Sharing My Kindle Highlights

When I read a book, I tend to do a lot of highlighting. I like to share many of them publicly on the web. I'm currently reading Keith Richard's biography Life and you can see the public sharing in action right now on my tumblog.

For years, when I came across a highlight I want to share, I pulled out my laptop and manually typed the quote into Tumblr. I do that with hardbacks, paperbacks, and the Kindle app on my iPad. It's a pain in the butt, but the desire to share the quote is such that I've been doing it.

I was with my friend Steven Johnson yesterday and he told me about a trick that is a game changer for me and maybe you too. When you are reading on a Kindle (or a Kindle app), your highlights are sent to a private page at amazon.com. The address of my page (and yours too I imagine) is https://kindle.amazon.com/your_highlights. If you have a kindle and do a lot of highlighting, go visit that page and you'll see all of your highlights.

From there, via the tumblr bookmarklet, it's trivial to share the quote on Tumblr. And so I suspect I'll be doing quite a bit more sharing as a result of this discovery.

Amazon has a gold mine on its hands but they aren't doing much with it right now. First off, they should let me make that page public or at least let me make some of the highlights public and showcase them on a public page. They should let me domain map that page so it becomes part of my social media presence. And they should let me connect that page with Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.

I'm sure I'm not the only person who does a lot of highlighting and would like to share many of the highlights with the world at large. Curation is a huge part of social media and discovery and pulling quotes from books and sharing them is a big opportunity and one that Amazon should work to unlock for us.

#Books#Web/Tech

Comments (Archived):

  1. awaldstein

    All I can say is thank you to Steven and yourself.I never knew this.

    1. fredwilson

      such a huge feature and so little known. mind blowing

    2. Keenan

      I found it by accident myself earlier this week and wrote about on Thurs. I think it was part of the most recent upgrade. I don’t know why something so obvious took so long.

      1. awaldstein

        Huge step forward even though still a bit clunky.BTW…read your post on this and watched the video in the ‘About’ section of your site.If that is you doing those bumps…wow! ¬†Next time in Vail I’ll take a lesson. I’m certain I don’t look like that coming down the bumps.

        1. Keenan

          Yes, that is me. ūüôā Would love to ski with you. Do u get to Vail often? For sure hit me.

  2. SDB

    Great feature! It does not look like it is applicable for use on Kindle Apps. ¬†I don’t have kindle, but I use Kindle App for Android to read most of the books lately. ¬†Wish it was available there.

    1. fredwilson

      It works on the apps. I use a kindle app on the ipad

      1. kenberger

        this is yet another reason why allowing a Kindle app to be out there, competetive to the Kindle hardware product, was such a brilliant move (they almost didn’t).btw: Kindle on a 7″ Android tablet (eg: Samsung Tab or HTC Evo View) is the best e-book experience I’ve seen yet.

  3. Emi Gal

    Amazon actually has a public profile page for each Kindle user. Mine is¬†https://kindle.amazon.com/p…. You even have a “follow” buttonOh yes, and if you go to Settings on your Kindle, on page two you’ll see “manage your social networks” and you can link your twitter and facebook accounts for easy sharing ;-).

    1. Matthew Moore

      Pretty wild how they haven’t tried to give this any exposure at all.I am only buying books through kindle now basically because of the highlighting. Happy to know they are thinking about all that content I “created” ūüėČ

    2. William Mougayar

      That’s right…instructions here:¬†http://askville.amazon.com/…

    3. saranyan

      Wow, never knew about this. But, I wish they did it for the apps as well.

    4. fredwilson

      i’m going to poke around on this stuff. thanks for pointing it out Emi

    5. fredwilson

      i’ve set up my public profile pagehttps://kindle.amazon.com/p…but i don’t see any way to share my highlights there

      1. Andrew Walkingshaw

        You need to turn on “Public Notes” for each book. (Nice UX there, Amazon.)https://kindle.amazon.com/y… lets you do that.I’ve turned on notes for one book, and you can see the results here:https://kindle.amazon.com/p…(By the way, if you have even a passing interest in soccer or geopolitics – and more than any other sport, the two are basically the same thing – I really recommend that book.)

  4. William Mougayar

    That’s a great feature. Wow. Thanks for passing it on. I knew about the highlighting, but sharing the highlights makes a lot of sense. This is part of your earlier thoughts on “content moving”.I can see Emi’s public thoughts on that page. Only thing missing in it is an RSS-out potentially. Fred- can u share your page same way?¬†One workaround might have been with social sharing browser plugins. The next version of Safari will have that built-in. Actually, any mobile browser should have social sharing standard. RockMelt understood that early on. ¬†

  5. LIAD

    talk about a strong signal!they have a direct path to what you find most fascinating, interesting and profound.quite dark of amazon though to store your highlights remotely. if visa can decipher 2 years in advance whether you will get divorced just from your purchase history, think what amazon could work out from what your highlighting.

    1. fredwilson

      yup. based on my recent highlighting, amazon would be recommending heroin to me

      1. Dave Pinsen

        That was funny. 

      2. LIAD

        Good times

      3. Lisa Mogull

        Maybe not the drug but “The Heroin Diaries” by Nikki Sixx

    2. Matt A. Myers

      “if visa can decipher 2 years in advance whether you will get divorced just from your purchase history”… holy mother…”think what amazon could work out from what your highlighting.”Wow. I’ve been thinking a lot recently around this topic and that’s a motherload.

  6. Mike Taylor

    This is a really cool feature! ¬†And I agree…Amazon does have a goldmine on its hands if they’d take advantage of this. ¬†In fact, there’s just so much in the book world that has yet to be done in social media. ¬†I still struggle with a service that would ¬†help me find the type of books I like to read. ¬†Wish you could “follow” a book. ¬†Then a service would automatically group you into those followers and highlight new books that were followed from that group. ¬†You’d have a reading group, so to speak. ¬†From there the service could share all kinds of data about the reading group. ¬†All based on the kinds of books you follow.

  7. kellan

    They’re clearly *trying* to build something around this. ¬†The recent upgrade to the Kindle experience includes public profiles, following, etc, see:¬†https://kindle.amazon.com/p…But I’m not sure that social objects are really in Amazon’s blood.In theory this is where¬†http://findings.com/ comes in.

    1. fredwilson

      i’v seen a bunch of third parties working around the kindle ecosystem. but i wonder if amazon will let them build really useful stuff. either amazon should build it or let third parties build it.

  8. Alan Mendelevich

    “You have neither a Kindle nor a Kindle App registered to this Amazon account….‚Äʬ†Registering Your Kindle (1st Generation)‚Äʬ†Registering Your Kindle (2nd Generation)”Apparently this doesn’t work with 3rd generation Kindles. I believe all this nonsense is related to copyrights and stuff like that. It’s totally annoying that you can’t just copy/past a sentence from Kindle for PC to somewhere. Fair use anyone?

    1. Jack Bunce

      Happened to me, too. But, when I closed that Amazon page and then came back to it, it worked as advertised.

      1. Alan Mendelevich

        Thanks! Worked for me too.

  9. Keenan

    Fred, I completely agree with you. I wrote about this just a few days ago. http://asalesguy.com/2011/0…It is still a bit clunky. I’d like to see it be a bit more mobile. I don’t want to have to go to my desktop to share beyond Twitter and Facebook (only two ways to share directly). Amazon does have a goldmine. Until they figure it out I’m just happy to be able to share.

  10. Fernando Gutierrez

    Since I read in a Kindle I highlight much more. Another feature I like is being able to see what others have highlighted (you can with a Kindle, not sure if it’s possible with apps… not in Android or PC). It can be damaging because we can all end up highlighting the same things, but with some care it’s nice.The bad thing about Kindle is that when you go back to a physical book you feel incomplete. I’m know reading a book I bought some time ago but that I didn’t dare to start until now (Criptonomicon by Neal Stephenson, almost a thousand pages). I’ve already read like a hundred paragraphs I would have highlighted if in the Kindle, but didn’t because it was not so easy. I even thought about buying the Kindle edition, but replacing books I already have felt bad for some reason.

    1. RichardF

      interested to know what you think of Criptonomicon when you have finished it, Fernando.I’ve read Snow Crash

      1. Fernando Gutierrez

        Sure, I’ll tell you something. I’m about 80% into it and loving it.

    2. fredwilson

      i like that feature. but i’m surprised at how seldom the parts i highlight are the top ones

  11. saranyan

    Yeah, this is a useful feature. I wanted to do it myself and pitched the idea to Amazon kindle dev team a while back and requested a beta invitation for the kdk dev program. I wanted to explore sharing the highlights with a hashtag and url to the book via twitter/fb. I didn’t get an invitation, probably because, Amazon had a different priority for the dev program. They were exploring games and other stuff for Kindle. But, what you are talking about is even better. I really like the idea of a public page with my highlights. It can evolve to a book shelf with summaries/quotes from the books I have read and having some sort of discussion forum like disqus which brings people who have read the book or commented on a similar quote to my page. That will be awesome.

    1. ńźiŠĽĀu trŠĽč v√ī sinh hiŠļŅm muŠĽôn

      I agree with¬†the comments¬†you’ve¬†made.

  12. petewarden

    There’s actually a public URL showing notes you’ve made shared, though it’s very klunky and limited:http://petewarden.typepad.c…I desperately want Amazon to allow me to share the same notes page they show us privately. It’s a perfect mini-blog in itself, for almost no extra work on my part.

  13. leigh

    Reminds me of one of the reasons i happen to LOVE buying used books. ¬†They will often have someone else’s highlights, or annotations giving me a hint into the previous owner or readers thoughts. ¬†Would be interesting if they actually started to allow the meta data to be shared some how for people reading the same books. ¬†There used to be a start-up called third voice that had a similar concept of¬†sticky¬†notes on the Web that was cool but misguided – i think – this would be a much better application for it. ¬†

  14. Adam Tait

    Have you seen¬†http://readon.ly/? Bookmarklet that let’s you quote and share any text on any page.I like quotes, but they’re always way more valuable with context. On the internet that content is freely accessible, but on an e-reader, I have to buy the book to get the rest.I wonder if there’s some legal, distribution or piracy issues why Amazon can’t make the quotes better. Maybe they’re just slow to implement it, but knowing the dev team at Amazon, it’s more likely that there’s some other reason.

  15. RichardF

    Amazon are missing a real trick by not making it easy to tell people about what you are reading.It would also be great if you could tweet/send to Tumblr/Facebook/Google+ an instant recommendation of what you are reading.  They could even automatically attach a link to amazon to buy it. 

  16. Douglas Crets

    This is so cool because:a. this was really how old school reading and sharing groups began. Groups would write to each other in manuscripts and copy (transcribe) the thoughts they found most compelling in others’ books into their own books. The books would be shared in a small circle.b. This old school practice in a. was really the foundation for blogging (along with a few gaps I am jumping over)c. now we are coming back full circle, but this time, the small circle is bigger. see my post “The Future is Smaller, and Getting Bigger” for my views on this general web-enabled theme.http://douglascrets.com/201

    1. ShanaC

      Those notes often become books in and of themselves….we probably should be sharing more of this knowledge, not less.

      1. Douglas Crets

        Agreed.

  17. Matt A. Myers

    I think I might buy a Kindle now. There are always so many notes I want to save.I’m a bit shocked they haven’t been pushing this as a main feature; All the uses that exist for this … and who doesn’t want to highlight and remember phrases that resonate with them, no matter what the content is?

  18. Henrik Berggren

    We at Readmill are doing exactly this. Still in private beta but we’re sending out invites regularly. http://readmill.com

  19. Patrick Kanaley

    I agree, and I think Amazon is in the process of capitalizing on this. It’s an opportunity akin to delicious’ impact on bookmarking, annotating, and sharing articles and¬†web pages, and I don’t think it’s escaped them as evidenced by their experimentation with the new notes profiles. I just hope they don’t go the¬†Google¬†route and try and launch yet another social network that doesn’t play nice with the other ones. I also noticed that some authors that use a lot of social media (like Tim Ferriss) are already starting to play with public notes and profiles:¬†https://kindle.amazon.com/p…Anyway, just like delicious, I really like the idea of visiting someone’s blog and seeing the last couple things they’ve highlighted along with¬†the reading list info pages many people have now (such as Ryan Holiday):¬†http://www.ryanholiday.net/…¬†Now, if only Amazon would add a suggest this book or favorite book feature to help categorize and separate the rankings of the books. I see what users have read¬†possibly being a tie-in with books sales on Amazon too. For example,¬†it would say “Fred Wilson and so and so have read this. See their notes” similar to the way Facebook uses your friends being fans of services or businesses to promote them in advertisements.

    1. Robert Thuston

      good comment.  Knowing what other people read helps us select new reading material as well as validation for what we have read.

    2. ShanaC

      I wouldn’t mind a book network – I keep thinking Amazon should buy Goodreads and help create really awesome book clubs

  20. Sebastian Wain

    Amazon has an amazing and uncountable innovation record (i.e.; recommendations, wishlists, purchase circles, followers/following, affiliates, alexa, kindle, aws) but in some point of their innitiatives they mostly fail where they can win, may be the Kindle and AWS are exceptions. It seems like they live in a pre web 2.x time or they don’t care about the sharing outside their ecosystem. It’s probable that they are afraid of sharing too much and loosing control, I had this experience with IMDB where you need to web scrape your own voting ranking to pull it outside of the system.

  21. Robert Thuston

    People look through other’s book shelves quite often when visiting other’s homes. ¬†Books tell a lot about a person. ¬†I believe people enjoy other’s nosing through their stuff, especially when it is stuff that reflects their interests and identity.

  22. Jeff Chen

    Thanks for sharing. That’s a great tip … very useful features but also unknown to everyone …

  23. Narasimha Chari

    Latest version of Kindle app on iPad has a share to twitter/facebook button. I’ve been using it to good effect to share notes/highlights (the popup shows up when you highlight some text within the book you’re reading).

    1. fredwilson

      hmm. i’ve got to find that.that said, i prefer to share quotes to tumblr, which then sends them to facebook for me

    2. Sandy

      Just discovered this feature last week while reading “Read This Before Your Next Meeting” and loved that I could tweet and post my favorite bits.

  24. Andy Werner

    Absolutely agree, I explored that page and was¬†disappointed¬†I wasn’t able to easily share it.p.s. Tell me you are obsessed with the Stones and Keith now. It’s hard not to, after reading Life.

    1. fredwilson

      what a life that man has lived. i always knew but getting the inside scoop has been a blast

  25. panterosa,

    The only reason I am inspired to read on the iPad Kindle program is for this convenience, about which I knew from the beginning.However, I am less concerned to have a public venue for my highlights and so would love to have the highlights go to Evernote in the share tab, and not just Twitter and Facebook, neither of which I use. Would love for safari to web clip on the iPad to Evernote too, not just my laptop.The way I read these days, back and forth from book to web to look things up, it would be helpful to keep a running log/note in Evernote for each book, with the highlights from the book and the research notes from the web in one note. Maybe I have missed the trick of how to do this.

  26. Debzeb

    Great feature. When I was studying I had a job in the public library sitting with a rubber rubbing out comments from books. I used to keep the good ones. Until I read Ian McEuan I never really had the urge to highlight myself, but how could you not highlight him?

  27. James Bridle

    As nice as Amazon opening up would be, it’s the opposite of their history and their standard business model. This is why I created http://www.openbookmarks.org/, to encourage consumers and publishers to lobby not just Amazon but all companies in the business of reading to recognise readers rights to their own experiences.

  28. Tracey Jackson

    The great thing about the highlighting is the authors see it in their pages. They don’t know who sent them, but we do know what sections are the most highlighted. It’s a great feature.

    1. fredwilson

      i had no idea that the authors get that feedback. that’s terrific.

  29. Riley Harrison

    I’m astounded that Bezos has overlooked the potential of this feature. All notetakers will fall in love with it.Riley

  30. Boogie

    I read paper books and also do a lot of highlighting. Some time ago I started typing them on my computer and then I uploaded on my website. Very soon I started getting a lot of traffic and people got excited about it( I read good books ūüôā )This attention got me thinking so I took one of the books and read the copyright notice. It was very restrictive, so I decided to take the website offline.It’s the same as sharing 5 minutes of a movie you have in your private collection on youtube… movie studios don’t like that and I can understand why.To put it shortly – I think amazon doesn’t do anything about it because of the copyright issues with the publishing houses. People sharing that content can get in trouble too, I think.

  31. Marc Köhlbrugge

    Making that page public seems like a no-brainer and I’m sure is something they will do eventually. It’s probably more of a rights issue than anything else.We’re actually releasing an ereader app soon that is all about sharing your highlight and notes with the world. It even allows you to see other people’s notes right inside the book you’re reading. Here’s a video showing our app in action: http://openmargin.com/We're still working on the website, but here’s a preview of what a profile page might look like:http://openmargin.com/marc (again, still in beta)If you want you’ll be able to cross-post these notes to Tumblr via their RSS-importer.

  32. Christopher Herbert

    I’d love too see Amazon Flash Cards.The best feature of the kindle apps for iOS is the ability to touch a word and get the definition. Great way to build your vocabulary without the hassle of looking up a word in a dictionary.I’d like to see amazon take it a step further and allow me to see all the words I looked up. Then they could create a separate app or feature that let’s me quiz myself on those words. Amazon Flash Cards. Could be great for students, ESL, or anyone trying to improve their vocabulary.Partner with the dictionary publishers or Word of the Day folks for biz dev revenue or just hold out an API and let someone else build on your platform. Would increase stickiness as users choosing between google books, apple books and kindle would have another reason to stick with kindle.Would also be cool to create a list of the top 20 words users look up from each book. Feedback for the author, creative packs of flash cards for vocal tests, data for teachers, etc

  33. vruz

    or better, they should allow Kindle platform developers to access this data and enable them to make a Tumblr app which allows you to reblog quotes directly.

  34. Brenda

    At one point, my kindle WAS posting my notes on my facebook.¬† There’s a trick of linking the account somewhere in the settings.¬† I went and undid it because my family doesn’t always agree with my reading choices.. but now I’ll be using this trick to hit up my tumblr and G+ accounts.

  35. capers

    looks like you should be able to do this via Public Notes https://kindle.amazon.com/ ** edit: see that others have pointed this out

  36. Alexander Nikolaev

    Sharing your love for quotes and highlighting I’ve created a small service which converts kindle’s quotes to RSS (and iCal) feed.http://kindle.tautology2.net/

  37. Tereza

    The books I read mostly relate to my business, product or market. Highlights to me are more useful for sharing privately (eg with my team) rather than publicly. Public is fine for other purposes, just not my core use.

    1. fredwilson

      Yup. About 1/3 of my highlights are ones I want to share publicly

  38. Josh Hanson

    Instapaper are you listening?

  39. Francesca Krihely

    So glad I found out about this. It might push me towards purchasing some e-book hardware. Highlighting/Marginalia are some of the best parts of reading. I always loved purchasing old books to find the “highlights” and sideline comments. Making this digital and shareable would be incredible. Imagine pulling up “The Sun Also Rises” on Amazon, and loading a page with all the highlights, comments and pulled quotes from the book. Or you could grab the API or HTML and put your “highlights” in a public google web page or google doc–which is how I keep track of my reading list. This would be incredible for literature classes (and for the lazy kids who used to rely on Cliffnotes). I know that the education software company Kno (http://www.kno.com/) was working on creating a marginalia database to create a network of student knowledge.

  40. Jecbster

    Thank you.How about Amazon offering this option for each member’s highlight page?Automatically put a link to buy a kindle – member shares revenue from each Kindle sold.Automatically put a link to the book in Amazon where the quote comes from – member to share in revenue from the sale of each book.The accounting surely almost all place via the Amazon Associate program.Copyright issues? It depends on what the copyright law says about the length of lawful quotes. If the permitted length is 60 words (I don’t know what it is – Amazon must ask their lawyers) then Amazon could set up the software to automatically limit the quote to 60 words (like Twitter limits input).What if a member says: “Many of my quotes are more than 60 words. I don’t want a 150 word quote reduced to 60 words.”?Solution:Amazon could leave the member’s existing page as it and offer a monetized COPY of the page with the links for buying a Kindle and the quoted books. This monetized page would have the automatic input feature and an edit function for the member.All this adds up to win-win: Amazon wins, the member wins, the surfers win.

  41. pieratt

    Book-to-web syncing of highlights is the #1 reason I read digital books on the Kindle. It’s the one thing I Really miss when I have to read a physical book.

  42. erickristoff

    great article, have thought the same thing re: Amazon’s under-exploited opportunity here.¬† thx for bringing this to folks’ attention, and the bookmarklet tip.

  43. clmensch

    I’m co-founder of Findings, a betaworks company, which is something of a companion to kindle.amazon.com. ¬†Findings allows readers to import their highlights and annotations from their Kindle ebooks or highlighted text from any website.¬† Once imported, we add a social layer…allowing users to copy and annotate one another’s highlights, or follow one another’s streams. ¬†Users can browse or search their own and each other’s highlights, including by book, website, or author. ¬†For example, here are the community highlights from Steven Johnson’s most recent book, Where Good Ideas Come From: ¬†http://findings.com/book/B0…¬†We’re currently in private beta, but will be opening up soon.

    1. Eric Kristoff

      This looks very promising.  If possible, would be very interested to participate in private beta Рfeel free to reach out to me kristoe at yahoo

  44. fredwilson

    i like your use of the hashtag to hate on me. very social media of you