At some point in my graduate student career I realized that if I don’t have organized, electronic, searchable notes for everything that I read, I might as well not have read it at all. I picked Nagel’s The Structure of Science off my bookshelf the other day and discovered that I’d read, underlined, and scribbled notes on a pretty substantial portion of it, and all I have from that experience is a vague remembrance of his comparison between science and common sense. Maybe I’ve internalized some of Nagel’s writing into my understanding of science in some non-specific way, but that doesn’t do me much good when I’m trying to cite examples or evidence relevant to my research.
So these days I do essentially 100% of my academic reading electronically, whether it is through PDFs or on Kindle. However, having highlights and notes in a Kindle document is only marginally more useful than having them on my bookshelf. But through a magical bookmarklet called Bookcision and a little script I wrote, I can import my highlights and notes into Evernote, where they’re searchable and copyable. Plus, every note comes with a clickable link that takes me back to its source.
Here’s how it looks in Evernote:
Each note is automatically titled with the title of the book and its author. They are divided into two lists: “Highlights With Notes” and “All Highlights”. This way I can see the notes I made to myself while reading at the top, which tend to be what I want to remember the most, and the rest of the notes below. Should I need more context for the note, I can click on the link and it will open the Kindle application to the appropriate location.
To replicate this, you need two things: the Bookcision bookmarklet and this script: Kindle XML to Evernote. Follow Bookcision’s instructions for installation and use. To install my script, unzip it to your scripts folder (normally ~/Library/Scripts/). If you want to edit what notebook or what tags get added to your notes, you can do that with Apple’s script editor.
To use my script:
- Follow Bookcision’s instructions to download as XML:
- Click the script icon in your menubar and select “Kindle XML to Evernote”
- Find the XML file you downloaded and click “Choose”
- After a little while, depending on the speed of your computer and the number of highlights you’ve taken, a nice lady should say, “Done!” and your Kindle note should appear.
A few final comments:
- I am not a professional programmer! I would be really surprised if my script blew up your computer, but I haven’t tested it beyond my personal setup, and not very rigorously even there, so use at your own risk.
- Some books come with restrictions about how much of the book can be viewed as highlights from the Kindle website. More frequently than I’d like, this means I have to go back to the book and delete highlights until I get under the imposed limit.
- The script is quite simple, so if you want to change its functionality it shouldn’t be that hard, even with limited programming knowledge. If you do make changes, I’d love to hear about them.
If you use this script, please let me know!