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Quotable Trumps Audible

My company recently moved to a new building, which has roughly doubled my commute. I’ve been trying different things to make the longer commute not feel like such a gigantic waste of time, so I signed up for an Audible.com trial, downloaded a couple of books, and have been trying out listening to a book while I drive.

It is not working. It is not that the book I chose isn’t enjoyable as an audio book- it is. The narrator is well matched to the book and reads it beautifully. However, I have switched to a Kindle version of the book, and while the voice reading it in my head still sounds a bit like the Audible narrator, I am happier this way. I may yet try out the technology that lets you sync between audio book and Kindle edition, but I do not think I can read a book solely in audio form.

The problem with audio is that I cannot highlight quotes. I have always loved saving my favorite quotes from books. As a child, I had a notebook I would write these quotes into. During a brief fascination with calligraphy, I wrote them with my calligraphy pen in a child’s approximation of beautiful lettering. Later, I reverted to a regular pen and just wrote the quotes in a slightly less sloppy version of my usual penmanship. Now, I store my quotes in a Google Docs spreadsheet. Technology marches on.

One of my favorite things about eReading is the way in which I can easily highlight favorite passages while I read- barely interrupting the flow of the story- and then come back and find them easily later. Sometime after I finish the book, I go through and transfer the quotes I highlighted to my spreadsheet. I love this system. It is by far the best I’ve found, and the only thing that would make it better would be to have a way to automatically send my quotes to my master spreadsheet. (Hmmm. I may have to look into whether the Kindle has an API that would let me do that….)

I have a hard time finding passages I highlighted earlier in paper books, and anyway, I strongly dislike writing in paper books. When I read paper books these days, I write the first part of the passages I want to save along with the relevant page numbers on a piece of paper that I use as a bookmark. When I finish the book, I go back through the book using the notes on this paper, and transfer the quotes to my spreadsheet. That system is less wonderful than the eReader way, but it works, so I do still read paper books from time to time.

I cannot come up with a system that will allow me to safely capture favorite passages from a book I am listening to while driving. To my surprise, this is a deal breaker for me. Perhaps I should not be surprised. After all, when I started kicking around the idea that eventually became this website, it was obvious to me from the very start that I would include quotes from the books I recommended. I would still like to find a way to make the quotes that I have already used accessible on the site- right now, each quote stays up for a week, and then it disappears. You could go back through my tumblr to find old quotes, but I’d like something on TungstenHippo.com, too. I will eventually get to it, but I want to finish the configuration needed to allow me to post recommendations for collections of short writing first.

In the meantime, I’ll keep gathering my quotes, filling my spreadsheet with little bits of wisdom, insight, and joy from the books I read.

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