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Tag: Evernote

How to create searchable notes from books using Evernote and your smartphone.

Taking photos of books with Evernote on iOS

Note: This is an update to a previous post.

During the summer holidays before I headed to university I worked in a secondhand bookshop on Broad Street in Oxford. And then, to help support myself during my MA in Modern History I worked in Waterstones bookshop in Newcastle. I love books.

But, despite my affection for the printed word, I still prefer, on balance, reading on my Kindle. One of the main reasons for this is the ease by which I can highlight sections of text (non-destructively) which are then available at kindle.amazon.com.

Whilst I’m waiting for everything that’s ever been written to be digitised I need a solution for physical books that is:

  • Quick
  • Accurate
  • Citable

I think I’ve got that with the following system. Here’s what to do.

The Basics

  1. Sign up to Evernote. You can experiment with a free account but, like me, you’ll no doubt go Premium for the added data storage/transfer and functionality.
  2. Install the Evernote app both on your computer and your smartphone (I’m using the iOS version)
  3. When you start reading a new book, create a new notebook for it and take a photo of the front of the book. Title this first note something like Author (Date of publication) – Title, Place of publication: Publisher
  4. Every time you come across something you want to make a note on, take a photo of the text. Add any comments or thoughts you have and title it something like Author – page number(s)

After syncing, Evernote provides OCR (Optical Character Recognition) on the text of images, so you could stop here as you’ve now got searchable notes from books (as promised in the title). However, I’ve gone one step further.

Going Further

Now that the notes you want are in Evernote, it’s time to tidy them up and make the text copy-and-pasteable. Here’s what to do after carrying out steps 1-4 above:

  1. Create a Book Clippings notebook
  2. Sort the notes in the notebook to make ensure the note with the front cover is at the top
  3. Select all of the notes, click on ‘Note’ in the top menu and then select Merge Notes
  4. Type out the text you want from each photograph underneath it. Add the page number in brackets afterwards and delete the photo and references.
  5. Repeat. Yes, this takes time.
  6. Drag your tidied-up note into the Book Clippings notebook.
  7. Start reading your next book.

Conclusion

I’ve found this an extremely effective way of getting searchable notes from physical books. As a bonus, you might want to try using Evernote’s Web Clipper to import your Kindle notes so that everything’s together in one place.

Have you tried this? Have you got a different system?

HOWTO: Use Evernote to take notes on books.

Something I’ve started doing recently has revolutionised my ability to synthesise my reading of stuff in paper books. Here’s what I currently do – although there’s probably ways I can improve it (and no doubt something similar is possible using other devices):

You’ll need:

  • An iPhone
  • Evernote app (iPhone and desktop/laptop versions)
  • An internet connection (at some point)

What we’re going to do is to take a picture of a section of text, tag it and add contextual (bibliographic) information, and then send it off to be synced by Evernote.

0. Set up a notebook for your quotations/notes. I use ‘Ed.D. thesis’.

1. Take picture of text

Click on the ‘Snapshot’ option in Evernote. Take your photo of the text you want to capture – make sure you focus correctly!

2. Fill in note details

The title should be something that summarises what you’ve taken a picture of. Tag it appropriately. Click on ‘Append note’ and fill in citation details. Make sure you ‘Select All’ and then ‘Copy’ so that the next time you do this you can use ‘Paste’ and just change the page number!

3. Sync

Once you’ve synced it will appear in Evernote on your desktop/laptop.

4. Synthesise

With all the notes in front of you, it’s easy to synthesise your thinking. It’s fully possible to just to this on the iPhone, but it’s easier given the features and screen real-estate on desktop or laptop.

I use a Moleskine notebook and a good old-fashioned pen for synthesising (or XMind depending on how I’m feeling). It works wonderfully! 🙂

5 things I can do with my Kindle that you can’t with your dead-tree books.

1. Read things I save for later using Instapaper.

2. Sync highlights and comments to Evernote.

3. Search for a quotation or section in a book.

4. Look up a word in the built-in dictionary or a concept at Wikipedia.

5. Use the built-in 3G to navigate Google Maps via the browser.

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