I noticed it awhile ago, but only while reading Mr. Peanut by Alex Ross (another post for another day) did I begin to feel its presence acutely. Kindle has a feature that allows you to see how many others have highlighted a certain passage within the text you are reading. An example of this, from Mr. Peanut, is below. You can see that "10 highlighters" have used the Kindle feature "Add a Note or Highlight" to underline this passage on their own Kindle or in the Kindle app on iPad:
My initial reaction when I heard about this feature before seeing it in action? Kind of cool. I love used books for exactly this reason. Other people's highlights are my secret shame. They're electronic ephemera minus the receipts and scribbled phone numbers and funky sticky pages. I also thought (rather snarkily, if I'm honest) that finally all the eBook naysayers would begin to see that perhaps there is something to this eBooking after all. That perhaps some of the features that are soon to roll out may ultimately get more people excited about reading and, well, that's a personal quest of mine so I was amped up to see this new feature for myself.
I can't remember precisely when I first noticed the feature (somewhere back in the LAT Book Awards haze of reading like a madwoman mid-May?), but I did think it was kind of cool at first. As in, oh look at that, someone else thought this passage -- this very passage that I'm highlighting -- was worth highlighting too. Kind of cosmically cool, as if we are all connected. Sort of. If you squint. For whatever reason, though, the books I've been reading since that first flirtation with the collective highlight feature didn't have very many of them so I didn't think much about the feature until I began reading Mr. Peanut. Oh Mr. Peanut and your many, many highlights.