Making Copies

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I have a massive frustration when it comes to reading books and magazines with my e-reader.

I like to copy and paste portions of text that resonate with me. I like to share them (it could be a tweet or a blog post or on Facebook) and I like to centralize them (in a place like Evernote). The problem, our course, is that this content is usually locked down. You can’t just highlight it, copy it and paste wherever you want. There’s DRM all over it and the publishers don’t want this content floating about. In fact, it’s not just my e-reader. It could be a portion of a physical book, magazine or newspaper as well. It would be great to be able to capture this text and turn it into usable content.

There’s an app for that.

TextGrabber to the rescue. This iPhone (and iPad) app allows you to take a picture of something in print and it uses some fairly advanced OCR software to turn it into digital text that you can cut and paste and move about freely, but there’s a little hack that I’ve learned when it comes to content you’re reading on a screen: If you press the on/off switch and the home button on your iPhone or iPad at the same time, it takes a screen capture. So, all you have to do is take a screen capture of whatever you’re reading digitally and then open TextGrabber, bring it in and poof, you’ve got digitized copy that is free to roam about the cabin.

It’s the little hacks that count.

Am I breaking some kind of copyright law? Probably. Am I using the content to sell or for monetary gain? No. I just want to be able to use copy (of content I have purchased) without having to re-type it, and this one little hack has made all of the difference in my content creation and curation.

Why am I sharing this with you? Two reasons:

  1. I am not alone. I’m sure I’m not the only one who is frustrated because they can’t copy and paste some quotes out of a book being read on a Kindle.
  2. You have some too. We all have these simple (but powerful) little hacks and workarounds that make us more productive (just take a look at the Lifehacker site). We often don’t share them. We should be sharing more.

So, what’s your simple little hack that makes your world just a little bit more productive? Do share…


  1. Agreed! This has been a frustration to date, but thanks for the tip on TextGrabber. Right now, I go to to grab my notes and highlights later and paste them
    elsewhere, but it always involves an extra step.
    My little hack is that I use folders in Instapaper (which is where I do most of my reading) to share interesting articles with friends and colleagues. I create folders for various people, and when I have something I think they’d like, I add the article to their folder. Instapaper generates custom RSS feeds for each folder, so they can subscribe to their own custom feed of recommended articles from me, and they do the same for me. (I also use the custom RSS feed for queuing up articles to Tweet about or post on Facebook.)

  2. This is great! I logged in this am and picked up two cool hacks from Mitch and Todd. Thanks guys! You see, I’m not so much a hack originator as I am a hack thief. I steal (metaforically speaking) hacks and insert them into my workflow. Then experiment and implement or discard as required. I’m always experimenting with some such something. Not because it makes me a productivity ninja or anything, just because it’s fun. I’ll give you a quick example: I struggled with e-books and vacillated back and forth between printed/bound and electronic. Mitch was pro and so was Derek Sivers. I didn’t really experiment with all the capabilities an e-book offered until I got into an e-mail exchange with Derek and he provided insight into being more effective and efficient using e-readers. At that time Mitch was waxing as well on the virtues. I kept at it. Sometimes I still “jones” (old 70’s term you young’ins may be unfamiliar with) for a book. For the most part, I’m now all electronic and the two hack presented above only help to solidify that choice.

  3. Your article says it is also an iPad app, but the app store says otherwise. Have you used it with iPad?

  4. Mitch;
    I had the same frustration, but came up with a hack that works pretty well. If you read with the kindle app you can highlight passages you want to use later. Those passages show up at when you log in. Copy and paste to your heart’s content.
    Now if you want to get REALLY fancy go over to and set up a rule to move all of your kindle highlights into evernote and it will automagiacally do that. It’s really slick and works great.
    Hope that helps.

  5. I completely agree. For example, I’m a digital Globe and Mail subscriber (I pay for the service) and I frequently find something I want to share with people. And while there is a Share function built in, it appears that *you* need a subscription to read what I’m sharing, whether it’s on Twitter, Facebook or wherever. To counter this, I find the same article on the Globe’s website and share that link. It’s an annoying workaround.

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