Daydreaming of Kindle Social Highlights

One of the joys of riding the ferry between Seattle and Bainbridge Island is bumping into the eclectic collection of friends and colleagues somewhat randomly. The other night I had the pleasure of sitting next to John Lange from Amazon.  I met John ten years ago when he was at the law firm that funded our startup Attenex.

We hadn’t seen each other for a while so I wanted to let him know how much I appreciated many of the things his Kindle group was releasing into the world. The following notes are pulled from my one sided conversation with John. He was kind enough to humor my random thoughts (one of the nicer parts of a ferry ride is that you have a captive audience for 30 minutes).

kindle highlighting colorsFirst of all, I love the many different ways that the iPad Kindle app allows me to highlight, annotate and even share on Twitter. I particularly like the color coding of highlights (I am still working out how to use the different color codes).

When I do my “Best Non-Fiction Books” of the year annual blog post, I make a preliminary list of the books that had the most impact on me the previous year. Then I go to the online highlights and notes and see which books have the most highlights and notes.  That’s how I rank order the books that I select. [For some reason this feature is little known and hard to find on the Amazon web site.]

highlighting counts

It took me a while to figure out how useful the Kindle Twitter sharing was for having some context and a quote go out to Twitter with a pointer back to Amazon where folks can then follow my book “recommendations.”  It’s just too easy – and a great way for you to sell more books. And a great way for me to easily share relevant information on Twitter.

amazon twitter sharing

amazon twitter landing page

I jumped for joy (almost as much as when I taste a fine wine) when I came across the Kindle Matchbook announcement where I can now add the digital copy to a print copy I’ve already bought.  It is a little late as I have been doing this for years, but it was very frustrating to pay the full amount for both the print and digital versions of a book.  So thank you for helping to make this happen.

kindle matchbook

And I love the ability to see that other readers have highlighted something that I’ve also highlighted.

kindle other liked this

Now that I see these kinds of capabilities and know that you have the cloud databases and servers that can make these kinds of associations, there is so much more that I want in the sharing arena.

Foremost, there are a few close business colleagues who recommend good business reads for me.  I would love to see their highlights and notes in the books we are jointly reading and be able to share my notes and highlights.  These colleagues come from different backgrounds (marketing,executive management, technical…) and we see different things and interpret things differently. While I can copy and paste from the Amazon Kindle online highlighting file, it is not nearly the same as seeing the text highlighted on the same page in the same way that you highlight “xx other people highlighted this part of the text.” Context is important.

amazon highlighting activity

Secondly, for the business books and technical books (usually expensive) that I buy and that have a relatively low, yet highly interested (and interesting) readership, I would love to connect with the 10-20 other people who are highlighting the same things I am.  I understand that there is a privacy issue here, but I know that I want to get in touch with these folks to learn from them. I think you could do some kind of two phase commit process where I indicate that I would like to know who these 20 people are and a message would be sent to them. My information would be available to them, and then they have the option of opting in to share their information with me.  There are so very few people in the world that are driven to explore the content that I am interested in, but I have no way to reach out to them today. Given the features above that you already released and that I love, I know you have the capability to add this kind of feature.

While I am glad that you now have the Matchbook arrangement, I have been frustrated in the past when the Kindle version of a book doesn’t come out at the same time as the hard copy.  And worse, there is no indication on the publisher’s site or from the author that a Kindle version is even in the works.

The book that demonstrated this frustration was Design Way by Nelson and Stolterman.  I have the first edition of the book and recommend it to all of my human centered design students and colleagues.  I loved it so much that I contacted the authors when I found out that they were collaborating on a second edition and asked them if I could observe their collaborative book writing process. I was overjoyed when the second edition came out. Imagine my dismay when there was no Kindle edition. So I reluctantly bought the hard copy (I really wanted the digital version to have with me at all times for reference). When a couple of months later the Kindle version appeared, I was really frustrated. And I wasn’t even notified that the Kindle edition was published (which I hope you will do with the Matchbook program).

I encountered this situation again with a couple of recent books published by Vijay Kumar and Kim Erwin. Both of these books came out in print first and neither author (both former colleagues) knew when or whether there was going to be a Kindle version. Larry Keeley’s book Ten Types of Innovation evidently went through the same process. In all three of these cases, I wanted the Kindle versions to always have with me as references. I really didn’t want the hard copies (although since they are highly formatted I would probably have gotten the print versions of each – oh wait a minute, I did because I didn’t know whether there would be a Kindle version).  While this is more a problem of a pre-Matchbook era, I think it is very important to let someone know that there is going to be a Kindle version when the print version is published, even if I have to pre-order it. And there is a high probability I will buy both.

So while I use the iPad Kindle reader, I only buy Kindle books.  I have over 900 books that I carry around with me all the time on my iPad (it sure saves my back from carrying all these books in my backpack).

I have to share that the coolest feature for my wife is the ability for a dictionary to pop up on any words that she is not familiar with. This feature is now such an ingrained habit for her that I heard her giggling while reading the print newspaper the other morning. I noticed that she had been tapping the print newspaper. She sheepishly shared that she didn’t understand a word in an article and was trying to tap her way through to the Kindle dictionary.

John, thanks for all that you do to continue to make the Kindle and the Kindle content an incredible value add for me.

For a humorous look at the wonderful world of innovation and new ventures, check out Fl!p and the gang at Fl!p Comics.

This entry was posted in Amazon Kindle, Big Data, Content with Context, Curation, Learning, Software Development. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Daydreaming of Kindle Social Highlights

  1. Nathan says:

    I happen to stumble upon this post and I found it quite entertaining and helpful. A great feature of the Kindle is the ability to highlight and make annotations. These in turn can be accessed online.

    There will be an iOS app though that’s going to be released on November 2013 which will make it more convenient for Kindle users to read and share their notes and highlights. Snippefy ( will also allow users to integrate their notes and highlights to social media, Evernote, Dropbox and email.

    I think this would become a very useful tool and I hope you will have a chance to check it out.

    Thank you

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