Quoting text from electronic media is easy… unless the text is frozen in an e-book. Unlike all other forms of e-media, e-books are designed to be difficult to share. This is unfortunate and should change. Until it does change, those of us who want to legally share information found in books need workarounds. If you read Kindle books, as I do, then you can often find your highlights and annotations by visiting your Kindle account online at:


Not all publishers allow you to access Kindle highlights online, however.

To get around this annoyance, I crafted a workflow for collecting quotations using PDFpen ($60). Basically, I use PDFpen to create “corkboards” of quoted text.

How to collect Kindle book quotes using PDFpen

  1. Download and open Kindle for Mac (free). Find your book, and go to the text you want to grab.
  2. Take a screen shot of the text you want to quote by pressing Cmd-Shift-4, then select the area around the text.
  3. In PDFpen, create a new one-page PDF. Go to File -> New -> One Page Document or just press Shift-Cmd-N.
  4. Drag the screen shot from step 2 onto the blank PDF.
  5. While holding down the Option key, click the Edit menu, then click OCR1.
  6. Select and copy text.

If you need to collect several blocks of text, I recommend doing steps 2-4 until you’ve got all your screen shots into PDFpen, then do the OCR in a single step. (But you can OCR as many times or as often as you want.)

This process works well for me, but like any process, there’s room for improvement. If you have a better way of going about this, share it in the comments or email me.

  1. OCR stands for optical character recognition. It turns images of text into selectable text. PDFpen does OCR really well. If you often work with PDF containing imaged text, the OCR function is worth the price of PDFpen by itself.