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eReading Room

I Love Reading: Bookmark This Post


Tennyson's Poems. (Newspaper clipping with marginalia.), Digital ID ps_mss_880, New York Public LibraryTennyson's Poems. (Newspaper clipping with marginalia.), Digital ID ps_mss_880, New York Public LibraryThis month in the eReading Room I shared with you some of the ways that voracious readers are able to adapt their reading habits to the online environment. I explained differences between e-formats, the best ways to manage both short and long reads, and today I'll talk about clipping, bookmarking, highlighting, and marginalia — concepts that sound old-school but that are also being electronically reinvigorated.


The new NYPL catalog (new as of last summer) makes it easier than ever to make lists of books you plan to read or on topics you know a lot about. It also is a nice way to keep track of what you've already read, write reviews and rate materials.

If you're not from New York State or you use more than one library, you can also try out the list-making and bibliographic tools on


If you've spent any time doing research, you know that it is important to continuously maintain records of what you've read, what you want to read, and what you're going to cite. Zotero is a tool that you can download as a standalone program or as a plugin for Chrome or Firefox. It also integrates into your word processor. WorldCat Cite/Export toolWorldCat Cite/Export toolIt allows you to track the basic information about your sources, whether they are books, chapters, articles, or websites. It also allows you to manage, tag, share, search, and export your information. Zotero is a project of the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media. The Stephen A. Schwarzman Building periodically offers classes on using Zotero, so check the calendar!

For students doing a short project and looking for a quick way to get all of those books into proper citation format, there are apps like Quick Cite and EasyBib for iPhone and Android that scan a ISBN barcode and return a formatted citation. Bibme does the same thing on the web for MLA, APA, Chicago and Turabian style citations, WorldCat for APA, Chicago, Harvard, MLA, and Turabian.


Searching text from images in EvernoteSearching text from images in EvernoteSimilar in concept to Zotero, but less academically-oriented, is Evernote. Upload pretty much anything (PDF, text, photo, website) to the service using the desktop client, web client, or one of the mobile apps. Full text search is available and will even enable OCR on photographs of text; you can be reading a print reference book and take a snapshot of a definition or quotation with the smartphone app and be able to find it later in a search.

Bookmarks and Favorites

If you spend much time on the web, you know there are certain sites you return to again and again, and then others that you want to be able to reference in the future without too much digging around. Even the earliest web browsers had the functionality to save Uniform Resource Identifiers, websites designated as favorites, shortcuts, or bookmarks.

But what about when you're away from your usual computer (or your usual computer breaks down and dies)? The rise of Web 2.0-style applications that allowed for web-based storage and sharing of bookmarks was a boon for info omnivores, not to mention librarians.

  • Delicious - one of the original social bookmarking services, was launched in 2003. Though it recently got a facelift, it still lets users bookmark sites, and add their own descriptions and tags for organization.
  • Pinboard - similar to the previous format of delicious, there is a one-time fee to join.
  • Diigo - allows you to highlight, mark up webpages with sticky notes, and share bookmarks privately within a group.
  • Xmarks - allows you to sync bookmarks between browsers and within a web-based account.
  • If you use Chrome you can also sync bookmarks between computers within the browser itself; sign in with your Google account.
  • There are a bajillion other social bookmarking sites out there, find one that you like in terms of functionality as well as the community that surrounds it.

Visual Bookmarks

Pinterest is arguably the most popular of these right now, though not without criticism. The issue with images is that you can easily snip them from the source, but sometimes that leaves little indication of where the image originally came from, or credit to the creator. There are also the legal implications of sites retaining duplicate copies of the image files. Copyrighted images on Flickr can no longer be easily posted on the service. But used carefully and with basic online etiquette (give credit if possible and link back to the source!), visual bookmarks can be stunning and inspirational, as well as great research and personal reference tools. Did you know that NYPL and the Art and Picture Collection have been "pinning"?

Another visual bookmark service is Zootool, and Delicious (mentioned above) now has a similar feature called "stacks."

Interested to find the original source of an image? Try TinEye or Google Search By Image.

Highlights and Quotations

Readmill and findings are two sites that allow you to save bits of text from books or websites and share them with a community. Social reading has been around for a long time, so what can these new services offer? It's a good question.

If you are an Amazon Kindle user, you may have noticed that by default you can see what other readers have highlighted in the books that you are reading. It can be interesting to see what is popular right now, but did you know that you can also sign in to see highlights you have made to the books you've already read (both purchased and borrowed from the library)? Notes and highlights get saved to your Amazon account so if you return a book and check it out again, you'll keep your highlights. Hard to imagine that being possible in the print-only days (we librarians tend to discourage you from marking up the books.) Learn how to use Evernote to organize and back up your highlights.

Candide 2.0, an NYPL Labs project from a few years back, is a great example of how we can think about marginalia (notes in the margins of a text) in the digital age.

What is your favorite way to bookmark? As long as it isn't dog-earing the pages, let us know in the comments!



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