Though I agree that it represents a somewhat creepy invasion of privacy, I can’t stop reading Amazon’s new list of what readers are highlighting on their Kindles. The Amazon e-book device allows readers to highlight a passage in a book simply by dragging a cursor across it, and somehow (we don’t really want to know how, do we?) Amazon is tracking these selections and reporting them to the whole wide world.
At Amazon.com, one list displays the Most Highlighted Passages of All Time, with “all time” presumably referring to the two and a half years since the Kindle was introduced. A second list aims to identify what’s trendy by reporting Recently Heavily Highlighted Passages. The current number one on the “all-time” list is this passage from Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers: “Those three things—autonomy, complexity, and a connection between effort and reward—are, most people agree, the three qualities that work has to have if it is to be satisfying.” Why did this passage hit home for 1,742 Kindle users? Are they unhappy in their jobs? Searching for fulfillment? Mad at their boss? I also couldn’t help but notice that the dominant book on the all-time list is The Shack, with SIX of the top 10 passages. Here’s a sampler of what readers choose to highlight from William P. Young’s allegorical Christian novel: “Paradigms power perception and perceptions power emotions. Most emotions are responses to perception—what you think is true about a given situation. If your perception is false, then your emotional response to it will be false too.” Hmm. Perhaps they were highlighting that passage so they could figure out what it means?
My personal favorite passage is this one from The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, which has been highlighted by 581 Kindle users (so far): “Is it so small a thing to have enjoyed the sun, to have lived light in the spring, to have loved, to have thought, to have done, to have advanced true friends?” It’s a lovely sentence and one that I might have marked myself.
Do you highlight passages in books as you read them? And what do you think of Amazon’s new effort to track and report what readers are doing on their Kindles?