Sync ebook hilites & notes across Mac, iOS, Kindle?

(Albrecht) #1

I’m an academic reading and studying ebooks, from a variety of sources (i.e. not all Amazon :wink: ), and on a variety of platforms (Kindle for ease on my eyes, iPad for ease on my back, and Mac for ease on my fingers). What I’d like—what I should be able to do—is to move back and forth between these platforms and have my highlights, annotations, and reading positions in sync across all of them. Is there any way to achieve this? or is this merely another example for how the corporate world limits academic (etc) freedom (sorry for being polemic; I think TidBITS readers will understand my grief, and I believe there are many others out there who’d like to achieve the same thing).
I know that Apple Books syncs between Mac and iOS; but Kindle? I have read and highlighted long chapters on my Kindle—but if the book is not from Amazon, I can’t even see these highlights on my Kindle for Mac app, to say nothing of syncing them to another reader.
As for Apple Books: I am using calibre to manage my ebook library—if I want to use Books, it seems I need to maintain a separate library just for Books, meaning less cross-application/platform flexibility.

Sigh. From googling around a bit, it seems there may be no solution to this issue (I’ve also tried Quora)—so TidBITS is my last hope for intelligent insights, and at least an “Option B” workaround.

Kind regards,

(Tommy Weir) #2

Short answer: No.

Slightly longer answer. No, and it’s a bummer that Apple haven’t figured a fully reliable way for syncing ePubs and PDFs with the Books app. I still get ‘Your iCloud is full’ error messages occasionally even with 1Tb free up there.

If you seek a common format and a common app which runs on all three, which are the prerequisites for syncing the features you outline, there’s only the .mobi format for the Kindle app and as you say, there’s limits to the Kindle app on the Mac. And it’s not particularly an app which is all that good for annotation besides.

If you dropped the Kindle and settled on Mac and iPad you have more options, if using PDF as your format, there’s a whole range of apps which can annotate in a variety of ways. You might consider converting your reading to PDF. While not as flexible or pleasant a reading experience, annotation and highlighting and compatibility are much enhanced.

I use DevonThink Pro Office on the Mac and iOS for my research. It comes with OCR which is handy for those PDFs lacking a searchable text layer. The databases (which can include a lot more types than documents) sync pretty smartly, you can set the iOS document to only sync a file on demand. My son, mid PhD, uses the Papers app to sync his PDFs across his various Macs and iPads. It’s very good and I think has links into apps like Mendeley etc for referencing.

Calibre, while butt-ugly, is very useful in converting between ebook formats. I tend to keep my research books as PDFs and my personal reading as ePUB, I like the Books app for reading novels etc.

(Albrecht) #3

Thank you, @Tommy, for your quick reply—even though it confirms what I suspected. So maybe I have to bite the apple and convert to PDF. Still, as I get older and feel the strain on my eyes more acutely, I was hoping to be able to use more eye-friendly solutions (thus, ebooks with flowing text, where fonts can be adjusted, etc). And apart from eye-friendliness, the Kindle is also lighter and more sturdy than an iPad (important to me since I’m doing some mountaineering while still wanting to keep up with my reading obligations).

(Tommy Weir) #4

I too value ePub visually, eyes and aging in a seeming spiral, I value the flow and increased font size. Again it seems a task Apple are capable of delivering at a high level but they don’t appear to be all that bothered.

(Richard Rettke) #5

I’m confused. My ePubs sync comments and highlighting between my iMac, and my 3 iOS devices.

(Albrecht) #6

@ecdm7k2jxv: No prob syncing Mac and iOS using Apple Books—the issue is including a Kindle in the equation. Both Apple and Amazon lock their customers into their respective universe so firmly that to achieve what from a user perspective would be highly desirable, turns out impossible. And I don’t think it’s a feasibility issue, technically speaking. It’s conscious design.

(Gordon Meyer) #7

The Kindle app for iOS doesn’t sync notes? This surprises me. (I also use a Kindle Paperwhite --and love it-- but I’ve not really tried the

When I want to access my Paperwhite notes from my Mac I use:

(Tommy Weir) #8

Interesting. I hadn’t used that before. Thank you!

(Albrecht) #9

@bb1: I’m not saying the Kindle iOS app doesn’t sync—I’m saying
(a) Whispersync only syncs Amazon’s own books and my personal “docs”, but not ebooks from other sellers (e.g. Norway’s that I upload to my Kindle directly from my desktop via calibre; and
(b) I am reading the same book on both my Kindle, on iOS, and on Mac—and I what I want is to keep my Kindle reading/annotating in sync with the book on the other devices. If Amazon would allow Whispersync also for non-Amazon books, the problem would be solved. But they don’t (see above for corporate logic).

(Tommy Weir) #10

Ah a Norwegian! Huge fan of the country. Had one memorable visit, and vowed to do more.

Yes, it may be Amazon which would benefit most from delivering this, a fuller and more open annotation service. I would like to see a fuller set of features beyond highlighting and comments for ePubs too. The patchwork of approaches people have to take now limits engagement. The experience of students is also hampered here, as a teacher trying to outline effective research methods when things are relatively crude, and students are impatient, it is difficult.

(David Matchett) #11

If you convert your .epub to .mobi using Calibre, then upload it to Amazon using their “Send to Kindle” Mac app, you can then sync across all Kindle devices and apps. I haven’t checked the highlights for this but I suspect it would work too. I have dozens of books I’m doing this with and haven’t run into any limit so far. You can see them (they’re called “docs”) in the Manage My Devices page in Amazon.

(Albrecht) #12

@mahu: Thank you, that got me one step further! So far, I had uploaded non-Amazon books to my Kindle using Calibre’s “Send to device” directly. Using Amazon’s “Send to Kindle” instead makes them sync (incl. highlights and notes) with my physical Kindle as well as the Kindle app on iOS—but not the Kindle app on my mac, nor on the Kindle Cloud Reader. They don’t whispersync, and looking at Amazon’s “Manage Your Content and Devices”, I cannot “Deliver” them either to my “Kindle for Mac” nor to my “Kindle Cloud Reader” as both are greyed out. Why would that be?

(dichris) #13

Here’s another possibility… The Kobo Aura One ebook reader which Digital Tends reviewed as better than Amazon’s Kindles. You’d have to strip the DRM from your Kindle books but it’s doable. You can get highlights and comments out as text files apparently.

(Jesse the K) #14

I feel your pain @albrecht!

I use KyBook 3 on my iPad.

It reads .epubs, .mobis, MP3s, audiobooks, and PDFs natively. KyBook doesn’t have an Adobe license, so I use Calibre to strip DRM first.

KyBook’s file management tools are nifty: it can read and write to cloud folders (I use Dropbox because iCloud doesn’t do well as a common data platform).

My eyes are old and aging fast–KyBook lets me download optimal fonts, set up color schemes, line spacing etc. for ePub and mobi. For PDF it offers sepia as well as light-on-dark themes.

Text highlighting in all docs; export highlights (markdown or HTML).

Drawbacks: not a Mac app. One-person operation.