Beginning of April 2021, I decided to get back on reading and take up the 52 books in a year challenge. Over the years, I have read multiple books but I hardly remember any insights from those books or apply any of those learnings in my life. I wanted to improve this process and started researching various ways to effectively read books. Since I’m using Kindle to read, I started highlighting books and taking smart notes while reading. In the process, I discovered a tool called Readwise. Readwise is a subscription service that helps you to remember what you’ve read using proven techniques. It syncs all your highlights and notes from your Amazon account, Instapaper, etc. Readwise uses a mix of techniques like Spaced Repetition and Active Recall to master the knowledge you have acquired.
My Current Reading Flow
Readwise has many features which personally helped me a lot to remember what I’ve read. Readwise is now an integral part of my personal knowledge management flow. To give a quick idea, this is the reading workflow which I use to remember what I’ve read:
- Mark highlights and take notes while reading on my Kindle.
- Export highlights and notes from Readwise to Obsidian(The software I use for personal knowledge management).
- Review highlight and notes using Obsidian for further research and drafting book note articles.
- Use Daily highlights and ‘Mastery’ feature on Readwise daily for actively recalling important insights from books I’ve read.
- Write a book note on the website from the data from Obsidian after one month.
Why I like Readwise?
As I have mentioned earlier, Readwise is a part of my knowledge management workflow. My favourite features of Readwise are the Mastery and daily highlights using spaced repetition and active recalling. Some features of Readwise which I personally think are the best are mentioned below.
Everyday Readwise sends an email with your highlights from books, articles or other sources of information you have synced. I have set this to arrive in my inbox daily at 9 AM. It helps me to passively remember small snippets of information from my favourite books. For example, last week I was surprised when I recalled one idea from James Clear‘s book Atomic Habits which I had totally forgotten. Ever since I started using Readwise in April, I’ve religiously read and reviewed all Readwise’s daily highlights.
The Mastery option in Readwise helps to convert any passive highlight to an active highlight by providing the option for reviewing it. Readwise converts highlights into digital flashcards that utilize active recall and spaced repetition for optimum retention.
Cloze Deletion is a fancy term for ‘Fill in the blank’. With cloze deletion feature you can hide any keyword or phrase of the highlight giving an opportunity to pause and think about the word.
The question and answer option of mastery allow to add a question and answer for any relevant highlight. This is not automated and is useful for important highlights meant to be mastered in the long run.
Once any highlight is reviewed using active recall, Readwise prompts you to select how often you want to review the highlight. This is an excellent feature and helps in prioritizing highlights which matters the most.
Readwise has a native tagging feature for organising your highlights spread across multiple topics. It also has an inline tagging feature that allows users to create tags while using Kindle. Inline tags can be created on Kindle by adding notes while highlighting using the form .[tagname]. For example, if you want to create a tag for productivity, add a note with ‘.productivity’. This is very useful when you are researching a particular topic and want to find your notes and highlights from the books you’ve read.
Option to export your highlights and notes especially in markdown language is very useful for me since Obsidian is also based on markdown. I export my highlights from a book in markdown format and import them to Obsidian for further research. Readwise also allows you to export your highlights to a CSV file, Notion, Evernote and more formats.
Is Readwise for You?
I have been using Readwise for 2 months now and it is one of those subscriptions which I pay happily every month. You can now create an account on Readwise using my link for free(I get 30 days when you signup) and get 60 days free trial to evaluate the service. But if you’re not using Kindle or do not create enough highlights, I won’t recommend Readwise to you. Readwise gets better every day once you sync enough highlights and you do those micro-configurations required. The habit of creating highlights and notes is essential for using this service.
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