Highlights for listening?

Brian Ellin ☕️
May 21, 2015 · 2 min read

I love reading, but I’m a damn slow reader.

These days, I have a 40 minute commute from Oakland into San Francisco, both ways, every day. It’s the perfect time to read, set aside just for me, ten times a week — but unfortunately I find it exceptionally difficult to read in the chaos of the commute.

So… I’ve been listening to audio books on my phone, and I love it. I’m able to make progress on books I care about every single day — when I’m walking to the station, jostling with sweaty commuters, or claustrophobically sitting under the bay in a slow train (like I am right now).

In listening to books more and more, I feel like the whole experience is missing something and feels fleeting. Key moments pass by at the same pace as boring ones. It’s hard to slow down, take note, and really think about something because I’m not reading at my own pace. It feels one-way.

Reading on a kindle for years, I’ve gotten used to highlighting. I’ll highlight every passage that leaves an impact on my brain, or that I think I may want to get back to in the future. At the end of a book, and in the days, months, and years after reading, I’ll return to look at my highlights and grab the choice bits — building on them and weaving them into what I’m thinking about now.

I also do this on Medium, which is even more interesting because it is public, social, and more of a multi-way interaction with the author and everyone else who is reading. It’s a starting point for discussion and seed for the cultivation of ideas. (Here’s my highlights, if you’re interested)

I want highlights for listening — for audio books and podcasts, to start. I want to be be able to easily capture the words in hearing, save ‘em for later, send a nod to the author, and share ‘em with my friends. To use them as a jumping off point for my own writing.

My question is: Has anyone tried to build something like that yet? From the listener’s perspective, how might it work and feel?