Read Now, Learn Later

Syncing Kindle Highlights with Roam Research

This post builds off my post about Zettelkasten note-taking in Roam Research.

I’m a believer in the Zettelkasten note-taking method and have found that creating literary notes from what I read has helped me understand the content. But I have a confession to make: a lot of times, I don’t like taking notes while I read. I read in cabs, in elevators, while waiting in line, and while lying in bed. I love becoming absorbed with what I’m reading without being concerned about “learning.”

Naturally, I had to find another way to take literary notes, so I inserted a couple of steps in the Zettelkasten note-taking method for books I read on my kindle:

  1. Create a “slip-box,” for permanent notes. Permanent notes are big ideas that you generate and collect over time. 

  2. While reading a book, highlight sections you find useful or insightful and want to revisit.

  3. Sync your kindle highlights with your Roam graph.

  4. Read through your synced highlights, and take notes in your own words (literary notes). While looking through your highlights, also extract permanent notes and store them in your slip-box.

  5. After creating a new permanent note to add to your slip-box, identify related permanent notes already in your slip-box and comment on how they fit together or contradict each other. You’re connecting old knowledge with new knowledge, old ideas with new ideas.

  6. Add keywords to your permanent note, which represent cues to invoke it from your slip-box.

Sync Kindle Highlights with Roam

Subscribe to readwise.io, which imports highlights from all books on your Kindle account.

Use the readwise.io export to Roam feature to sync Kindle highlights from the books you select with Roam.

If the book is called: “How to Take Smart Notes,” readwise.io creates a page called “How to Take Smart Notes (highlights).” 

You can then add the readwise.io created highlights page (ex. “How to Take Smart Notes (highlights)”) to your existing literary notes page (ex. “Book: How to Take Smart Notes”). Then, read through your highlights and create literary notes and permanent notes.

If you don’t want to pay for a readwise.io subscription, here is another way to sync your Kindle highlights with Roam.

This process of post-processing your highlights can be tedious, but learning is sometimes tedious. Ideally, you take notes as you read, but if you like just reading, this method is a reasonable backup. Note that the more often you sync your highlights, the more painless this process will be!

Any questions or ideas? Please comment below!