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How I Take Book Notes
Lately, I’ve been reading exclusively physical books. I treat it almost as a daily meditation. Reading epubs or pdfs online opens me up to too many distractions to get a good reading session in. Reading on a kindle feels inauthentic.
Unfortunately, confining myself to physical books precludes me from the current era’s frenzied note taking systems. I can’t connect to Evernote, Roam, Instapaper, and the works. Readwise lets you highlight passages using your camera, but then I have to have my phone near me, a recipe for distraction.
Furthermore, adding my own notes to a passage is excruciating without typing on a full size keyboard.
Recently I’ve been using a method that solves all of my qualms above—I put my phone across the room, out of sight and out of mind, turn on the voice recorder, and start reading. When I encounter a passage that I have some thoughts about, I say what page number I’m on, and then say my notes out loud.
When I finish reading, Google automatically syncs the recording to the cloud, which lets me sit down at my computer at a later date and write my notes into Roam. Sections of the recording with speech are helpfully highlighted, allowing me to skip over silence. Google also automatically transcribes the recording so I can easily copy paste most of my notes with only light editing.
One 45 minute recording takes 17 MB, so you could comfortably store 100 of them if you like the sound of your own voice, but I just delete them after transcription.
Overall, it’s not a perfect system, but it’s the best I’ve found. Some areas which could use improvement:
Be able to take notes on the go, e.g. on the train
Better speech recognition
Transcript should be automatically placed into Roam
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