I don’t have a Kindle device, but I’ve recently started reading Kindle books with Kindle apps. The thing I like most about this is being able to capture highlights and notes as text. As I discuss below, Amazon doesn’t quite have this process fully perfected, but it works well enough that it gives an exciting glimpse of the future of eBooks.

Several other eReading platforms support highlighting and note-making, so I suspect doing it on Kindle doesn’t seem like such an outstanding feature to many users. But I think many are not aware that all highlighted text and notes are synced and put on a web page in the user’s account, where it can be copy/pasted anywhere — Voila! Instant saving of highlighted text and notes!

Most of my reading is non-fiction, and I’ve done a lot of hand-annotating — underlining, highlighting and note-taking — in my print books over the years, so capturing these kinds of annotations in an ebook seems like a great advance. Having all highlighted text instantly copied on to a web page, from where it can be pasted as text to another application, is especially valuable.

The screenshots here show the steps in reading, annotating, and capturing text. I usually read on the iPod Touch, with the Kindle app, which works fine for highlighting, as shown in the screenshot. The app also allows the addition of notes (indicated by the little blue box after “1855), but I usually save note-taking for the desktop app.

I’ve used the Kindle app for PC (shown below) and for Mac. These both support highlighting and more flexible note-taking than the iTouch app, so I do most of my note-writing here. Both the PC and Mac Kindle apps are notable for their elegant, smooth interfaces, with an option for two-column display and flowing text wrap — Maybe a foreshadowing of HTML 5 tricks that will soon become common in eReaders.

And, finally (below) the account-specific “Your Highlights” page at kindle.amazon.com that brings all highlights and notes together, and allows them to be copy/pasted to other applications.

As I mentioned above, the process I describe above is not quite perfected by Amazon, and that may be why they haven’t publicized it more — The process does work as described, but the syncing is not always timely. Sometimes it takes a day or two for annotations done on one of the apps to appear on the “Your Highlights” web page.

Another, more basic, hurdle in the “text capture” process, that Amazon doesn’t say much about, is the whole question of copyright implications — How much text can be highlighted and copied from a book? I haven’t found any general statement about this from Amazon. I’ve heard/seen that it’s generally 10% of the book’s text, but I’ve also heard that some publishers allow up to 40%. Before the process can be widely publicized and encouraged, Amazon and publishers will have to be more up-front about this.

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey

I don’t have a Kindle device, but I’ve recently been learning about the advantages of using the Kindle apps for PC, Mac, and iPod Touch. A great weakness of the Kindle device is that it doesn’t display color, so color pictures on the Kindle apps open up a whole new world.

All Kindle books have a free sample that can be downloaded to the device and to the apps. I’ve downloaded samples for several books that seemed likely to have pictures, and have found that the sample is often from a portion of the book that has only text. I’ve found some cases, however, in which the sample does have pictures, in the list below. To look at these free samples, sign in with an Amazon account, download the appropriate Kindle app, follow the links below, and view samples.

Kindle Books with Color Pictures:

In searching for books with color pictures, I found some that have only black and white. Here are a few for comparison …

Kindle Books with black & white pictures:

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey

Sometimes Google spins off new services and experiments so fast it’s hard to keep up. The first couple of weeks of December were an extreme case of this. Early in the month it was Google eBooks (aka Google eBookStore). Then the next week, out rolled the Body Browser and the Ngram viewer.

I was struck by the closely timed launching of these tools because they all relate closely to my interests, in eBooks, medicine, and history. It’s especially striking because the three projects were apparently developed by unrelated teams at Google — Maybe each of the teams was as surprised by the other two launches as the rest of us!

More of my comments on these new Google treats: Google eBooks, Body Browser and Ngram Viewer.

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey

Google Ngrams is a fascinating visualization tool for studying word frequency over time in the 15 million books that are part of the Google Books project. The research that led to the creation of Ngrams was a cooperative effort between Google and Harvard University.

The little screenshot snippet below shows Ngrams in action, making it easy to see at a glance how cancer has come to predominate over infectious diseases in the 20th century. Other examples show similar trends in related diseases, medical specialty fields, and the practice of healthcare. Ngram viewer IS case sensitive and results vary quite a bit depending on capitalization, so play around with it …

Especially of historic interest:

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey

The screenshots below are from Google Books, showing the link to the Google eBook version in the blue box to the left, and the formats available for downloading, in the upper right. The “Settings” box in the center is pasted from the Google eBook record, to show the connection between download formats and the versions available in Google eBooks.

In the first example, both PDF and ePub formats available for download in Google Books.  Correspondingly, in Google eBooks, Flowing text and Scanned Pages are available.

In the second example, only PDF format available for download in Google Books, and in Google eBooks, only Scanned Pages are available. Note that this is indicated in the blue box in Google Books with the note that the Google eBooks version is “Better for larger screens” (circled in red) – i.e. the PDF version is not good for mobile devices.

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey

How does Google Books relate to Google eBooks? Here’s one interesting little indication — For a full-view, free, public domain book, the URL is identical except that the Google Books version says “books” …

And the new Google eBookstore version says “ebooks” …

This makes it easy to compare the record in Google Books and Google eBookstore — Just add an “e” in the URL!

Notice here also that Google is making the connection between Google Books and the Google eBookstore, by putting the blue box with the “Get it now” button in both versions.

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey

At his demo of the IA BookReader at the recent Books in Browsers conference, Mike Ang said about the new BookReader thumbnail view — “We think this is one example where the digital book has some advantages over the printed one.” Mike was talking particularly about the ability of  the thumbnail view to give a unique overview of a book’s contents. I came across an example that shows the usefulness of this, described below.

On the top frame of the graphic at left is a shot from the personal copy of a book by Isaac Newton that has his own personal annotations in the margins, that’s described in IA staffer George Oates’s blog article — This sounded interesting when I read it, but the article didn’t have a link or page number where the annotation in the example appeared in the book. So I searched for the book in IA, and I was able to visually scan through it quickly to find the annotation, using the thumbnail view, as shown in the bottom frame at left.

This simple little example fits in nicely with the idea I’ve discussed in several articles on this blog, that thumbnails are invaluable especially in books that contain non-textual material — In the examples I’ve blogged about previously, this has been illustrations, but marginalia also fits nicely into this category.

A few more details on the Newton example — The close-up of the text (top frame) is from a set of Oates’ slides (#24) about the project; it’s also in her article linked above. As mentioned, although these sources have nice detail about the unusual Newton treasure, neither has a specific link to the occurrence or page number of the annotation shown. The IA record for the book has a note saying “Includes Issac Newton’s handwritten notations,” but doesn’t say exactly where they occur. It turns out that the annotation is on page 73.

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey

The Internet Archive’s BookReader got a lot attention at the Books in Browsers conference at IA headquarters in San Francisco last week. IA engineer Mike Ang gave a  technical talk to conference attendees on using BookReader with a touch interface (iPad, Android). He also did a demo as part of Brewster Kahle’s “Books in Browsers” Keynote which was open to the general public, and that’s mostly what I’ll discuss in this article.

The IA blog article on Kahle’s Keynote has a video that includes Ang’s BookReader demo, with some screenshots from it. But the transcribed text in the article doesn’t include the demo, so I’ll give a little summary here — Ang’s 11-minute demo (16:26-27:40 on the video) includes enhanced search capabilities, audio generation from text, use on an iPad, and the thumbnail view (shown in the picture at left), which I discussed in an earlier article.

Ang said in the demo, and also in the conference session, that his team has the new version of BookReader working well in all browsers except Internet Explorer, and that that’s the main hold-up in releasing the new version. He’s hoping it will be out in the next few weeks.

In the conference session, Ang said that it’s especially difficult to get BookReader to work on iOS and Android smartphones and tablets because “multitouch events” are programmed differently on each different device. I particularly took note of this because I’ve used the current version of BookReader on an iPad, and although it works quite nicely in general, I do notice that it’s fairly slow in pinch zooming. This is also noticeable in Ang’s demo on the video. I hope this problem can be solved — I think BookReader, if it can be made to work smoothly, has great potential on iPad-like tablets — A combination that no doubt seems natural to the people at Internet Archive since, as Ang observed in his demo, the iPad happens to be “the size of a small book.”

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey

Internet Archive (IA) has long had an excellent “thumbnail view” of book pages, in the DjVu format, which I described two years ago as being arguably superior to Google Books for viewing books with a lot of illustrations. In April of this year, IA announced an additional thumbnail view, as part of their BookReader format, which I think is even better than the DjVu format. As with the DjVu format, however, getting to the BookReader thumbnail view is a bit tricky for the user. The steps are shown in the graphic below, starting at left on the IA book home/details page. The first step is to click “Read Online” at the top of the list of formats (some books in IA don’t currently have a BookReader version, in which case the “Read Online” link doesn’t appear). The next step, in the middle shot, is to click the rather inconspicuous grid-shaped icon in the top menu bar to view thumbnails.

It would be to the benefit of the Internet Archive project to make their excellent thumbnail views — DjVu and now BookReader thumbnails — easier to find. As I reported recently, Google IS finding IA versions of books, along with its own Google Books versions. And significantly, Google is often choosing to link to the DjVu format, out of the many different formats available in IA. I suspect this is because Google “has a nose for” anything that smells like it’s related to pictures (which I’ve experienced with Hardin MD picture searching for many years).

So, in closing, I’d suggest that the people at Internet Archive do some creative Search Engine Optimization (SEO), which the IA’s Peter Brantley suggested eloquently for libraries a couple of years ago — A bit of tweaking of IA pages might help Google to “find the (graphic) jewels” that they contain — The thumbnail views and formats that the world is looking for!

Finally, I can’t resist adding a BookReader thumbnail example from an elegant 19th century series of botanical prints — Click the screenshot to feast your eyes on more:

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey