Taking notes, when reading

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Taking notes, when reading

jan 9, 9:04am

Hi! Do you take notes, when you read non-fiction books? If yes - what are the tools / methods you use?
I find it especially difficult for paperback books, since I need to copy all my notes to a note-taking app.

jan 9, 10:34am

Yes - if a physical book, I use a wire-bound notebook I've had for years. Notes on fiction as well as non-fiction are in it. It's my second one.

If it's an ebook, I use the app itself.

I guess if I HAD to use an app of some kind for physical books I'd use my iPad since a stylus is easier and I'd probably pick something like Penulimate.

jan 9, 12:18pm

I write on my bookmarks and use post-it type flags. Sometimes I put notes in the "private comments" field on LibraryThing, if I expect to use them in my eventual review of the book.

Redigerat: jan 9, 12:45pm

Great question!

I've been at it for forty years now, and (though I've been composing on keyboards since the late 70s and editing on screens since Word 3.0), my preferred "take notes while reading" tool is still a lined yellow pad and a pen (pencil at work, because: research library).

I'm left-handed, so the pen's in my left hand and my right hand is holding (or turning the pages of) the book. Always a lined pad so I can use the ruled margin for page numbers (and skip a line for visual breaks between notes), always a yellow pad because nothing else in my paper ecosystem is yellow and so it codes for: "Information gleaned from a printed source, meeting, or conversation . . . not yet processed."

Once upon a time, my handwritten notes on books were very detailed, neat, and meticulously organized, with long copied-out passages of text. They've become steadily looser and more telegraphic: Less a detailed outline or distillation of the book than a series of reminders that "this interesting bit was on that page" or "this is the thrust of the argument."

The trade-off, of course, is that the handwritten notes need to be "reprocessed" later into a more organized (and usable), digital form . . . but for me that's a necessary evil. I've never found a satisfactory way of taking notes on a keyboard while I read, since constantly switching between reading and typing causes the quality of both to suffer (for me), and taking notes in a specialized note-storage program is even worse because (again, for me) it means switching between reading, typing, and managing the program, and quality takes an even bigger hit.

I should add that nearly all my note-taking is focused on gathering information to answer a particular question, resolve a particular research problem, or complete a particular piece of writing . . . which means that the end-product of the "reprocessing" is nearly the finished work, rather than longer and more elaborate sets of notes-filed-for-reference-and-future-use on Topic X.

A long answer to a short question . . . but hopefully of some use.

Redigerat: jan 9, 1:10pm

I take notes also when I read books-fiction and non-fiction. Helps me keep track of characters' names and relationships especially if there is a lot of characters in a book. I keep a pad of paper by me when I read.

jan 9, 1:24pm

I use a pen&pad as mentioned above but agree that having to type them all up later is a slight pain. I have looked into the pens/notebooks that automatically upload what you write. I haven't bought one yet but I am very tempted. If it's my own book, I just highlight and scribble in the margins and tab it to death with postits. :D

jan 9, 2:58pm

For years, I would take a standard sheet of letter-size paper and fold it in quarters. That size would fit my hand as well as my cursive. I could quickly jot down relevant names or page numbers and tuck the note inside of the book itself for retrieval. If the notes were so extensive that I found I really needed them in a different format, I would THEN transcribe the notes into a digital form, using either Evernote or a Google Doc.

I recently found a particular brand of notebook that is probably not more than a simple signature of 16 sheets or so. It folds back on itself easily so for the past six months or so, I've used that as an adjunct to my reading. It's working really well for me.

Redigerat: jan 9, 4:44pm

I also tried to group and store my notes in Evernote and Google Docs, but find it quite inconvenient, since these are general purpose tools, and are not specifically targeted for book readers.

So I decided to develop my own tool (it is called "Readult", and currently only available in Google Play store for Android devices), which I want to be my single source of book notes.

I'd like to collect some input from you on how you see such an app, and what it should be able to do in order to be useful specifically for your needs.

I already added text recognition functionality to it, so now it is easier to just scan paperback books and extract useful notes right into the app (without the need to type manually).
The next step, maybe, could be an ability to transfer notes from e-book vendors (such as Kindle).

I'd really appreciate if you take a look and give it a try, and then provide your response here, since I'm really willing to make it great.

P.S.: I hope this post won't be considered as an advertisement, since I've got nothing to sell really (the application is fully free), and only need to collect inputs to verify my idea.

jan 9, 4:51pm

Ah, still. A duplicitous post.

jan 9, 5:33pm

>9 Bookmarque: Sad, that you think this way. I'm just trying to build something useful.

jan 9, 6:09pm

My fault. I should have checked your profile and seen that you haven’t cataloged a thing.

jan 10, 11:45am

Echoing Bookmarque's sense of deception. The honesty of >8 nf-reader: was missing from >1 nf-reader:.

jan 11, 8:12am

I take notes on fiction and non-ficton. I also use small strips of paper to mark pages.

Redigerat: jan 11, 10:08am

I use a very light pencil mark at the interesting passage and write the page numbers inside the back cover. When I’m done with the book, I transcribe what I want to keep; in notebooks for personal reference; in a word document if I need to paste it somewhere like CK quotations. Then I erase the pencil marks.

I have several journals full of notes going back 40 years or so.

jan 11, 10:42am

My father-in-law did. I've got dozens (really -- dozens) of large spiral-bound notebooks that he's written down things from books he's read. Go to the book, and you'll find he's either underlined or highlighted the passage as well. I don't recall that he ever had a reason to look up any of that again. Even when he died a month before his 93rd birthday, his mind was sharp.

I'll toss a bookmark in places where I might want to refer back to at some future point. Lots of bookmarks ...

The only time I've written things from a book is what ended up being a good eight (pretty sure) pages in a Moleskine blank book of individual words from a fantasy series I read over the course of three decades. (That's how long it took to publish them.) The author had an extraordinarily expansive vocabulary, and I always refer to him when I speak of precision and clarity of expression. It didn't bother me that I would interrupt my reading to write these words down when I finished a paragraph.

jan 11, 1:53pm

I take notes as well. I usually write on large post-it notes which I keep in the book 'til I've finished reading it; then I transcribe them and keep on the computer.

jan 11, 5:32pm

>16 LynnB: which software do you use?

jan 12, 8:43am

>17 nf-reader: oh! I am so unsophisticated! WPS office -- basic word processing.

jan 13, 9:50am

Yes, I generally take notes while reading. I typically use pen and paper, because it is easy to manage while reading, and helps commit the notes to memory. However, notes do get transcribed to a digital system--what ever note taking/keeping software I am currently using. I have used many pieces of software over the years, but am currently using one called Obsidian (obsidian.md for more informastion).

jan 13, 10:08am

It depends on where I'm reading, because if I'm reading an e-book away from my desk (aka on my mobile), it's harder to take notes. Whereas, if I'm reading an e-book OR a print book at my desk, I usually type and save any notes I want to take - and usually after I finish a chapter. If I'm reading a print book away from my desk, I usually take notes in a notebook or use post-its to record where I want to take notes from, to type up later.

Redigerat: jan 15, 5:47am

I do. Precisely I'm in the process of completely revisiting my note taking process on books.

I have had a fairly simple system for close to 20 years:
1/ Highlight quotes/passages I want to store for later.
2/ Once book was finished I wrote a review for it (10 to 20 lines) in a Word document and usually uploaded that review in LibraryThing. I also copied all highlighted passages in a separate Word document (previously, before I had a computer, I copied those by and in a notebook)

Now, partly thanks to all the note-taking apps flourishing, partly because I think it it's worth making the effort, I am revisiting my workflow. To be clear, it works like that

1/ I have two Google Doc templates (one for literature, the other for non-fiction) that serve as a guide for the final review process.
2/ They are structured like that:
Fiction: (a) Introduction: I detail why I chose to read the book, I write a few lines about the author, the historical context and how it stands in the author's bibliography. (b) Plot summary & main characters: I keep it short and simple. (c) Review: overall opinion, strong points, weak points (d) awards won (e) quotes/highligts
Non-Fiction: (a) Context: writer & publication introduction; why this book; How is this book positioned. (b) Analysis: There I summarize by notes chapter by chapter. I interlink the summary of the text, my own reflections about it and the passages which I have captured. I do that in 3 different highlights to avoid confusion. (c) Review: overall opinion; strong points; weak points. (d) Awards. (e) How to put it into practice: I write down the key takeaways for my own life and how I intend to put the ideas into practice (if I intend to)
3/ Once the templates are filled in and finalized, I export them as Word documents on my hard drive and I copy them in a Notion database
4/ During the actual reading, I take notes in Dynalist (an outline) note-taking app wherein I write down my analysis of each section (for non-fiction) which will be summarized/consolidated in my Google template once I'm done with the book, and I also write down my general reflections (for each part read or overall)

I tried to reintroduce pen & paper at some point but I lack time and putting everything directly in a note-taking app (Dynalist, in that case) makes me gain a lot of time.
I am also thinking of capturing characters in a conceptual map, for some novels it can be worth it when not already available online.

jan 16, 1:33am

It depends........most non-fiction I do not take notes. But I'm reading a 3 volume history of Rome of which I'm not real familiar, so I'm taking notes, or more or less summarizing each chapter and also learning some vocab along the way. I'm doing this is in a nice spiral notebook that I received as a Christmas present. If the book can be easily propped up on my desk, then I would prefer to keep computerized generated notes. I have a rather large Samsung tablet, but I really don't want to to take notes with that, for some reason.

jan 16, 3:52pm

To be honest, I do scribble some items either in personal comments or for something large (book size) where I have to sit at a table in my library, I make the notes in Evernote. I'm starting to plow through the 13 volume set of the surveys for the transcontinental RR and if I don't do that, I can't remember what I looked at. Mostly it's dates, page number and where am I as I march across the US!

feb 18, 11:47pm

>23 ulmannc:, Wow, what a project. I teach (I thought in some detail, but not compared to yours) about the TC RR.

Redigerat: feb 21, 4:39pm

I do, for fiction and nonfiction both. Largely inspired by LT, I started an ongoing reading journal in 2016 and have kept it up ever since: books, authors, pages, dates, and page-referenced quotes and comments, together with a rating and summing up at the end. Before that, I used to write in tiny letters on bookmarks and Post-its, and then I couldn't read my notes afterward.

I use 8 1/2 x 5 1/2 spiral notebooks, mostly, and write in pencil. I'm up to volume 5. I also mark book pages directly, and have done that for something like 50 years. That's one reason why I prefer paper books and why I don't use the library as much as I should.

I also mark typos.