Reading workflow with Obsidian as an extended brain


Be able to read any book digitally and process its most important ideas


  1. Create a personal library of epubs
  2. Read epubs on mobile devices
  3. Take highlights while reading to construct a summary of the book
  4. Import highlights into knowledge management system
  5. Work with the summarized books and connect ideas

Step by Step

Import epubs into Calibre

  • set library path to local machine or cloud drive
  • Calibre can download cover, metadata, abstract etc for book
  • epub will be saved in library in standardized folder-file format

Upload epub to PlayBooks for reading

  • in the mobile app in Settings -> Google Drive sync toggle Save your notes, highlights and bookmarks (enables it for mobile app and web app)
  • while reading, highlight parts, chapters (and subchapters if meaningful) as well as text excerpts[^figures]
  • highlights get compiled into a Google Doc that gets saved to your Drive under PlayBook Notes

Clean up highlights with this Google Colab Python script

Copy file ID from Google Document

Run the script with your file ID to get extracted text file

Import into note-taking / knowledge management system (here shown using Obsidian)

Paste raw text

Recreate headings and insert images / figures. Re-highlight the summary to create an even more condensed version for fast re-reading. Optionally, write some metadata

Example of an interconnected book in Obsidian

Feature request to treat (# headings) like ([[backlinks]]) for graph view

Josh Kaufman - The Personal MBA

[^figures]: In PlayBooks, there is no way to highlight images and figures directly. Make sure to highlight the caption (Figure 3.1: This graph shows XYZ…) if there is one, to find where to insert the missing figure later in your knowledge management system!


Uploaded the processed book summary (with images) here:

Download, unpack zip and add to your Obsidian vault!


Fixed problems with Google Colab access.

Click on “Copy to Google Drive / Github” to modify


This is an awesome workflow, thanks for sharing it! If you are interested I highly recommend trying out org-noter
in minute 4:00 of this video you can see a demo

My book notetaking process has improved a lot since using it. Of course it has the barrier to entry of learning emacs, ( I juse spacemacs which is easier to learn)

My workflow consist of:

  1. Loading epub into calibre
  2. Linking it to org-noter in spacemacs
    This is where I read, add annotations, highlights and quick short notes
  3. Write the key take-aways in my own words in Obsidian

That’s it, when I read in kindle the worflow changes a bit, but the most important to me is Step 3, putting things in my own words

Thanks again for sharing your method, it gave me some good ideas!

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Yeah org-mode looks really powerful, cool demo with the simultaneous reading & note-taking!

So far haven’t taken the time yet to get into it though

Overall, I do most reading on the go so I needed a mobile-friendly workflow.

Write the key take-aways in my own words in Obsidian

Whatever the way of extracting & storing the highlights, agree with you on rewriting being the most important step for integrating the new knowledge!

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awesome, yeah I get you org-mode and emacs are a rabbit whole. I think it’s worth it though

and the best mobile app for reading .org files is orgzly in case you are interested!

Thanks, will check it out!

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