Using Readwise as a commonplace book

Several years ago, I wrote about the potential of the digital commonplace book, and my frustration that it wasn't possible to tie together insight from digital reading effectively. In recent months I have begun using a service - readwise.io - that solves the problem of integrating notes and highlights from a range of sources online.

The offering from Readwise is both simple and powerful. It links up to a selection of sources for reading highlights and collects the information together in a single place. For me, the sources I am using are ebooks on the Kindle platform, highlights within Instapaper, and annotations from Hypothesis1. There are other options available, including import of annotated pdf files (currently in beta). The collated information can be searched and read with Readwise itself, but there is also an options to export to popular note-taking apps, Evernote, Notion and Roam Research2.

Readwise can also send a daily email with five highlights or annotations from your library for review. The email is a form of spaced repetition, a technique for improving recall of information. While I am not trying to memorise highlights from my reading, the regular email is undoubtedly a helpful reminder of material I have read in the past.

I have been using Readwise for several months now and am pleased to say that it has delivered the digital commonplace book that I was hoping for.

  1. Interestingly, I am using exactly the same options for reading as I was when I wrote the original post six years ago. 

  2. Unlike my reading options, I have in the last year transferred from Evernote to Roam Research, which is probably a subject for a future post.