Surely this has been discussed before, but if so I wasn’t finding the right search terms because I don’t see any relevant threads.
If you take notes/underline in print books, what tools or workflows have you discovered to make it easier to get these into Obsidian? Obviously, typing them in by hand is an option, but this can be unwieldy – especially if your book keeps falling shut!
Lots of OCR options out there; what’s tried-and-tested?
My studies take me to Internet archive a lot. This is not relevant for your situation BUT the way I get notes into Obsidian from various books even Kindle etc. is by using the program called ‘ShareX’ which has ocr capabilities that work great.
Hard copy books I just use my phone to take a picture and use that.
From there I use the ShareX program to make into a workable file from original jpg png etc.
Hope this help you.
On Apple devices you can select text directly from the camera using the Live Text feature (it also works in photos). I believe Android has something similar.
I use Readwise to sync my ebook notes. They have a feature for scanning and OCR, that syncs with their service too. But unfortunately, I’ve never tested it. (Part of my reason to reply here is simply to remind myself to test it out.)
I used the app Highlighted (iOS only). Used it for several books and found that it works great. It also has Markdown export. And it is totally free!
But to be honest I stopped using it since I’ve come to extract my notes/highlights manually because I prefer the slower approach. To keep the book from falling shut I placed my phone, another book or some other weight on it.
I’ve used the Readwise OCR feature and found it works very nicely. Recommended.
I scan the section of my book with Scanner Pro on my iPhone. It has ocr and then I share it to Obsidian.
Either Readwise (as already mentioned) or I take a picture import it in a note in OneNote and use there the OCR right clicking on the picture and paste the text in an Obsidian note
I just tested out Google lens and it worked quite well
I’ve created a new plugin which is a possibility some in this thread might like. It lets you instantly add quotes from a physical book or Kindle book without requiring any sort of slow syncing system (I tried Readwise but wasn’t a fan of the workflow) or having to re-type the quote manually.
It requires a bit of setup in that you need an ebook copy of the physical book you’re reading. I don’t personally mind this as I like collecting ebooks, and I source most things from my library for free with Overdrive/Libby.
Here’s a quick demo: I start typing the first few words of any quote from my print book, and it instantly finds it. I use the arrow keys to increase/decrease the size of the quote, and then hit Enter to insert it into my note:
I’ve been using it for the past month and it’s made a huge difference for me when reading. You can even use it on your mobile Obsidian as well.
Here’s a quick video of how it works with print:
Wow; this is cool. Certainly looks useful for the ebooks I’m reading, even if it doesn’t do much for print. And it never even occurred to me to check my library for ebook versions of things I already own in print. That alone is a great tip!
I’m pretty sure we’re already both on the same page (heh), but just to be clear this works great for print books with the caveat that you need to get an ebook copy also.
Using this plugin does take a bit of setup in that you need to get an ebook, so it’s absolutely not for everyone - and to be honest it’s probably only useful for a tiny minority of people For my workflow though it’s just what I was looking for.
I used to take photos and then copy the image here to get the text. Lately though, I’ve reverted back to typing by hand. I won’t be the contrarian in the thread and tell everyone they need to go back to reading by candlelight to get the true meaning of books, but what has worked for me is to highlight as I read, but only put notes into Obsidian after I finish a chapter and at least a day has passed.
I think that this workflow has been great for me because after a day, my memory/understanding starts to wane and I have to exert a little more effort mentally to create connections and/or read the former paragraph to jog my memory. It really locks in the overarching theme in a way that copying/pasting never did.
This is usually how I do it; I just was hoping for a less clumsy way of entering the content at that point than trying to hold a book open and type. I’m not necessarily looking to bypass the entry process entirely.
Readwise works very well for me, but it is true that I am still wondering if, to memorize better, in some cases it is better to re-enter by hand…
I turn print to PDF using the Czur ET18PRO book scanner. The PDF is OCR ready and it is amazingly perfect. With auto scan on you just turn the page and it auto scans, you turn the page it scan etc etc. You can have a whole book done in 10-15 minutes, depending. Graphics included. I then import the PDF into zotero read and highlight, and then drag and drop into Obsidian. If you do a lot of print, or would if it was easy, then the Czur is for you.
I’ve done a lot of scanning intermittently over the years (and hated it), but the Czur is flawless compared to the struggle it was in the past.
Hello! Just to say thank you for the Air Quotes plugin. I started using it about a week ago, and it has been a game changer. It is tru that set up took some work (for starters, downloading it from from github and copying it into the vault didn’t work, so I had to learn about BRAT), but once I got the workflow down, it has been a great experience.
For reference, I normally read from a Remarkable 2, a Kindle paperwhite, or from physical books. When I read with the Kindle, I use Readwise to sync my highlights with Obsidian. With physical books and epub books, here is my setup, in case anyone is interested:
I have hazel watching a folder on my mac for new epub files. once it sees them, hazel runs a shell script that runs a pandoc conversion of the epub file into markdown, and saves the book in .md format in a folder in my vault. The script extracts the images from the book (useful if there are charts or tables) and places those in a separate “book assets” folder in my vault.
Then, I use Air Quotes just like in the video above (often from my phone), which I have with me while reading on the remarkable or from a book. What I really enjoy vs. say, the Kindle/Readwise combo, is that I have developed a sort of organic workflow where I quote the text from the book and immediately type out my reflection/summary/link/reaction to it underneath, which I wouldn’t on the Kindle because the typing is so awkward.
I end up with very nice-looking MD versions of the book in my vault, which are linked to my own notes about the book. Here is what the book in my vault looks like:
Again, thank you for your work.
@andfperez thank you so much for the write-up, it really makes me happy to see that the plugin is useful for someone else, and I love your how-to guide and screenshot of the end result! I have to say you’ve one-upped me on this — I haven’t got Pandoc extracting the images for me, and my Markdown books look nowhere near as good…
Would you mind sharing your Pandoc command?