Highlighted thinking

Amazon has released a look at the passages most highlighted on the Kindle. I reckon this is pretty interesting data. This gives a little bit of insight into the thoughts of nerdy people who buy e-book readers. Do people highlight things because they are profound? Or because they agree with them? I don’t know, but worryingly on both counts – the Shack dominates the top ten, it scores five of the top ten results and nine of the top twenty…

They’re all pretty pithy philosophical mantras representing a protestant view of the world – valuing hard work, success, sacrifice, trust, relationships, and a sense of the spiritual.

Here are the top ten, and their books…

  1. Outliers (Malcolm Gladwell) – “three things—autonomy, complexity, and a connection between effort and reward—are, most people agree, the three qualities that work has to have if it is to be satisfying.”
  2. The Shack (William P Young) – “Grace doesn’t depend on suffering to exist, but where there is suffering you will find grace in many facets and colors.”
  4. The Shack – “Relationships are never about power, and one way to avoid the will to power is to choose to limit oneself—to serve.”
  5. The Shack – “Trust is the fruit of a relationship in which you know you are loved. Because you do not know that I love you, you cannot trust me.”
  6. The Shack – “Paradigms power perception and perceptions power emotions. Most emotions are responses to perception—what you think is true about a given situation. If your perception is false, then your emotional response to it will be false too. So check your perceptions, and beyond that check the truthfulness of your paradigms—what you believe. Just because you believe something firmly doesn’t make it true. Be willing to reexamine what you believe. The more you live in the truth, the more your emotions will help you see clearly. But even then, you don’t want to trust them more than me.”
  7. The Lost Symbol – “Katherine had been fascinated by McTaggart’s book The Intention Experiment, and her global, Web-based study—theintentionexperiment.com—aimed at discovering how human intention could affect the world.”
  8. Outliers – “Outliers are those who have been given opportunities—and who have had the strength and presence of mind to seize them.”
  9. The Shack – “To force my will on you,” Jesus replied, “is exactly what love does not do. Genuine relationships are marked by submission even when your choices are not helpful or healthy.”
  10. Have a Little Faith: A True Story (Mitch Albom) – “Be satisfied.” That’s it? “Be grateful.” That’s it? “For what you have. For the love you receive. And for what God has given you.”

A little analysis

E-book platforms are more common in the United States than they are here – they’re not necessarily just for geeks (if it was a Venn diagram the Geek side would cover slightly more territory than the “keen reader” side (I can’t back this up with research – it’s all hearsay).

Eight of those ten quotes are from books related to Christianity. The one at #7 has probably been highlighted so that people can look up the web address later.

The two Outliers quotes are essentially outliers – but they’re both to do with success and career satisfaction, and a quest for meaning in that sphere (though arguably in all spheres in #8).

The rest represent what I think is a mix of Christianity, philosophy and psychology, #10 could be drawn from either Buddhism or Christianity with a zen like push for contentment (and thankfulness), #9, #4, #3 are about how we treat others (with the implication that we should serve them), #4 and #5 are about relationships, #4, #6 and #9 are about power dynamics, and #5 and #6 are about trust.

It’s interesting that these, and the next ten on the list, could almost be defined as being quotes about happiness and the meaning of life – and a number of them tie that to fulfilling relationships and service of others. What I haven’t told you is that quote #1 (about career success) was highlighted by 37% more people (1749) than number #2 (about grace) (1270).


Gav says:

How does Amazon know what people hightlight on their Kinlde?!?!? Does it feed this back to Amazon?!

Isn’t that another Big brother story? Shouldn’t the Yanks be afraid about Amazon knowing what they higlight? Isn’t it an infringement of their God-given right to freedom of highlighting and noone knowing about it?

This makes me definitely decide not to buy a Kindle. Mac would never do this with their iPad!