Import entire text book for study?

Does the following make sense for a high-school kid for a subject with intense text-book study (e.g. literature or history)?

  • Locate electronic version of book (PDF? e-book? ideally something I can convert and import as text or RTF, so I can then highlight, add annotations, notes, etc.).

  • Import entire book into Scrivener; spend a bit of time breaking up into chapters, sections etc. in Binder

  • Start reading / annotating / analyzing

Any hints, insights, advice (first-hand or otherwise) much appreciated.


Steps one and two sound like a lot of effort that could have been spent on step three…

I would say it depends a bit on how important the textbook is itself, as an object containing the information, over just the information itself. If there is some study of the structure of the book, how it has been organised and how the author(s) of it designed the flow of information—then doing this sort of detailed section-by-section analysis with Scrivener would be helpful. Dissecting a novel for a lit class would be a great way to study it I think. Not only do you get a detailed outline that you can use all of Scrivener’s tools on to study it, just going through the process of figuring out where breaks should go will give one a better understanding of the the skeleton of the book. Going further with keywords and labels would take a lot longer but likely reap even more valuable insight into the author’s method.

That’s probably not information that a non-author would really need, unless that is the assignment of course. In most cases the textbook information is the important part, and trying to figure out where best to break the book out into an outline might be overkill. It would be more useful to use traditional study and notation techniques directly on the book. As pigfender points out, it isn’t a trivial task to do. Even if you have a nice RTF to work from it’s a lot of work, but going from PDF can easily become a nightmare since PDF files are not very good for turning back into agile text documents. If you need to that’s one thing, but if you are just looking for a better highlighter and notepad, it might be more trouble than just loading the PDF in Skim and having at it with its notation tools.

Of necessity, I spend much of my time reading and annotating and editing a variety of texts–from term papers to literature to textbooks–on the computer or iPad. I’ve gotten used to doing it and fairly comfortable with the process. But the other night I lay back on my couch with a paper book, a pencil and a notepad, and I read and annotated in the margins for a longer and more focused–and more pleasant–time than I have been able to do for a long, long time. Books and pencils (and highlighters, if you must) are wonderful things, not to be discarded or converted lightly.

Portability is also worth a consideration, if you’re going to want to refer to your notes in class or elsewhere. If you’re just bringing your laptop places with you that might not matter, but otherwise you’ll need to compile and print or export to some kind of eReader or mobile device, and that will be additional hassle (and a lot of paper) and will present things visually in a different way than you’ve been looking at them when making the notes, so if you’re one of those people who finds things by remembering about how far into the text it was and how far down the page, this will make it a lot harder for your brain to switch back and forth. Quickly referencing pages and so forth while in class (or that an instructor has provided) will also be a lot rougher if you’re using a wildly different form of the book–at least with different paper copies you can usually get fairly close (although admittedly if you’re on a computer, you’ve probably got a handy search function and can look up a key phrase to jump to the spot).

Overall, as Ioa says, unless there’s some particular need to study the structure of the piece, I don’t think you’d gain an advantage by going to the extra work of bringing it into Scrivener. Mind, if this is a much smaller piece–an article, rather than an entire book–and you’re using it for research and reference, that’s another issue; then it could be handy to bring it into the project where you’re planning your paper and be able to reference it and keep things organized. Even for that purpose, though, if it’s a whole book, I’d keep it outside of Scrivener and just make reference notes to it from your project so you can look up what you need easily.

I think we learn by nesting information in smaller and smaller cells, which recall the larger units lying above…or below. You can run the scale in either direction: a pyramid that mounts upward, or a leafy tree that flows down to lower roots. And now I’ll go sideways:

Book --> Table of Contents --> Chapters --> Headings --> Subheads --> Details --> Paraphrase

If you create an outline that gets the salient points at each level, you don’t need an entire book online. Though it would help to have page number links that called passages in an e-copy.

I’m writing a book review of a 220-page text. I took 10-12 hours to read it closely, marking up the text. Then I took 5-6 hours to type up my notes. Writing the rough draft will take 2-3 hours; polishing about 1-2. Each unit of work takes less time, but only because I’ve done the longer, slower tasks.

And at the rate of pay I’ll receive, that works out to $14.58 an hour. Flipping burgers, anyone? :laughing:

The “leafy tree” is actually my favourite pen and paper notation method. I’m not sure what its proper name is, but the one where you draw a diagonal line across a page, and then 90º branches off of it for main points, with 90º branches off of those (parallel now with the main trunk) for minor points. Very easy for the eye to follow and restore chunks of information. Not dissimilar from the mind map concept, though easier to draw while working through a linear text.