself. I had a second thought that it might be possible (if Amazon has an exposed XML feed for this), that you could take the XML data file, and then run a rule against it using something like ifttt. That would have worked, but there’s no RSS/XML data file accessible. So I was back to the copy-paste routine, and since it came up, I thought to go ahead and do that for myself – but instead of using Evernote, Google Docs, or even a custom HTML file, I’m using TiddlyWiki – the content management system that I’m now using on my mobile device.
Now, if this is something that appeals to you, keep reading. If you are more or less interested in what it looks like, and want something a bit more automated… this isn’t the post for that. Perhaps I’ll figure that one out later. For now, here are my steps, and well, it seems to work out pretty well – even if a bit complicated.
First: Login to Kindle.Amazon to your Books List
Login to your Kindle.Amazon account, and make sure that you are looking at your Reading List (URL should look something like http://kindle.amazon.com/your_reading). You will want to verify that you know which books have highlights and notes, and this is the easiest page to navigate to see this.
Second: Open Notepad or some kind of text editor that has a “Find-Replace” Feature
I used Notepad, but MS Word, or even Google Docs works just fine. You will need this and want to keep it open.
Third: Open Your TiddlyWiki page and Setup Your Book List
I’d refer you to the picture on this post for what that would look like. If you haven’t used TiddlyWiki before, definitely check it out. Wiki-notebooks really don’t get much simpler than this.
Now that you have everything open you need, these are the remaining steps to archive your highlights and notes.
- Go to the first book, highlight all of the notes and highlights that are yours
- Copy and paste those into your text editor
- Use the Find-Replace feature to get rid of those items you don’t need (the ‘Edit’ on the notes, the ‘delete this highlight’ button, etc.)
- Double click on the book title in your TiddlyWiki to open that new wiki into edit mode
- Paste your edited highlights into that wiki
- Click done
- Repeat these steps for each of your books.
Some additional notes:
- In addition to the above, I used WordPress as a quick and easy means to format my notes and highlights into a bulleted list. I also resorted to indenting the notes one additional level than the highlights (w/also some formatting tweaks)
- Because I used WordPress, I embedded the HTML, not just the plain text, into my wiki. This gave me more control over the formatting as well.
- I didn’t copy highlights/notes from the book I’m currently reading. While it would be good to do so, I’m going to have to do some formatting later, and so I didn’t want to do that twice.
- I removed all images, that might have come over from Kindle.Amazon
There’s a question of “why do this?” Especially when (a) Amazon already has the notes accessible for you, and (b) it seems like a whole lot of work for just text. Well, I’ve got a few reasons:
- The Kindle service is based on access to books, not ownership. At any point, my access can be taken away, especially if I am reading a freebie. At least with having the notes accessible off of their platform, I have some measure of keeping tabs on what I’m reading.
- TiddlyWiki goes back into that idea of an elastic web – I’m using a (pretty much) open document standard (HTML) and saving the content to a server that I own and manage (my mobile phone). The responsibility for things like backing it up, or even making it work with devices/servers in the future rests with me, not a server admin in a far-far away land. And because the document format is HTML, there’s a better chance for long-term value than if I saved into another document format or even web service (who still has items on Lycos).
Its not by any means perfect. And its the kind of thing that will take some work. But, look again at that screenshot. This is about as simple and useful as it gets. Plus, I can start using these notes in my documents, linking directly to them w/o (necessarily) going to the Kindle.Amazon link to do so. Makes a lot of sense.
Next step, how to make this happen auto-magically :) Ah… projects.