I tend to markup the books I read. After a while, it just became easier to use those little 3M strip stickers and highlighters to index a book my way. I used to use different colored strips for different ideas: "hot idea", "case study", "problem point", etc. But eventually, I realized that it'd be easier to actually write specific words onto the strips. Guess what, I'm just doing something exactly the way I do online, but in a more primitive, and less easy-to-search way. I loose a lot of knowledge this way, or at least track of it.
So my wish here is that there would be some way how I could tag the content in any book I find into an online, searchable way, and perhaps share it with others. My thought is that there are several possibilities:
- Really lame way: copy the text, page, etc. and in the tagging/bookmarking software, create an entry with that description pointing to the place in the book. Cons: Is there any point to even talk about this?
- Magical semi-scanner tool: Some pen-like device that can scan text in a book and the position in the book, and then let me enter the tag for the text. There are some smart pens out there that digitize writing but this would also add in the requirement to be able to create a tag, and then publish that online. Cons: I don't know it such a device exists but its not impossible to build on top of something like Logitech's oi2 Digital Pen
- Ebooks with tagging support. I find some sort of ebook reading device that allows bookmarking/tagging to a general online tagging service, rather than "saved with a book". Cons: Not all books are available in e-books format, however, publishers are getting better about it. Still ebook reader devices need to be extended to allow the online tagging.
- Use online web-based books and find a way to tag. Similar to the ebooks approach but no special device, just a laptop or web-phone. Cons: Requires a browser device, and may need a live connection.
For 3 & 4, a side note: Safari is still hanging on but it is has a good approach to online books. You pay a service fee to be able to "borrow" books from their online library and can swap out your bookshelf over time; just requires a regular fee.
I think the idea of ebooks is great in terms of technology like digital ink that requires really low power consumption and can run for many hours at a time, but I think the need to be able to correlate or search related information, tagging, color images, etc. all require a net conneciton and better graphics support. In other words, the device just becomes a browser anyway, and the worst you have to do is keep recharging the device.
Take the iPod Touch or iPhone example as a browser people actually want to use and has some degree of a readable screen (compared to other phones). I don't have one, but I think you'd be able to access books from Safari and have a way to tag information. Ebooks (e.g., Sony Portable Reader System) have more screen real-estate, typically about the size of a paperback book. I think visually the iPod Touch
/iPhone is still a little small to read and chews power like candy, but it's much more capable in terms of enabling the reader or researcher.
Any ideas for other possible solutions?