Saturday, August 27, 2022

What Do You Do With Your Book Annotations?

Scott D. Parker

I write in my books.

There, I said it.

Ever since I can remember, I read my school books with pens or pencils or highlighters to mark passages and help me learn them for exams or papers. Heck, I’d often read magazines with a ballpoint pen and underlining special lines of text or ripping out pages that had recipes.

As I started writing and publishing in earnest, I eventually started reading fiction with a pencil in my had. For this, it’s almost always pencil. I actually like the sound and feel of a pencil scraping across the pages and I’m underlining a particular good turn of phrase.

I have also been known to markup books as I break them down and try to figure out why, say, Dan Brown’s prose seems so effortless or how a Clive Cussler novel was structured. It’s like homework, but, you know, fun homework.

When ebooks popped into my life, I kept up the practice. What’s nice about the Kindle Paperwhite is that you can go into your own account via a browser and see your annotations and, most importantly, copy and paste them into a word file.

Why? So I can have my own personal reference notes for anything I read.

But for those of you who write in your books, what do you do about all those annotations? I recently finished a trio of similarly themed books: two by Steven Pressfield (Turning Pro and Put Your Ass Where Your Heart Wants to Be) and Atomic Habits by James Clear. All three of these books are fantastic and are chock full of great action items.

I marked up Clear’s book a LOT. I bought the physical copy of all three of these books and now it’s time for my next step of archiving my annotations.

I dictate my notes and passages from the book into a text file via my iPhone.

I strictly use a text file on the phone mainly because I don’t want to mess with formatting. I just want the words. Later, I’ll copy the plain text into a word file and apply some formatting like chapter headings and sub-headings. Since Clear uses a few charts and diagrams, I’ll also likely snap photos and insert them into the word file.

That might sound like a lot of effort, but I find that (a) I don’t mind and (b), it enables me to digest the content at least three times. The first is when I read it. The second is when I dictate the text, and the third is when I format it. And, yes, old-fashioned person that I am, I will also likely print it out and keep it in the book. I also keep the digital copy in a Dropbox file so that I can access the content wherever and whenever I am.

Anybody else do something like this?

No comments: