Friday, October 8, 2010

Text Editing on a Kindle 3

I broke down and bought a Kindle 3 (Wifi). I found $139 was just a little below the pain threshold that kept me from buying earlier versions. It is pretty good. It's thin, and the screen is very readable. So far I like it. And I am glad I waited.

So far, I read one book on it, which I did not like: Albert Laszlo Barabasi (2010) Bursts: The Hidden Pattern Behind Everything We Do. I bought it because I had very much liked Linked: How Everything Is Connected to Everything Else and What It Means (2003). Don't buy this one, unless you interested in 16th-century Hungarian history, with which every second chapter deals. Nor do these history chapters have any deep connection with the purported topic. They just dilute the discussion of what is promised by the title. And the thesis that many events in the natural worlds follow—including our own lives—exhibit a power law distribution or tendency to cluster into "bursts," is rather underdeveloped (or so it seems to me). The whole book is thoroughly underwhelming. Thus I found vaguely interesting but unsurprising the idea that "we are forced to set priorities—even the greats, Einstein and Darwin, are not exempt—from which delays, bursts, and power laws are bound to emerge," and "if we set priorities, our response time becomes rather uneven, which means that most tasks are promptly executed and a few will have to wait forever." The GTD crowd has been preaching this for a long, long time ... and what this book brings to bear on this phenomenon is very little.

However, what I found interesting in reading this book on a physical Kindle is that the Kindle stores highlighted passages and notes that you can add yourself in a text file, called "My clippings.txt."[1] Since the Kindle looks to the PC like an ordinary an ordinary USB drive. You can open this file in other applications, edit it, move it to the desktop, send it to someone, etc.

A typical note looks like this:
Bursts (Albert-Laszlo Barabasi)
- Note Loc. 467 | Added on Friday, October 08, 2010, 01:20 PM

I wonder whether this is useful.
==========

a highlighted passage or quote looks like this:
Bursts (Albert-Laszlo Barabasi)
- Highlight Loc. 466-68 | Added on Friday, October 08, 2010, 01:18 PM

we display a ceaseless desire to move most of the time. We are not kicked by tiny, invisible atoms but dragged by the imperceptible flickering of our neurons, which we translate into tasks, responsibilities, and motivations.
==========

I just copy the contents into a ConnectedText topic for the book and transform "==========" into "----".

There is no reason why you could not use the book (any book) for notes that have nothing to do with the book you are reading at the moment, like reminders, todo items, or bright ideas.

This is why I don't quite understand the attraction of using the built-in experimental web browser for text editing, as some suggest. One can use Mytextfile for such purposes, but it seems to me much more convenient to use "My clippings.txt."

For those who are interested. Using the "keyboard" on the Kindle 3 is at least as easy, if not easier than, using the virtual keyboard on the iPod Touch. It isn't suited for heavy-duty writing, but it will do in a pinch.


1. Neither the PC version of Kindle nor the iPod Touch (software) versions allow you to do this. Just for the record, I have bought and read about ten books on the PC or iPod Touch. The experience on the real thing is preferable.

13 comments:

jphbr said...

It's also possible to highlight text, write notes and save them in the free Kindle PC version. So there must be additional features that make the real thing different.

Kindle Text-To_Speech (TTS), supposedly quite good, could perhaps lend a voice to your notes an comments. -- In several ways I find a synthetic voice preferable to a human reader who too often put his/her own intonations/affectations between you and the text.

MK said...

What makes it different is that you can access the notes and highlights from other applications.

In the software versions, they are "locked into" the Kindle program. You cannot even synchronize between the PC and iPod Touch, for instance. And you certainly can't copy and paste them into other programs.

MK said...

I have added "in other applications" to the text to make clearer what I mean.

MK

jphbr said...

I'm not much into ipod and such, but the saved PC Kindle notes are stored in "C:....\My Documents\My Kindle Content" and can therefore be read, copied and manipulated like any other files outside Kindle.

MK said...

I am probably dense, but there is no *.txt file in my "C:....\My Documents\My Kindle Content" (and nothing that I would recognize as a note file, even though I have notes in several books).

MK

MK said...

After further research, I can say this: The notes of Kindle for the PC are stored in the .mbp file that matches the .azw file. It is a proprietary format that cannot be read by a text editor. The notes are backed up on an Amazon Website, which is accessible and the notes can be read there as well and then copied to an editor. On the Kindle itself, "My Clippings.txt" is an extra copy of the .mbp.

jphbr said...

It depends on what you mean by "read". If you open the .mbp file in Notepad you'll see the text, and some junk. Paragraph formatting is missing, but if you copy/past the whole text from Notepad to any other editor (even Wordpad), paragraphs are recovered. All that's left is to remove the junk between notes. There is no size limitation that I can see. I pasted Melville's "Bartleby, The Scrivener" in one of my notes without problem.

I like PC Kindle. I convert my manuscripts to mobi format to read them in Kindle and add notes -- Free Foxit Reader is also very good at taking notes for PDF files; on my site I show an example of movable and editable notes floating over a Story Skyline.

MK said...

"If you open the .mbp file in Notepad you'll see the text, and some junk."

This is most definitely not my experience. I see nothing but junk in Notepad (or any other editor I have used). Can't explain why, but I use Window 7 (64 bit).

You are right about being able to paste large amounts of text into the Note function of the PC Kindle. Never tried it, as I had no use for it.

On the Kindle itself, copy/cut and paste is not possible, of course

jphbr said...

I use XP. That would explain the difference.

No one has a use for pasting entire books into their notes. I just did it to test whether large notes would work.

linda said...

That answers one of my questions. The other is: Kindle version ebook page numbering differs from the paper version. Does that mean that citing with page numbers is not possible unless you have both versions?

jnc said...

Nice article, I also using the Kindle clippings features. They is also a cool website for exporting/converting your Kindle clippings at http://www.clippingsconveter.com

jnc said...

Sorry typo I meant http://www.clippingsconverter.com

John Macer said...

how about converting your clippings first to more workable format such as word or pdf using tools such as http://www.clippingsconverter.com/, edit them in your computer as desired, the convert them back to kindle format using available tools.