Bookcision: Export/Download Your Kindle Highlights

When highlights are created on any Kindle device, they are synced up to Amazon’s cloud. These are then visible at, but there is no reason to believe that Amazon will continue to provide this service forever, and our ability to work with text in that hosted browser-based environment is limited.

We wanted a way cleanly to download our highlights onto our local computers, so we created a bookmarklet that permits one to excise highlights from the book’s page.

via Bookcision: Export/Download Your Kindle Highlights.

In the interests of, well, tinkering with little tools made by smart people on The Internet, I decided to export my highlights from a book I read recently.

I mentioned yesterday how I’ve been enjoying highlighting interesting passages from Michael Palin’s diaries on my Kindle. This, being from a large book, is now quite a long list of highlights – usually a reference to a project of his, a place he visited that rang a bell, or just a particularly sweet or poignant observation.


More concise is my collection of highlights from Leigh Alexander‘s recent book, Breathing Machine. Leigh is a videogames journalist, and after reading a few of her pieces on Animal Crossing and some other stuff, I found that she’d recently released a short collection of memoirs recalling her childhood, adolescence, and the holding hand that videogames and the Internet provided her throughout.

Basically, if you’re a human being of a certain age (late twenties, early thirties?), and you grew up with computers and the burgeoning web, you’ll probably get a kick out of Leigh’s book. You can actually listen to Leigh reading an excerpt of her book via Soundcloud if you like – I recommend it. It’s always good to hear an author read their own words when they’re autobiographical.

I’ve used the above Bookcision tool to export my highlights of Leigh’s book, which can be found below. I’m not too sure what use these highlights may serve to anyone who isn’t, say, me, but I figured I’d try out the tool anyway. Out of context highlights might not even make much sense, but the lines tickled or interested me for whatever reason. Enjoy:

Breathing Machine, A Memoir of Computers

by Leigh Alexander, Thought Catalog

The first time I ever heard and remembered Beethoven’s Ode To Joy was at the start screen of one of these games, blaring at me from the tinny speakers. I’m not ever going to forget that.
LOCATION: 20224 – 20424

It was the broken games I truly loved. They all had weird version numbers (1.1.3?), and were stamped all over with the aliases of dejected bedroom weirdoes asking you to mail in five dollars, sometimes plaintively, sometimes cynically.
LOCATION: 20738 – 20973

The more legitimate games had copy protection: they shipped with special red plastic lenses, or code wheels, or guidebooks with letter puzzles, and you needed them to unlock the software. This felt like its own kind of mystery-work
LOCATION: 22744 – 22975

I watched it all happen: grinding plastic teeth, the pages still gleaming with black spit.
LOCATION: 24969 – 25059

I pulled a map of Manhattan out of my grandmother’s National Geographic magazine, and pasted it on the wall of my playroom. I printed out screenshots from Hotel Caper, and made pretend dossiers of the villains I would chase down once I arrived there.
LOCATION: 25523 – 25780

The marketing to kids around video games had begun to take a distinct turn, then: glossy magazines full of bright laser grids, skateboards, spiked hair. Raaaadical. We believed in the neon-nineties vision of the future, where we were basically just about to get hoverboards and become heroes.
LOCATION: 25905 – 26204

It was in our plans, our notes, our basement boxes full of junked motherboards. The plans felt real.
LOCATION: 26786 – 26886

My dad let me have a hand-me-down Powerbook laptop when I was eleven or twelve. The thing I remember most about this machine (besides its role in keeping my innermost thoughts, my diary, across years of secret and now-defunct Word docs), is how when I stroked its screen with my fingertip, a bright prismatic comet would appear, a temporary wound opening up and leaving a fading, smoky contrail in its place.
LOCATION: 28323 – 28745

its role in keeping my innermost thoughts, my diary, across years of secret and now-defunct Word docs),
LOCATION: 28471 – 28574

things I didn’t really understand: viruses, made by impossibly-distant master architects.
LOCATION: 30218 – 30321

I quietly fell in love with the cloistered and quickly-obsolescing Powerbook, disconnected and safe.
LOCATION: 30636 – 30736

I loved experimenting with it. I could make those robot-voices say anything I wanted, without fear of reprisal, which was new.
LOCATION: 31182 – 31308

Many of the adventure games of my childhood knew that your average person, wrestling with an invisible system, would eventually type vulgar words, and so contained provisions to chide you if you cursed. The strangely-pitched robot voices had no such reservations.
LOCATION: 31309 – 31572

I found a primitive old program somewhere on the Powerbook called America Online. An early version, maybe even the first one. I knew it was for getting to the Internet, though I didn’t know exactly how, what. I was dimly aware it needed some kind of connection to something else, and that I couldn’t just load the program from where I would be bundled with my machine in bed. This did not, of course, stop me from trying. I believed in magic, of course, and wasn’t technology as mysterious as fantasy? The stuff of sprawling paperback novels where the veils between worlds blurred, and you could become a hero in a strange land just by accidentally touching something, by being in the right place at the right time, by knowing the right word to open a previously-unseen door. I’d breathlessly load the America Online program on my monolithic Powerbook, in the dark of my room. Three pictures would pop up on a loading screen: a skeleton key, a logo, and… a globe, maybe? I can’t remember. In my memory they become coarse alien buttons, indigo unreality. I know for sure there was a vein of lightning that moved from one icon to the next, always stopping before reaching the final third. ERROR. I knew. I knew something was missing, but I continued to try regardless. I knew the difference between the real and the imagined and chose to ignore it. What if I pressed something at exactly the right time? What if I found a hidden panel of some kind on the hardware itself, like the time I found a terrifying reset-knob within a pinhole on the Powerbook’s back, pressed it with a paperclip and evinced a dissonant chiming song that I’d never hear again? What if I held my breath, what if I counted, kept my eyes shut. What if I prayed. Nothing worked. Because I had no connection, that image of a key struck by digital lightning would always be where my adventure would end.
LOCATION: 33352 – 35399

before reaching the final third. ERROR. I knew. I knew something was missing, but I continued to try regardless. I knew the difference between the real and the imagined and chose to ignore it. What if I pressed something at exactly the right time? What if I found a hidden panel of some kind on the hardware itself, like the time I found a terrifying reset-knob within a pinhole on the Powerbook’s back, pressed it with a paperclip and evinced a dissonant chiming song that I’d never hear again? What if I held my breath, what if I counted, kept my eyes shut. What if I prayed. Nothing worked. Because I had no connection, that image of a key struck by digital lightning would always be where my adventure would end.
LOCATION: 34602 – 35399

Dialing modem. A sequence of guttural, choking shrieks, a hiccup, a pause, some single eye in the hardware fluttering as if it contained an insect. Shrill chirps, a nebulous staticky monster croaking to get out. Just when you think it’s done, it screams again.
LOCATION: 35808 – 36089

I’d be crouched by the modem in the dark. It’d be late. It’s not that I wasn’t supposed to be awake. I was 13 years old, and no one could really tell me when to go to bed. I’d started nurturing the spark of an idea in my casing that no one, really, ought to tell me anything, anymore.
LOCATION: 36917 – 37236

The first time I was allowed to use Internet newsgroups, it was like suddenly noticing it was dark enough to see stars. All at once, a startling array of possibilities seemed to erupt in front of me.
LOCATION: 37719 – 37918

Flee back into late-night, then, my little hands strangling a shrieking and green-eyed modem-animal, smothering it with blankets and pillows so that no one would hear it and send me back to bed. It connects. The part that was missing when I was younger is now present,
LOCATION: 40029 – 40304

At the crux of my adolescence I was I could never-ever forget it, the secret name that let me interlope among Usenet boards like rec.arts.poetry,, and rec.arts.sailormoon.
LOCATION: 40883 – 41156

Stand in front of the fridge, a monolith that sighs in your face. Engage the microwave. Eat too much, guiltily, standing up, half in and half out of cabinets, ravenous teenage appetite knitted tightly with the pains of all kinds of growth. Meticulously leave no sign of your presence; erase your data, no debt to be accountable for later. Run up the stairs, two at a time.
LOCATION: 42657 – 43029

The modem screams and howls as always, but there’s no one to hear it right now. There’s just you, watching the tiny rectangular window that promises you a connection is being made. Dialing, establishing, testing, whatever the phases, you hold your breath.
LOCATION: 43225 – 43494

You opened your little Eudora mailbox and prayed for something to be there. You usually had one piece of mail. Sometimes two. On a good day there would be three, and you’d meditate with anticipation upon the black bar that stuttered along, telling you about download progress. 1 of 3. 2 of 3. 3 of 3.
LOCATION: 43562 – 43869

A trawl through Google Groups’ uncomfortably long-lived archives while researching this book reveals that young Delilah took the title of with an excess of seriousness and chastised everyone involved.
LOCATION: 44235 – 44464

Through the rec.arts.poetry board I met an older man, 30 or 31 years old, if memory serves. At the time, such an age seemed incredibly old, such as to give me pause. Nonetheless I chose — nobly, I felt at the time — to overlook such mortifying superficialities and pursue what felt like a romantic correspondence with this fellow poet, who was so old. Surely a fellowship in Internet poetry was more important than anything else.
LOCATION: 45672 – 46142

I had a little reservation, though — what if my new Internet boyfriend was, like, old like my Dad? At fourteen, thirty-something seemed like practically my Dad’s age! What if, I wondered, he had gray hair? Surely his body wasn’t the smooth, abstracted elfin landscape of my dolls and my fantasy comics; at his age, surely there were paternal ruffs of hair and flesh. Maybe even a beard.
LOCATION: 46683 – 47117

Eventually the fellow poet and I began to escalate into arguing about something. I can’t remember why, and I can’t remember what it is I said, only that he chastised me for being immature, and I replied something to the effect of, “well, of course I am, I’m only fucking 14.” To his credit, he was mortified, apologized profusely, said something like he “meant no disrespect,” a sentiment that confused me at the time. He said he’d thought I was “at least in college,” and as I distinctly recall, he wrote, “me and my middle-aged ass.” Well, I thought, and now you know, and everything is all right and we can go back to saying sweet things to one another, and a little note from you in my Eudora Mail inbox after school. But the fellow poet stopped replying.
LOCATION: 48237 – 49127

Several months later, Old Guy surfaced on the poetry newsgroup again, presenting something I read distinctly as a whimsical love poem. It referred to his “whiskers” (aha, I thought, I was right about the horrible old beard), and contained the phrase “hop all over your back.” I read the poem closely to see if it might be about me, Delilah, but no evidence presented itself.
LOCATION: 49666 – 50068

I liked the college student better, anyway. Recently I had the sudden whim to Google the first and last name of the romantic poet, which I still remember. I found the very grey-bearded author of a lot of pro-life books with web copy focused on “taking responsibility for the sex act.” It can’t be the same man. It just can’t. I also Googled the college student. Now he’s a music journalist. Wicked.
LOCATION: 50457 – 50930

When is the last time you said “www” out loud, ‘double-yew double-yew double-yew-dot.’ Unironically. World Wide Web. The phrase is so quintessential to the lexicon of the modern West that it’s funny to go hey, wait, let’s pin that down — World Wide Web. Some spider-kin network that spreads around the entire world. How far did the Internet’s fuzzy-legged arachnotendrils reach when I was 14? 16? Not the whole world. Not even every house I knew in suburbia had the Internet, at first. That phrase, that innocently-spoken World Wide! was a promise of potential, not reality.
LOCATION: 51334 – 52039

And the early Web was a simulacrum of reality, a dim Western fantasy of virtual space cobbled together from chunky, artifacted graphics. You browsed the web with Netscape Navigator, like a starship captain (modern browsers still bear the rust taste of frontier spirit, with names like Explorer, Safari). Primitive chat lobbies were called things like The Meeting Room, the Lobby, the Cafe, as if you were always, always entering a real place, there to meet real people.
LOCATION: 52060 – 52529

Sign my guestbook, they begged. Guestbooks. Little virtual visitor’s logs. At one time it seemed almost every website had one. Now, none of them do.
LOCATION: 53516 – 53671

Exploring these spaces was half luck, half skill. You found the sites you wanted by ambient clicking, a zen-like pilgrimage through forum signatures and sidebars. Or you could use primitive search engines, of which there were many: Lycos. Metacrawler, dominated by a graphic of a giant hairy spider, Dogpile, Excite, Infoseek, Alta Vista.
LOCATION: 53692 – 54030

Each service would return a different sequence of results than another, and so you would visit all of them in sequence, type in what you wanted to find, never able to expect the same recommendations.
LOCATION: 54051 – 54250

before I realized it was pronounced GEO CITIES, like cities of the globe, and not Geocities as in rhymes with curiosities.
LOCATION: 54896 – 55028

(Uniform Resource Locator, and if that isn’t a Holodeck-era acronym I don’t know what is)
LOCATION: 55251 – 55354

You can remember the first truly horrific image you ever saw online, can’t you?
LOCATION: 63156 – 63242

A man wincing, his face pinched and deformed, seeming to warp against the barrel of an executing gun. A woman spread out in a bathtub, gripping her stockinged thighs, a fount of amber bile arcing as vivid as carved stone from one of her orifices to another. Thirty seconds of a .avi file — a naked woman on all fours blinking doe-like from a dark hotel bed. No, wait, a young girl. Younger than young. Oh, my god. Sick. Sick.
LOCATION: 63263 – 63695

Did you seek it out, the sensation of the bottom dropping out from your guts, the wondering is it real and can they really and who the fuck? Did you stumble into it entirely by accident, or through the sin of completely unguarded curiosity?
LOCATION: 63716 – 63977

Just a picture of me, smoking, late teens, fully clothed, was pornography to someone. My socks were worth money. This is what I had learned about men and sex from the Internet by the time I had graduated high school.
LOCATION: 76339 – 76555

Internet boyfriends and girlfriends, intimacy with the convenience of distance, intimacy that never has to be challenged by the responsibilities of reality.
LOCATION: 79691 – 79847

I wrote other students’ papers for them in exchange for baggies of weed, and spent what felt like an interminable length my life on a quaint campus, in a tiny room, online, all the time.
LOCATION: 80595 – 80788

In the gaps between playtimes, you could occasionally glimpse all our comparatively-powerless, childlike lives: Old enough to drink, but still living with our parents, or with someone who acted as parent. I knew far too many teenagers getting money and gifts from adults they knew online, via arrangements that seemed passionately dysfunctional and dark and beyond my ken.
LOCATION: 84669 – 85041

By the new millennium our idea of wizardry had little to do with capes and wands, and everything to do with black leather, wearable tech, and the glamour of lightning-fast fingers weaving spells across glass and light, or the kind of cascading ASCII sigils, green-glowing on black, that I remembered from my childhood devotionals to the Apple ][e computer.
LOCATION: 87551 – 87907

The first computer-centric kids’ cartoon I can remember was ReBoot, which started airing when I was adolescent, featuring the stunning innovation of CGI animation, the first show of its kind. People “went in the game,” became characters, lived humanoid lives inside of mainframes.
LOCATION: 88239 – 88540

The first thing people make in an online world, when they can make anything, is a house. In Second Life’s heyday, West Coast millennial dream homes sprouted all over the place like mushrooms: Seaside modern architecture with swimming pools, glass fronts, arcing ferns, natural wood. In a place where any ideal can be built, a depressing aspirational median emerges. Inside the house, all users put a chair. Why, Yee poses, do virtual worlds need chairs if virtual bodies never need to sit down?
LOCATION: 98671 – 99172

Volume 3 of Michael Palin’s Diaries – Travelling to Work – Out this September

Travelling to Work: Diaries 1988-1998

TRAVELLING TO WORK is the third volume of Michael Palin’s widely acclaimed diaries. After the Python years and a decade of filming, writing and acting, Palin’s career takes an unexpected direction into travel, which will shape his working life for the next twenty-five years.

Read on: Michael Palin – Travelling to Work – Orion Publishing Group

I love Michael Palin, and I love diaries. So you can imagine that I love Michael Palin’s diaries. In fact, this combination led me to asking the great man to participate in the research for my final year project for my Information Management degree. Palin, along with many other friends and associates, kindly took the time to answer a series of questions relating to their diary-keeping habits.

Having read the first two volumes of Michael Palin’s diaries, I’m eagerly awaiting the third. In fact, I’m currently on my second read-through of the second volume. The hardback editions are beautiful, weighty tomes that look lovely on my bookshelf – but they’re also a little bit hefty for stuffing in an overnight bag and so on. Fortunately, the Kindle editions are nicely put together, and allow me to highlight passages which are particularly funny, poignant, or otherwise of note.

The transition from volume 2 to volume 3 is particularly interesting, as the cross-over point is a real cliff-hanger: Palin is about to embark on the first of his celebrated travel film journeys – Around The World in 80 Days.

I was intrigued when I started thinking about this – I am often intrigued by quite mundane things – as there are companion books for all of Palin’s journeys, and they come in the form of a diary. They’re a fascinating insight into the trips, with extra information and a host of photographs to complement the films themselves.

But from the looks of volume 3′s subtitle, 1988-1998, it sounds like Palin kept a private diary in addition to the notes that ended up being released as companion books. Fabulous! Indeed, the title of the volume itself, Travelling to Work, really points to the consistent theme for the decade covered within.

Volume 3 of his diaries is published in hardback and ebook editions on September 11 this year. I’ve recently hit January 1988 on my latest run-through of volume 2, so I think I’ll re-read the Around The World in 80 Days book next to tide me over.

Slides and audio from the British Library’s Keeping Tracks seminar are now available


A few weeks ago, I visited the British Library for the brilliant Keeping Tracks one-day seminar on digital music archives. My account of the day can be found here:

Just a brief update to note that the organisers have gone the extra mile and updated their blog with audio and slides of every single talk from the day. Fantastic work. Check that all out at the following link: Keeping Tracks – a one day symposium on music and archives in the digital age – Music blog.

Lovely Bicycle!: Of Miles and Mountain Vistas: A Spring Initiation Ride

The descent went on and on. And to think that I had almost forgotten over the winter that dream-like sensation of falling. Now it came back to me in full emotional force. Miles and miles of plunging down a mountainside. On descents like this, the bike becomes something other than a bike. A flying carpet?

A day and a short recovery ride later, I still feel buoyed by the sensation of that last descent, by the rush of following the curves of the road while staring ahead at those layered hazy mountain ridges. That sort of descent really does feel like a dream. Or like a long swoon. The 60 miles and the climbing and the feel of being out of shape are not what I remember after this ride. Perhaps that is why I want to keep going further.

via Lovely Bicycle!: Of Miles and Mountain Vistas: A Spring Initiation Ride.

Lovely Bicycle is by leaps and bounds my favourite bicycling blogger. She just captures so consistently the feeling that a good bike ride gives me. The above passage is just the latest example out of countless others.

Her words also encourage me to go a little further, or push a little harder. She makes the subsequent reward sound so worth the extra effort.

Ian Mortimer’s latest book, Centuries of Change


Ian Mortimer is a voracious writer, but my favourite of his is The Time Traveller’s Guide to Medieval England. I stumbled upon it via the audiobook version initially, and fell in love with the way it utterly transports the reader to the time by way of dialects and descriptions of daily life.

I’m a fan of history writing, but I struggle with dry, dusty books – Mortimer’s book is so vivid and alive that I just lapped it up. A sister title is also available, The Time Traveller’s Guide to Elizabethan England, which was quite recently turned into a very beautiful, understated BBC documentary series hosted by Mortimer.

Ever since wandering through a Medieval market town with Mortimer, I’ve followed what he’s been up to, and I was very excited recently to read about his new book, Centuries of Change. Okay, it’s not out until October(!), but I still love the sound of it.

In his description of the book, Mortimer writes:

At the end of December 1999 I heard a TV newsreader declare that the twentieth century was ‘the century that has seen more change than any other’. This set me thinking. Was it? After all, in 1900, most people in the Western World lived pretty much as I did. They wore suits, went to school, could read and write, and knew that the world was round and that it orbited the Sun. They did not starve to death, had the benefit of medicine, voted for their government, and generally they did not condone slavery or cruelty to animals and children. The big changes all lay in the more distant past.

At that moment I asked myself the question underpinning this book. What were the major changes of each of the previous nine centuries? Which developments, movements and inventions most profoundly affected the Western World?

This sounds fascinating. In a more recent update regarding the book, Mortimer says:

The book, Centuries of Change is finally finished. FINISHED! First draft completed on 8 March, second draft yesterday, 24 March. It’s dedicated to my children and all my descendants with the inscription ‘This is the book that I feel I was born to write. That doesn’t necessarily mean it is the book you were born to read, but it might help’. It’s the most ‘me’ of all my books to date. Now is the moment of waiting to see what the first people to read it think about it – my wife, my editor, the commissioning editor, my agent and scholarly friends… It’s so outrageously ambitious that there will be many criticisms I am sure, but nevertheless I am very pleased with it.

Yay! Bring it on.

For an introduction to Mortimer’s writing, a snippet of his Medieval book is available online here:

“Ribs of beef and many a pie!” you hear someone call over your shoulder. Turning, you see a young lad walking through the crowd bearing a tray laden with wooden bowls of cooked meats from a local shop.

All around him people are moving, gesturing, talking. So many have come in from the surrounding villages that this town of about 3,000 inhabitants is today thronged with twice as many. Here are men in knee-length brown tunics driving their cattle before them. Here are their wives in long kirtles with wimples around their heads and necks. Those men in short tunics and hoods are valets in a knight’s household. Those in long gowns with high collars and beaver-fur hats are wealthy merchants. Across the marketplace more peasants are leading in their flocks of sheep, or packhorses and carts loaded with crates of chickens.