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Request for app: Annotation inhaler

During this seemingly-endless interregnum when we have e-books that suck at letting us take notes, I buy paper books when I’m doing research. I have a complex little application I’ve endlessly developed over the years that lets me type notes into a plain text editor or OPML-based outliner using a minimal markup. The app turns the notes into a database that I can then slice ‘n’ dice. Someday I’ll get it stable and done enough to publish. And that day is never.

A couple of years ago I wrote a Chrome extension (“Kindle Highlights Exporter”) that scrapes all of the passages you’ve highlighted with your Kindle, exporting them as a csv, xml, or json file. The only problem is that I seem to be the only person it works for. More precisely, it crashed for the only person I ever showed it to, my supersmart developer nephew. It still works for me, though. If you want (yet another) chance to laugh at me, feel free to download it and install it. Suckers.

So, how about if someone were to write some software that lets me import photographs of the pages of a book that I’ve highlighted in, say, yellow. The app finds the highlighted portions of each page, looks for the page number, does the requisite OCR, and returns a well-marked-up set of those annotations. (These days, outputting in the Open Annotation standard, as well as the usual suspects, would be extra cool.) That way, when I’m done with a book, I could snap images of all the pages with highlights and get a list at the end, instead of doing what I do now: type them in as I read.

I’d give it a try, but processing images is waaay beyond my hobbyist-programmer capabilities. As for the possible copyright violation: OH FOR HEAVENS SAKE WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH US? (Note: The previous sentence should not be construed as legal advice.)

In any case, as the digital/networked world continues to develop its superpowers, the mud wall that confines the physical becomes more and more aggravating.

4 Responses to “Request for app: Annotation inhaler”

  1. Fantastic – I think everyone is developing their own workflows and the bridge between paper and device can be tricky. Now that Kindle allows highlights to be automatically kept on a website and from there cut-and-pasted into a text (or any) file encourages digital reading.

  2. I’m so with you on annotations. It’s a seriously underserved area, and I’ve tried just about everything. FWIW, I did download the Amazon scraper, and it installs and shows the popup, but the “click here” text doesn’t turn into a link for me, so nothing happens. Alas–I hope someone will see this and develop the idea! Thanks for sharing in any case.

  3. Will, that’s really helpful. Could I trouble you to try it again and send me the html you get when you do a “view source”?

    I suspect that the problem may have to do with permissions, and that will be way beyond my ability to fix it. But I don’t know.

    In any case, thanks! – David
    [email protected]

  4. Thanks for pointing this out! We’ve been looking for this exact type of data for years! It will make data curation much easier.

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