Here are the step-by-step instructions for the Anti-Book Club for easy reference. And so you can run your own Anti-Book Club if you want. I’ll update this article with future improvements as I discover them.

The Premise

Start by reading my original article introducing the concept and why it’s important. Here’s a short version:

  • Books contain valuable ideas, but are too long, boring, and diluted with extraneous information
  • We need a way for different people to read different books, and then share the key points with each other
  • Progressive summarization provides a way to do so in a format that provides enough context for it to make sense and be useful
  • It doesn’t replace reading the full text, but allows your future self to remember what you’ve learned, and helps others to make better decisions about what to read

Next, read my series on Progressive Summarization to understand how the method works (or this quick refresher):

Progressive Summarization: A Practical Technique for Designing Discoverable Notes

The Process

Here is the process we follow:

1. Everyone who has opted in signs up to read a specific book

Click here to see the list, which will be unlocked for those who join so you can add your name next to the book you choose.

2. Progressively summarize your book up to layer 4 (3 rounds of highlighting plus summarizing the book in your own words) within one month

Use this recommended workflow if you’d like:

  1. Download your selected book on Kindle
  2. Read and highlight good passages (by pressing and dragging with your finger)
  3. Go to Bookcision website and drag shortcut to bookmarks bar in your browser
  4. Go to https://read.amazon.com/notebook and select the book
  5. Click Bookcision shortcut in the menu bar to generate a new window with your notes
  6. Click and drag to select all the notes in the window (this is better than downloading the notes, as it retains the links to the original location in the book)
  7. Bold the best parts in Evernote (layer 2)
  8. Highlight the best bolded parts (layer 3)
  9. Summarize the main points of the book in 5–20 points at the top of the note (layer 4)
  10. Save this note template to your Evernote account, answer the questions for your book, and paste your summarized notes at the bottom (here’s a completed example)
  11. Right-click the note and click “Copy shareable link”
  12. Email link to tiago@fortelabs.co

3. Join the Slack group here for coordinating and questions

The note template will ask for your Slack username, which you’ll create when you join at the link above.

4. I compile all the summaries and share them with everyone who’s contributed

5. Follow additional guidelines if helpful:

  • Highlight lists, headings (especially chapter headings), and additional reading recommendations
  • Include images and diagrams (either by taking a screenshot of the ebook page, or taking a photo of the paper page, and inserting it at the appropriate spot)
  • Remember that I and others WILL be reading these notes. Be kind to us. Put in the same effort you might put in to an informal (but still professional) email to a colleague

6. We’ll hold a debrief meeting and review what we’ve learned (to be scheduled)

Here’s the minutes from the previous one in case you’re curious.

FAQs

What are the layers again?

  1. Layer 1: best excerpts of the book (the highlights from Kindle exported to Evernote)
  2. Layer 2: bold the best parts of each excerpt
  3. Layer 3: highlight the best of the best
  4. Layer 4: at top of note, summarize the book in 5–20 bullet points, using your own words

Do I have to choose from this list?
Yes. The experiment is to see if we can summarize books all related to a single topic, and I’ve chosen university innovation to help the UIP team.

Will you reimburse me for the cost of the book?
No, you’re responsible for purchasing it yourself.

Can more than one person read and take notes on the same book?
No, just one per book this time. Future editions might incorporate double assignments.

How do I do Layer 4 summarizing?
Read the full Progressive Summarization series, or this quick overview.

Do I have to use Evernote?
Yes, to keep things simple.

How do I use iBooks?
Same as above, except to get your highlights out of the iBooks app you’ll follow these instructions. The first of the seven methods described in the article should do fine.

How do I work with a physical book?
I recommend typing out the layer 1 passages directly into Evernote, either as you come across them, or underlining them with a pen or marking them with a highlighter and coming back later to type them out. If you know how to use OCR or audio recognition software you can use that too, but please go back and fix any errors. For images, just take a photo of the image, crop it, and insert at the appropriate spot.

Is there anything specific you’re looking for in these books?
No, just whatever seems surprising, insightful, or resonates with you. I’m not looking for interpretation or analysis of the book, just a straightforward summary. Don’t add your own thoughts or commentary — your future self (and others) won’t know where these came from or what their context is.

What is the ideal length of the notes?
There’s no target length, but remember you want to be extracting the best parts, not trying to recreate the entire book in miniature form. As you reread your notes to add subsequent layers, it should feel rich in insights, not like you’re rereading the whole book.

How do I add images?
What I do is bookmark the pages with images I want to keep in the Kindle app on iPad — that’s because Bookcision won’t export images, even if they’re highlighted. Then later when I am compiling the notes in Evernote I go back through the bookmarks on the Kindle desktop app and take screenshots (cmd-shift-4 on Mac) of each image I want to keep, and drag it to the right spot in my notes. You can do this on mobile by taking a screenshot of the page, cropping it, and then inserting it into your notes using the Evernote mobile app.

What should I do if I hit the export limit (usually 10–15% for Kindle)?
You’ve highlighted too much! Go back and delete some highlights. I know that’s a drag but you’ll learn your lesson.


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