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A Smarter Book by Bob Sprankle

Let me begin with a huge shoutout to Will Richardson who wrote this week's post already for me. Seriously: I've been getting ready to write about my ideas of a "Smarter Book" for awhile, and Will pretty much captured a lot of my thinking in his recent fantastic post.

So go read Will and hear me whispering in the background: "Ditto, ditto, ditto" when he talks about his:

  • love for books
  • surprise that reading ebooks on the iphone was surprisingly satisfying
  • love for the large real estate of the iPad
  • his frustration for the limitations/disjointedness of his highlights and notes entered in the Kindle app (making them unsearchable, inability to be "remixed," etc.)

And when you get to point where Will talks about Ted Bongiovanni explaining the solution to that last point, no longer hear me whispering "ditto," but, rather, hear my jaw dropping and hitting the floor. It's awesome! (I'm not going to tell you what this solution is; you have to go to Will's post to get this "golden egg.")

Will goes on to ponder:

"I keep thinking, what if I had every note and highlight that I had ever taken in a paper book available to search through, to connect with other similar ideas from other books, to synthesize electronically?"

This is where Will really beat me to the punch and wrote my own thoughts for me. (Thank you, Will!)

That's the smarter book that I want. I want to be able to take notes, make highlights, tag, categorize, and even remix sections into libraries (or collections) for my own future use. In other words, whenever I'm reading a professional book and I come across a salient quote about, lets say, the "benefits of video gaming in education," then I can capture and categorize that for future use. As it stands now, all of my highlights and notes in physical books are trapped isolated in their own separate islands. They're disconnected, whereas I want to put parts of them together... in many different categories and "marriages" with other sections from other books. In short, I want the ability to tag and bookmark and even share parts of books just as I already do on the Internet. When I find an article about the "benefits of video gaming in education" on the Internet, I bookmark and tag that page into a category called "Gaming in Education" (using diigo) that can easily be called upon and retrieved at a later date when I need it.

But I must say, I even want more. I want a tool that is so smart, that when I'm reading a new book and I start to make notes, highlights or tags, the computer will actually suggest what categories I may want to place it in. For example, the computer could notice that I'm reading an article (anywhere... not just in an ebook, by the way) about gaming, and suggest, "I notice this passage relates to concepts that you've previously captured in the category called, "Video Gaming in Education. Would you like me to tag and add this passage to that collection?"

That would be awesome, wouldn't it?

But wait... I still want more. Let's say I'm writing an article about the benefits of gaming in education. I want to be able to say to my computer: "Computer, I'm looking for any information that I've collected about this subject as well as any information I've collected about the positive or adverse effects of video games in general."

And still... I want more: "Computer, also collect articles tagged from others (say, from diigo) on the same topic that were created after 'such-and-such' date."

And yes... even more... When reading an ebook, I want to be able to see what others are tagging, highlighting and commenting about certain sections; who else is currently reading this book so I can chat with them in real time (UPDATE: I just found out that I can at least see highlights from other people who have the read the same book within the Kindle app!); articles connected to the book or concept within a passage that are on the Internet; links within the book to multimedia, such as interviews by the author to visually demonstrate or clarify the content; links to historical background, alternative points of view, or controversy; etc., etc.

It sounds an awful lot like many of the tools we're using on the Internet right now, doesn't it? I can, for instance, ask Google News to send me alerts whenever someone writes an article about "Video Gaming in Education." I can go to a site, such as Wikipedia, which will point me in the direction of alternative points of view and controversy. I can search tags and bookmarks in diigo or delicious to see what others have collected.

If I can do much of this with text and information on the Internet, why can't I do this with a book?

I will close this post with an article/video from Macrumors that reminds us of the concept of the "Knowledge Navigator" and talks about possibilities that may be just around the corner with Apple's acquisition of Siri.