Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Popular Highlights

I’m not sure when this first appeared, but I only recently noticed that Amazon was including Popular Highlights on their eBook pages. In case you don’t know what Popular Highlights are, these are passages in books that people highlight in their Kindles. Apparently people are prone to do this sort of thing. The option was made available because people often underlined or highlighted passages in paper books.

The very thought of this is disturbing to me. I grew up with a reverence for books of any kind, and the idea of defacing one with pen marks makes me shudder. I’m one of those people who won’t even open a paperback too far for fear of creasing the binding.

In the eBook world things are a bit different, because when a reader highlights a section, unless they go to the bother of turning off the feature, the information gets transmitted back to Amazon. These highlights are included in the text when a new reader downloads a book, so they can then see what others have noted. The identity of the highlighter is not disclosed but this has still spurred all sorts of privacy issues, but I’m not posting to discuss that. Instead what I recently discovered is that the accumulated data from these highlights are being posted on the individual book pages on Amazon.

While this might not mean much more to a reader than the chance to look and say, “Ah, I liked that line too.” For an author this is amazing.

It is great to hear that people liked your book. It is wonderful to have them mention that they liked this character or that scene, but to actually see the very sentence or passage that resonated enough with a reader for them to take the moment to mark it, is very fun. And interestingly enough, they are mostly the sentences I knew were standouts when I wrote them.

While each book has about nine quotes each here are the top rated quotes for each of my books. (Keep in mind that more people read the earlier books than the later ones so the number of highlights are a bit skewed.)

The Crown Conspiracy:
“Lying. The abbot told me once that lying was a betrayal to one’s self. It’s evidence of self-loathing. You see, when you are so ashamed of your actions, thoughts, or intentions, you lie to hide it rather than accept yourself for who you really are. The idea of how others see you becomes more important than the reality of you.”
Highlighted by 62 Kindle users

Your best ally in any discussion is silence. Learn to develop that skill. Learn to listen instead of speaking and you will weather many storms.”
Highlighted by 42 Kindle users

Nyphron Rising:
“One truth doesn’t refute another. Truth doesn’t lie in the object, but in how we see it.”
Highlighted by 40 Kindle users

The Emerald Storm
“Breathe the air, taste the wine, kiss the girls, and always remember that the tales of another are never as wondrous as your own.
Highlighted by 16 Kindle users

“Happiness comes from moving toward something. When you run away, ofttimes you bring your misery with you.”
Highlighted by 46 Kindle users

Most of my favorite lines were noted on the Amazon list, although I was disappointed one of my favorites received no mention at all: “Myron considered how he might like to be a mole or shrew, not a Dusky or Greater White-tooth, or even a Lesser White-tooth Shrew, but just a common shrew, or perhaps a mole.” This was originally part of a section that was cut, but by virtue of that line it was brought back. I was however pleased to see the Esrahaddon line about sharks and chickens made the list, as did his quote about magic and fiddles, as well as Denek’s mention of big butter churns and wicked old ladies, Myron’s description of kids as drunks and Hadrian’s line about anger.

It would seem however that most of the highlights are more philosophical in nature. The kind of thing you might find on one of those posters featuring a beautiful photograph, or on a laminated wooden plaque in your mother’s kitchen. I had no idea I had a knack for such things. In fact, in reading the lists of things harvested from my books I was really impressed. Taken out of context I sound quite impressive.


  1. I think this is really neat! I like the ideas of sharing favorite quotes. And quotes, not whole pages of chapters. I have a few quotes on my blog that I like to share and keep up. I even think the one here for Nyphron Rising might be one of them. :) Great list!

  2. I noticed this feature a while back when it was first implemented. I turn it off when I'm reading fiction because I don't want to be influenced by what others are highlighting. After I've read something, I'll occasionally turn it on to see what collective readership has marked up. For non-fiction.

    In a related development, Amazon is now adding a "page number" feature to Kindles. This allows people who cite a page number in the print book to find the equivalent passage in the Kindle version.

  3. The quote from Nyphron Rising comes from one of my favorite dialogs of all time! Utterly brilliant.

    I think I recognize a few of the other passages as well (which is saying something for a person with a memory like mine).

    If I had a Kindle, I think i would do what Jamie does and turn off the highlights as I read through the book so as not to be influenced by what other readers found poignant.

    Do the other eReaders have the same feature?

    Does the feature only work with the device itself or does it also work with Kindle for PC (et. al.)?

  4. Apparently any reader using the Kindle app has the feature. My iPad picks up highlights by others but only from the time of the original download.

    Thanks for the "brilliant."

  5. so that is what that is. And I just had it written off as poor editing :P - Now that I know, I'll be able to turn it off. Lines in books (apart from academic ones) are a nono. digital or otherwise.

    Doesnt help that the missus reads with a pen behind her ear... and whenever she opens a book, she streeetches and fleeeexes the back while looking me in the eye, daring me to comment. I generally just avert my eyes and shudder over the horrific display of mutilating violence...

  6. I have shared more than one highlight from your books on my facebook page! I love the feature. One of my favorite quotes is the "Through Cats Eyes" quote from Gwen. I thought it was a refreshingly simple take on perspective. My friends also appreciate the feature. I am an avid reader and I love to share my favorite authors, this gives them a little peek before they decide take up one of my picks. I have never thought of this feature being a "bad feature" to an author. It is nice to hear your perspective and I am glad it is positive! Thank You!

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