I can’t read a book without a pen in my hand.  With certain thought-provoking books I honestly wouldn’t even open them up without a pen at the ready. I litter the margins with stars, brackets, exclamation points, whatever.  I mean look at this mess:

book highlight
Anyway, when ebooks came along I thought reading, and notes and highlighting were going to go to a whole new level.  But they didn’t.  In a way things got worse.  I like opening up a paper book and seeing all my hieroglyphics and marginalia scrawled through the pages.  I can thumb my way through a hardcover in a few seconds and find the key sections I’m looking for.
My Kindle software, however, just gives me a top-down listing of each highlight I made. I won’t go into all the reasons why I don’t like that, except to say that if that’s what ebooks are offering, I’d rather stick with paper books.
But with Evernote I figured out a way to save highlights and create margin note that blows away what my Kindle software can do, and now I even like it more than paper books.

So here is what I do:

1. Create a tag in Evernote with the book’s title and author as my tag name.  For instance, “Alice in Wonderland | Lewis Carroll”.  Then I tap on Evernote’s sidebar on my iPad, tap on tags, and then tap on the tag for that book.  Now any new notes I create in Evernote from that page will automatically be tagged as “Alice in Wonderland | Lewis Carroll.”

2. Switch to my Kindle software on my iPad and start reading.

3. Let the highlighting begin! I read my ebook in my Kindle software, and I use all the colors in their highlight bin (which more or less now substitute for the stars and checkmarks and explanation points I used to write in the margins). If there is a complex idea spread out over three sentences in one paragraph, I will sometimes use three different colors to highlight each sentence in that paragraph. Why? Because before I even start reading those highlights I can see there are three separate concepts I need to grasp one step at a time. It slows me down and makes it easier to digest.

4. Take screenshots of the page(s) you want to remember. Why screenshots?  Here’s my long answer, but screenshots are the way to go.

5. I then switch back to Evernote and create a new note tagged with the tag I created in #1 (Alice in Wonderland).  I don’t need to worry about typing in the book title with each note because Evernote will automatically tag each note I create when I follow the steps in #1.Tagged highlights

6. Insert the screenshot(s) into the new note.  Evernote can read and search the text in JPEGs, so it doesn’t make any difference that I’m creating a note of JPEG’s instead of text. And more importantly, now I am seeing these highlights exactly the way I want to see them: all together. Like so:

Evernote Camera Roll 20140201 141141


8. Margin notes. For margin notes I bypass the Kindle software altogether. Instead, I just type the margin notes into the new note I’ve created in Evernote.  Or better yet, I create a separate tagged note, and then I use Crusoe to link the margin notes to the highlight.  It sounds like a lot of work, but once you get good at it you can do all this in under 30 seconds.

Anyway, this is how I read a book with Evernote.  Thoughts?  Other methods? Would love to hear them!