Have you ever read a passage in a book or an online article that really struck a chord with you, inspiring you deeply, only to be forgotten completely in a day or two?
I certainly have. Quite often, as I come across such great ideas, I think, “Wow, I really need to remember – and take action on – this!” Sometimes, I’ll write it on a Post-It, and stick it on my computer. Sometimes, I’ll email it to myself, so I’ll come across it again. Sometimes, these methods work, but only for a limited number of ideas, and/or for a limited time. I needed a method that’d be more reliable – a way to send reminders to “future me” to remember these very important ideas, well into the future.
I’ve found such a device. It’s a web app called Readwise. At its most basic (and to me, most useful), it’s an app that automatically uploads my Kindle highlights every night, and generates an email for me every morning, containing a set of my own highlights. I look forward to this email, and the brilliant ideas it resurfaces, more than anything else I’m likely to find in my inbox every day.
The Kindle highlight feature, by itself, is extremely valuable to me. But, there’s more.
Saving Your Highlights and Notes – Let Me Count The Ways
Readwise lets you import highlights and notes in many other forms besides Kindle highlights, and return them to you via your daily email, and in the Readwise app. These other sources include:
- iBooks – Uploading highlights from Apple Books (iBooks) isn’t as automatic as uploading from the Kindle, but it’s still doable, via a couple of different, simple methods.
- Pocket – Once connected to your Readwise account, Pocket lets you highlight online articles as you read, and Readwise automatically uploads them to your account, much like it does with Kindle highlights.
- Instapaper – Instapaper, like Pocket (and other “read-later apps”) also lets you set up the connection to Readwise once, then create any highlights you want, and have Readwise upload them automatically.
- Reading Online – using the Readwise Chrome extension, you can easily highlight and save anything you’re reading online. Reading an article on CNN.com? You can quickly capture a highlight to Readwise by highlighting the desired text, right-clicking, and selecting Save Highlight to Readwise from the context menu.
- Medium – Medium offers its own highlighting tool. Just select a passage, and Medium automatically pops up a tooltip, from which you can choose the highlighter. Once your Medium account is connected to your Readwise account, your Medium highlights will be automatically synced to Readwise every night, and appear in your daily emails.
- Twitter – You can save tweets to Readwise by replying to any tweet with “@readwiseio save” (without the quotes), and the tweet will be saved to your Readwise account, and will be resurfaced in your daily emails. In addition, you can save an entire thread by replying “@readwiseio save thread”. (If you want to keep it private, you can DM the tweet to @readwise.io on twitter.)
- Hypothes.is Web Clipper – Hypothes.is installs a browser extension that enables you to highlight any passages as you read. As with Kindle highlights, once the app is connected to your Readwise account, your highlights are automatically uploaded.
- Other web clippers, like Liner – Liner also installs a browser extension that enables you to highlight passages as you read. However, Liner can’t automatically sync with Readwise, so you’d need to periodically export your highlights to a CSV and then email those to email@example.com. Obviously, a fully automatic service is preferable, but if you’re really attached to a particular web clipper, this solution works.
- Goodreads – Readwise provides “supplemental highlights” for all of the books in your Goodreads account, once you link it to your Readwise account. These “supplemental highlights” are highlights created by other Readwise users (as an anonymous aggregate), based on the highlights’ popularity. These highlights don’t require any action on your part to create; however, they are also not your own highlights, and what you personally choose to highlight may be different from what other readers find noteworthy. Still, it’s a good starting point, and you can add to, and delete from, these highlights just like the highlights synced from other sources.
- Paper and Audio Books – As with the Goodreads highlights, you can download popular highlights of books that you’ve read in paper form, or listened to via audio books. Again, these are popular highlights from other Readwise users, which you can add to, or discard, if you choose.
- Freeform manual notes – You can manually enter passages (or just random thoughts) that you want to save as well, by entering a book name, author, and the passage into a form in the Readwise app. Like you’d expect, these notes will appear in your daily email, just like notes from all the other sources. (I even created a non-existent book called “My Own Thoughts”, in which to store random thoughts that I wanted to merge in with my curated notes.)
- Bulk Import – You can upload a CSV file of highlights that you want to save, also through the Readwise app. All you really need to include for each note is the text of the note itself.
- Email import – Finally, you can import highlights from various sources, such as Scribd, by emailing them as attachments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
My Highlights Are Safely Recorded – Now What?
All of these sources of inspiration feed into your Readwise account, and from there into your daily email. Readwise determines how often to “resurface” your highlights based on an algorithm using spaced repetition, fine-tuned to your personal preferences. It’s all configurable. You can mark each highlight/note as a “favorite”, in which case you’ll see it more frequently. You can increase or decrease the frequency in other ways, too. And, you can easily discard highlights that just don’t excite you like they did originally.
You can even share your highlights with friends (“broadcasting” them), and they’ll get an email at whatever frequency you choose, with all of your highlights and notes, or just your favorites.
You can even export your Highlights to Evernote and Notion, to enable you to sort and categorize them any way you want, and pipe them into even more apps. You can export all of your highlights into a single CSV, and export individual books as Markdown, too.
As you can see, however and wherever you read, there’s an easy way for you to save valuable insights and inspirations, to remind “future you” of these newly discovered gems.
Isn’t technology awesome?
I really love Readwise, and strongly encourage you give it a try. You can literally set it up in less than a minute! And, it just may change your life.