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Dear Jane: How do the different eReading devices handle notes?

Dear Jane:

I read epub ebooks on my iPhone using Stanza, having transferred them over using Calibre.

Recently I read a book where I made a lot of annotations. I want to know if it is possible to get that book and the annotations back off the phone and onto my computer.

I prefer to permanently store my ebooks on my laptop and just transfer what I’m reading and planning to read to the phone. When I’m done, I delete them off off the phone, knowing everything is safely stored elsewhere.

Before, this hasn’t been an issue. Now I have this file with all the annotations on the phone and I don’t want to have to leave it there forever to have access to my notes. I’d rather be able to store the annotated file back in my permanent directory on my laptop and not on the phone.

Can this be done? Can you help?


Dear Kerry:

Short Answer: No, unfortunately, the only way to transfer notes in Stanza is one at a time by selecting a paragraph or a word and then “Share” and then “email”.

Long Answer: Your question made me investigate the other ebook readers and how they handled annotations.

Sony: Sony has stand alone devices. Currently there are three of them: Pocket, Touch, and Daily Edition. You can only take notes with the Touch and Daily Edition.   Sony has a touchscreen that is responsive to a stylus. Note taking can be done using the stylus or an on screen keyboard.

How To:   Using your stylus (which I think is the easiest) start writing your note.   Or highlight some text and the

You can export your notes to your computer using the Reader Library software but they are in a separate document and not connected with the book itself.

Kindle note
Kindle: Kindle has a standalone device and apps for the iPad, iPhone/iTouch, Blackberry, Android, and the Mac and PC.   Kindle has the most robust note features.   (It does not have the best input of notes as the bubble keys on the Kindle itself are ridiculous).

How to:   Use the joystick to navigate to where you want to place a note. Press again and it will highlight. Start typing to take the note.

All highlighted passages and all notes are stored in a file called “My Clippings” which can be transferred to your computer using a USB connection.   Further, the notes will sync across every platform.   Thus if you are reading on the Blackberry and take a note, it will show up on your Kindle device.

You cannot take notes on Kindle for Mac, Kindle for Android, or Kindle for Blackberry but you can on the Kindle for PC, Kindle for iPad/iPhone. If you are reading on a device where you can’t take notes, you can still see the notes you took on the device that could.

The notes appear as a little icon near the text and you can access the note immediately.

Kobo/Borders: No note taking ability as of yet.

Nook / BN eReader App:

The Barnes and Noble platform includes the stand alone device, nook, and eReader Apps for the PC, Mac, Blackberry, iPhone, and iPad. You can add notes to the BN eReader App for PC, Mac, iPad, and iPhone but not the Blackberry. The notes do not sync over all platforms.

The BN eReader App for the PC and the iPad will sync notes and last place read with each other but the other apps will not (and neither will the notes on the nook sync with anything). There does not appear to be a way to export the notes from any device.

How To:   On the nook, you use the touchscreen to select “highlights/notes”. Once that is selected, you can then highlight a word or block of text and add notes to the highlighted selection.

There is no differentiation between a note and a highlight.   A list of the notes and highlights can be accessed by selecting “Go To” on the App or selecting “Notes/Highlights” on the touchscreen while a book is open on the nook.

iBook notesiBooks: There is no desktop application. iBooks is only for the iPad and iPhone/iTouch. You can take notes on each of those devices using the on screen keyboard or, for some models, with an attached bluetooth keyboard. The notes are synchronized between devices along with last place read.

How To:   Simply run your finger across the text you want to highlight and then select “note” from the menu that pops up.   Start typing when the sticky note appears.

A list of the bookmarks and notes appear on the “Bookmarks” page. You can not export these notes in one file but only read them one at a time.

The notes are designated by the date that the note was made on a mini stick in the margin.   The note can be immediately accessed.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


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  2. Elyssa Papa
    Jul 04, 2010 @ 09:50:43

    I’ve been wondering how to transfer notes (and how to actually use this feature) so thank you for this post.

  3. Marie
    Jul 04, 2010 @ 10:45:20

    Stanza does have a desktop app, but I’m not sure how it will interact with notes you’ve taken on the iPhone – or if there’s a even a good way to get ebooks from the iPhone back to the desktop app. Might be worth looking into, though, for those in this situation.

  4. Sunita
    Jul 04, 2010 @ 11:16:52

    Well, unfortunately you’re confirming what I’ve found over the last few months of looking: there are just no really good ways to annotate in ereader programs. I have the Sony Daily Edition and one thing I like about it is that you can write notes on the screen with the stylus and the file it creates will save those as jpegs or something similar. And of course there’s highlighting. But I keep hoping for something similar to skim for mac (pdf annotations) to show up. But the skim guy says he’s not doing one for the iPad, last I checked.

  5. Marsha
    Jul 04, 2010 @ 11:32:43

    That’s something I really miss from my PalmOS PDA/smartphone. The eReader app had the ability to export all the notes from a book into one note in the memos app. From there I could email that note as a txt file. The export function never made it to the iPhone version and since B&N took over Fictionwise, the original eReader app seems to have been abandoned; I don’t think it has been updated since B&N put out their own eReader version.

  6. Kerry
    Jul 04, 2010 @ 14:25:38

    Thanks for this Jane.

    I’m the one that asked the original question, so I figured I’d add the solution I’ve come up with since discussing it with Jane.

    Instead of using the annotate function in Stanza, I now use the share function and mail, which opens up an email window with the quoted text and the whole book file attached.

    I delete the attached book file, type my own comments into the email and mail it to myself.

    When I have a moment, I then open up my mail on my laptop, and copy and paste my notes into a text file. When I’ve finished the book I’ll save the notes file and the original ebook file together in a zip file in my archive directory.

    I’m hoping using a basic text file will future proof my notes better and they’ll be there and waiting for me whenever I want/need to check what I thought was important.

    @Marie: I installed the Stanza desktop application to try that but there’s not obvious way to even see if there are annotations to the file. I don’t think they are actually attached to the book file, but stored elsewhere. So that solution doesn’t work either. I tried.

  7. Terry Odell
    Jul 05, 2010 @ 07:29:29

    I never even considered transferring notes. Good food for thought. I have a dinosaur e-Bookwise, from which I can make notes, but I’ve never thought about moving them.

    I’ve got an e-reader app on my phone, but I haven’t played with it yet.

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