This morning I taught the lesson for our Sunday School class as a substitute teacher, and in addition to my slides was able to share all my highlighted notes from the lesson’s chapter in our book, “Good to Great in God’s Eyes” by Chip Ingram. (@chipingram) In this post, I’ll share how I used the iBooks application on my iPad, email, TextWrangler, and Google Docs to export, edit and share my highlighted notes from iBooks with others.

Generally I read most of my eBooks in Amazon’s Kindle app for iPad, but the book our class is currently studying was only available as an eBook in Apple’s iBooks Store when I purchased it. I like how Amazon supports the public sharing of Kindle highlights and notes, and customers/users are able to individually turn on public access to shared notes. My wife and I share our Amazon Prime account, and she is the main eBook reader (lots of fiction) but I have shared notes turned on for most of the non-fiction books I’ve read on Kindle and have in my library. Unfortunately, sharing your notes from iBooks by Apple is not nearly as straightforward and easy a process as it is for Amazon Kindle eBooks.

I think we still have a LOT to realize in this arena of shared eBook notes and collaborative, interactive reading. Before Pearson bought it and killed its innovative functions, I really liked the app SubText. It’s since become “Accelerated Reader 360.” When SubText was still an independent and awesome iOS app, we used it for a graduate course I taught on “Mapping Media to the Common Core” (now “Show With Media”) and I liked how as the teacher, I could see what my students were highlighting and asking questions about. Students could also see my highlights. Curriculet was another awesome app and platform which was focused on making writing a richly interactive experience for teachers and students. Unfortunately it also died. I’m very interested in this mobile app genre, and hope we’ll continue to see app developers innovate in this space.

In the case of an eBook in iBooks, the process of exporting your highlights and notes is not as straightforward as is typically the case with Apple software and products. I used Vicki Davis’ post, “Export iBooks Notes to Evernote step by step” to learn this process. See her post for the details, but basically you choose to “Edit your notes” for an eBook, then select the notes you want to export, and email them to yourself. It’s not possible to directly export the notes to a Google Doc, from what I could figure out.

After getting the email with my own eBook highlights, I wanted to copy and paste them into a shared Google Doc. The problem was, as you an see from the screenshot above, that each highlight was preceded by the date, chapter number and book name. To delete these unnecessary and repetitive elements efficiently, I copied and pasted my emailed highlights into the Mac software program TextWrangler. TextWrangler, along with Skitch, is one of the most helpful utility programs I use daily on my Mac. TextWrangler supports powerful GREP search queries, and although I’m no expert on GREP searching, I’ve dabbled with it enough to understand it’s VERY powerful and useful. In this case, I didn’t use GREP syntax, however. I just highlighted a single instance of all the spaces and text I wanted to delete, and did a document-wide “find and replace” command in TextWrangler, replacing the selected text with nothing. Whoa-la! Now I had all my highlighted text from the eBook in a plain text file!

My last step was to copy and paste that text into a new Google Doc, choose to SHARE the document publicly, and then copy and paste the share link to the document into my Google Presentation on the title slide and ending slide.

I wish Apple would make this process easier, more streamlined, and dynamically updatable the way Amazon has with Kindle highlights. I’m glad, however, it’s still possible to export highlights out of iBooks eBooks. I know there are DRM (digital rights management) issues with highlights, since these are excerpted copies of copyrighted words, so maybe we won’t see much improvement in this area anytime soon.

If these steps are helpful to you, please let me know by commenting below or reaching out on Twitter with a reply to @wfryer. Happy iBooks highlight sharing!


Did you know Wes has published several eBooks and "eBook singles?" 1 of them is available free! Check them out!

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