Amanuensis: Automating Kindle Highlights

One of the dangers of being a software developer is that I often get sidetracked from creative pursuits by writing (or rewriting) the underlying tools. For example, my old webcomic, for which I reinvented the wheel of displaying-images-and-captions-from-the-filesystem (twice, in two different web frameworks), is now awaiting yet another rewrite that will allow me to change its underlying hosting. Or my short-lived experiment with Inform7, in which I rapidly lost interest in the actual game I was writing in favor of learning to write custom Inform7 extensions. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

When I started reading books on Kindle, I discovered a heretofore-unknown passion for highlighting text and looking up words. I started a collection of interesting words to track and share my findings.

However, despite how easy it is to highlight passages in books, Kindle is essentially a walled garden that makes it very difficult to get those passages out again. They don’t provide an API, useful social media sharing, or even an especially usable website. Keeping up with my word blog was an excruciatingly manual process, involving copy-and-pasting from multiple places and then trying to remember to put everything into the same format each time. Highlighting passages was fun and easy, but processing them was tedious, and I soon had an enormous backlog. In other words, this process was absolutely begging to be optimized. Continue reading