Sunday, December 27, 2009

Web Kindle Tool for Books Purchased from Amazon

This is info I thought would be useful for new Kindle owners, but I've found that oldtime Kindle users don't tend to know it exists, and definitely students involved in the pilot programs at universities don't seem to know either, judging from some reports.

If you check your Menu button/Settings/Menu button (again) options, you'll see one for "Enabling" or "Disabling Annotations Backup."  These are for the personal highlighting and notes that you can make on any regular books purchased from Amazon which are then, if you authorize it, BACKED UP to your own private, password-protected webpage at Amazon.  (PDFs on the Kindle have no annotation features.*)

The Kindle User's Guide is the first book placed on your Kindle (by Amazon) and is also readable on the Net and downloadable to your computer in PDF format for reading on your pc or Mac).
  Be sure to check the parts on how to highlight and make notes (as well as everything else it can do).

  But highlighting is as simple as going to the start of the highlighting and clicking on the 5-way button and using that 5-way to go to the right or down (or across a page turn) until you see where you want to end the highlight.
  Then you press the 5-way button again. That's it.

  There can be confusion at times with the cursor as to whether you want to start a search or just see a dictionary summary definition for a word or start an annotation -- but if the highlighting doesn't work, press "Back" button (my favorite or most-used button) to get back to where you were and start again.

SIDE-NOTE on the much-appreciated BACK button
The "Back" button is also used when you jump to another Location in the book or to a search result for the book or when you decide you want to look up a detailed definition of a word your cursor is on.

  The key word is "jump."  When I Search a word or phrase in a book, to see where it occurs elsewhere in that book, the Kindle gives me 6 search results (depending on the size of the chosen font) on the first page of results and I can choose to click on any or all of them -- BUT to get BACK to where I was in the book, I then press the "BACK" button and I'm back where I was before the Search and 'jump' to the results page.
  It's the same when you click on a link to another part of the book; you press 'BACK' to return to where you were before the 'jump.'

  I read a lot of non-fiction, so I do use this feature a lot.  A big help for any Kindle user is the ability to check your previous annotations for a book, on the Kindle, where they are shown to you via the "My Notes & Marks" option when you click the "MENU" button at bottom right of teh kindle.

  The highlighting and notes feature is especially useful for those in book clubs or for those who are taking a class that uses the book.

  But what's the easiest way to print them out for use elsewhere, if you don't just bring your Kindle and go through it that way?

  Your private books-annotation webpage at Amazon.  Again, it's password-protected so only you should have access to it.  I think that's part of the agreement with Amazon too.  Each of us can get to that page by typing or you can just bookmark it when you get there.  Be sure to click on "Your_Highlights" when you land on the main page.

 When you put in your password, you'll be brought to your list of purchased or free books from Amazon and you can sort them by title or author.  Click on a link for one of your books, and you'll see a group of about 5 highlighting entries and notes you made for the book (if you did).   If you made more annotations than are seen on that page, you'll see, at the top, a list of pages numbered for more of your notes, which you can click on to see the rest of your notes.

  BUT an additional great feature is that you can click near the bottom left of that group of annotation results, on the link to "See all your highlights and notes on one page."  And that's the way I look at them.

Here's a link to an actual web page showing some highlighting entries for a specific book I bought (and haven't finished yet).  The book is a fascinating take on what it's like to actually win an election and enter the White House and all that comes with that.

* PDF books: you can ask Amazon to convert a copy of any of these by emailing it to [you] with the word "Convert" in the Subject field, and they'll send for free a converted copy back to your email.  From there you can move it to your Kindle with the USB cable, putting it into the 'documents' folder of the Kindle.

The larger text, reflowed to fit into a 6" screen will be easier to read, but the original layout tends to be lost when the PDF is complex.  For single column documents it's usually fine though -- plus your inline dictionary will work for these (not for actual PDFs), as will book-searches with multiple-results Kindle style, text-to-speech, and highlighting and notes.  Annotations for books purchased from non-Amazon sources are not backed up to the Amazon server nor are the annotations for those though.
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  1. Oh thank you! I am just exploring these features as a new Kindle user!
    Chanteuse64 on Twitter

  2. Andrys,

    This must be my week for glitches. Over the last few days I've been making extensive notes and highlights in a Kindle Edition academic report [The Future of Learning Institutions in a Digital Age (Kindle Edition)] I'm using for a research study. On seeing your post here, it reminded me that I wanted to print some of the notes, but when I went to "", none of the notes or highlights were there. I checked another Kindle book I had made notes in [Getting Things Done (Kindle Edition)], and had previously verified their presence, but the notes were gone from that book as well. As suggested on the "" page, I clicked "Sync & Check for items" from "Menu" on the "Home" screen, so far to no avail. I did also confirm that the annotation back-up was enabled.

    I've also been having some of the problems mentioned in the Amazon Kindle Community forum, regarding slower indexing times, shorter battery life between charges, etc., since the 2.3 update, so I wonder if this situation might be connected to that. With the projected heavy influx of new Kindle owners in the past few days, I guess it wouldn't be shocking if Amazon's servers are being taxed past their capacity. I'm going to give it a few more hours/attempts before contacting Customer Service, but I'll be curious to see if you or any of your blog followers experience any similar issues. Thanks, and take care.

  3. Chanteuse,
    Glad that was helpful! If you have suggestions as a new user, for a blog entry on how to do something you read about, let me know.

  4. Batman,
    That's disconcerting. As far as the servers, I had checked mine on several books before doing the blog entry, and all mine were there. I was just trying to decide which of the books to use, so I looked at several.

    What about when you check "My Notes and Marks" on your Menu button on the Kindle? Are they there for your Kindle?

    Another thing I would do is a power slider RESET to see if that doesn't wake the Kindle up re the notes which would be in your auxiliary files for each book.

    AND, if you had annotations enabled as you say you did, then the "My Clippings" File in your Kindle 'documents' folder should have them, so look there as well.

    One of my other blog entries describes a WORD MACRO (for pc's, not macs at the time though he was working on it) that takes all your My Clippings Notes and sorts them By Book and By Location in the My Clippings file. If you have those, these could at least help for your work.

    *IF* resetting your Kindle doesn't work (this will normally automatically do some file-review), then I suggest doing the recommended deletion of all index files that are in the Kindle's System folder's * "System Indexes" * folder.

    They are just indexes for the file. Redoing them can help the speed problem. Of course don't touch any files above the System Indexes folder. Just the System Indexes folder's files including the 'Index.db' one.

    I did that for my DX after reading a post about it, but instead of taking 24 hours to reindex (I have only 185 items on my DX - others seem to have several hundred or even thousands), mine took only 3 hours.

    You can use the Kindle while it's indexing, of course, though it will take longer that way. I just left mine alone and did searches on it every now and then to see how far along it was.

    It'll tell you how many files have not been 'indexed' yet when it shows you search results.

    Please report back on how that all went.

    If your "My Clippings" file has the notes, then go to the blog and in the upper left search box, put "WORD MACRO" and it should bring up that blog entry if you want to sort your My Clippings file and if you have a pc rather than a Mac.

    The My Clippings file is pure text and can be edited and printed. I usually copy it over to work with on the computer.

    Good luck!

  5. Batman, one other thing.
    The notes and highlights for any book should be indicated at the farthest right column of the webpage for that book -- that there are some.

    Do those show up either?

    The only anomaly I saw was that it took longer for the highlighting and notes to show up when I asked for them. The screen showed blank rows for a while and then they filled in.

    So, the servers are slower.

    We can ask for 50 books on a page (default is 15) and of course for all the notes on one page (which is not easy to find but the link is under the actual highlights/notes listing.

    Hope you can retrieve them later.

  6. Andrys,

    Okay, here’s what I know so far:

    1. The notes, etc. (11 and 3 pages, respectively), for the two books in my previous
    message are on the Kindle itself under “My Notes & Marks”.

    2. The far right-hand column labeled “CONTENT” on the web page doesn’t show any listing for those two books, but *does* show one highlight and one note for two other books (one purchased before the 2.3 update and one after).

    3. I tried restarting both with the power switch slide and from the Settings menu - still
    status quo.

    4. The “My Clippings” file is in the Kindle “Documents” folder, *but* - it’s opening in Notepad, with a string of unintelligible characters.

    5. As for the Kindle “System Indexes” folder, when I connect the Kindle, the only folders
    that are visible to me are "Audible", "Documents”, and “Music”. I’m sure I may not be looking in the proper location, but that’s all I see when exploring the Kindle link in “My Computer”, so I can’t test deleting the index files yet.

    6. On the chance that this is a problem associated with my laptop, I repeated the above steps on my iMac, with no change in results.

    7. I do have the page set to show 50 results, but do not see the option to show all notes on
    one page, although I believe I remember using that feature when Amazon originally
    launched the page. Curiously, the “CONTENT” column is the only one to not have an
    active link as the column title(?).

    So….., I’m kind of stumped. I’m thinking of trying troubleshooting the process using
    Firefox later, but I have to return to the joy of grading papers and exams for awhile.
    Thanks for your time investment. I’m hoping this is something that will resolve itself or
    that Amazon Customer service can fix, but the whole situation is reaffirming my instinct
    to always keep one foot in the “old school” world with regard to information technology.

  7. Batman,
    The Kindle doesn't need re-indexing if the notes are actually readable ON your Kindle, which they seem to be.

    The webpage 'Content' column: when you say it doesn't show a listing for the two books, I guess you mean it doesn't show the indicator for Annotations.

    This would mean the web page didn't pick them up -- but I know you sync'd/checked so Amazon should have picked them up if your wireless reception was working ok when it was On.

    I would leave Wireless On for a long time and leave the charger *plugged in* during that and manually Sync/Checked again.

    Your 'My Clippings' file showing unintelliglbe characters, is definitely corrupted then, maybe by a freeze? as it is a plain text file.

    I am wondering if you should ask for a replacement Kindle, since I do get freezes on books with huge images or oddities like the Topaz or AZW1 files (which are known to cause problems). But the problems never cause corrupted files in mine.

    I do recommend if you're using this for academic work or important personal work, to back up your files every now and then to your computer, in case of freezes that affect your files. Keep each back up separate so you can go back to it.

    While it hasn't happened to me, corrupted files very much can. But I am paranoid about backing up important files I've put a lot of work in.

    Luckily, your actual-book-file annotations are there and readable on the Kindle, so those are not corrupted.

    I would move the My Clippings file to your computer and edit out the unintelligible stuff and retain the rest.

    Be sure to save it after that. Delete the Kindle copy to get a fresh start with no corruption on that file.

    Re re-indexing your files -- because you don't have the Show full extension and/or hidden files option on your Explorer or Finder (pc or mac) then you won't see them.

    Here is the Amazon Kindle forum post that gives the steps for the entire process, including showing the full names of files and also hidden ones:

    You said:
    --- "7. I do have the page set to show 50 results, but do not see the option to show all notes on one page"

    I mentioned that you'd see them on the left under your actual notes -- but if you don't have notes the link will probably not be there. Try that instead on a book for which your notes do show up on the webpage.

    The "CONTENT" column doesn't have an active link because the links are supposedly for sorting by whatever the title is, such as title or author.

    However, the author column is not, as far as I can see, sorting correctly.

    As for 'old school' I agree, no one should ever depend on computer processes. If it's important, we must back up, back up, I have backups by date and go back to the last good one when I need to.

    If the overnight Wireless-On (and a "Sync & Check for Items" done during that) does not fix your webpage situation, I'd call Kindle Customer Service at 866-321-8851 and tell them about your webpage difficulties.

    Also, if you see any file corruption of My Clippings again, I'd get the Kindle replaced, since that hasn't happened to me on any of my 3 Kindles and I use mine a lot.

    Good luck! Report back.

  8. Andrys,

    If I open the Menu from the home screen, then select "Settings" I get a page that has the following entries:

    "Device Name"
    "Device E-mail"
    "Personal Info"

    There is no "Menu" option for setting Annotation back up.

    I think I am missing something, but I can't figure out what it is.
    Could it be that I don't have any annotations yet?


  9. David,
    I mentioned "Menu/Settings/Menu" -- you need to press the Menu button again after reaching the Settings page.

    I guess I should make that clearer...

    Let me know if it shows up after that.

  10. You seem to know most of the shortcuts. Hope you can help. It's my wife's kindle, a gift. I don't use it. A problem she has, presumably after an automatic software upgrade, is in scanning the bookstore. If you go to the kindle store, go to books and go to fiction, you are told that there are over 22,000 pages. If you start scanning through the list and find a book that you would like to preview and/or read the sample, you go there. Then when you're finished, you would like to go back to the same page you were on before you left to preview. You cannot do this. You have to go back to the beginning and start on page one again. Is there any way around this or a way to go to the place where you left off? The 'back' button does not do it nor does the 'previous page' button. Thanks for your help.

  11. C.S.
    I've never seen "preview" as an option at the Kindle store while on my Kindle...

    The sample offered can be clicked on and then that downloads the sample to our Kindles.

    At that point a message says the sample has been sent you and it gives a link to 'Return to store'

    Important: Don't click on that link - that will take you to the beginning.

    Ignore it. Press BACK button from that point and you'll be back at the book description.

    Press BACK again and you'll be on the correct page of the list of books that meet your criteria.

    Also, the Kindle firm version 2.3 has sometimes presented a problem with the BACK button suddenly not responding at times, after awhile.

    Solution: Press Menu button; Click on Settings option; Press Menu button again.

    Then Click on "Restart"

    That'll restart the Kindle and clear up any memory holes. And the back button will work again. I don't know for how long, but I expect they'll fix this in the next update as people have reported it...

    If the BACK button responds in other situations, then it's not the latter problem...

    Good luck !

  12. Hello Andrys,
    Thank you for your nice blog. I'm a french person using a kindle and I'm enjoying your blog.
    I have an issue with my Kindle and I'm sure you will be able to help me.
    For an unknown reason, the "Backup annotations" was on desable mode for a while.
    I turn it back on "enable mode", my issue is that now I have only part of my notes & Highlight on the website
    What should I do to recover all the notes on the website. Since I turn the function on "enable", I already did few sync & Check for new items, I restarted the kindle, I derigester and register myself but any notes from this period reappear on the website.
    Looking forward to your advice.
    Best regards Dror

  13. Anonymous,
    What you did should work, so call Kindle Support at 1-866-321-8851 to see what they say about this.

    If you're outside the U.S., you can still get phone support, sometimes, for instance in France.

    Use the CallMe feature for Amazon phone support on this.

    Let us know.

  14. Wow, I've been using my kindle for 6 months and I didn't even know that was there. Many thanks!

  15. Thank you SO MUCH for this information!! This was the most helpful thing I've read since I bought my kindle. I've been using it for over 6 months and thought it was pretty awesome already but just how awesome is that kindle annotations web page!! Thanks again!!!

  16. Anonymous,
    I'm glad you found it! It's an amazing feature, but Amazon doesn't brag about it on their Kindle pages for some reason. So reviewers of ereader features have no idea...


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