If I’m reading a piece of really long fiction, I often find that there are these fabulous things I want to remember. I want to take notes on it, so I highlight it, and if I have a thought about it, I’ll type it out quickly. Then I dump all these clippings into a format that I can look at later. In the case of War and Peace, I actually had 16,000 words worth of notes and clippings at the end of it. So I printed it out as a print-on-demand book. In short, I have a physical copy of all of my favorite parts of War and Peace that I can flip through, with my notes, but I don’t actually own a physical copy of War and Peace.
Since getting my kindle I have annotated a lot, and wrote an AppleScript to get my highlights and annotations out of the text file they're stored in, and into a text file per book. These are stored on my Dropbox folder, and I refer to them from time to time. Usually when I want to remember some partially remembered detail. I'm quite taken with the idea of getting them printed out though.
But what if your local bookstore, or hell, your local drugstore, had a print-on-demand machine that cost $10,000, and you want the print book, and they say, “Oh yeah, come by in three minutes, it’ll be ready.”
This is exactly what happened at the Lonely Planet shop in Sydney Airport - we bought a custom created guide to Tokyo and had it printed whilst we waited. It wasn't an elaborate print service - it was actually just an A4 laser printer - but it served its purpose well.
One of the reasons people like the Kindle is that it’s a single-purpose device, so you’re not tempted to check your email. I do think the problem of distractions on devices is real — because they are horribly designed. A desktop environment is just wretched. It’s an ergonomic catastrophe. If you look back at the early proponents of ubiquitous computing, they don’t talk about staring at one screen — they talk about screens lying around like papers lying around. And you’d use one and throw it away. They’d almost be disposable.
The distraction thing is exactly why I like my kindle, as I've mentioned before, I can't be trusted not to get distracted by other things...