Wednesday, April 3, 2019

The Art of Visual Notetaking by Emily Mills

Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

This was an interesting book discussing a technique for note-taking that involves not just notes, but graphical elements to enhance the written word, highlight portions of it, and make specific points stick in the memory.

While I am confident this will help people who are very visual in how they retain information, I have to say that for me personally, I saw no use for it. I am not a student and rarely attend lectures and conferences, so I have no need of note-taking for that purpose, but I can see a use for this in brainstorming ideas for writing projects which I'm very much into!

One thing I would have liked to have seen discussed is how well this author's note-taking held up over time so that, for example, if she went back several years later, and consulted notes she had taken much earlier for a conference or lecture, how much of what she had drawn and written would be clear to her.

The reason I mention his was that she included images of two examples of her own work, one a church conference which was the first thing she did this on, and another - a later example of her note-taking - when she attended a lecture by a writer. To me the church conference material made a kind of sense, but the material she had prepared representing the writer's lecture made zero sense at all. It conveyed literally nothing except that the writer was tall, which to me was irrelevant and said more to me about the author of the notes than the author the notes were about! Obviously they were not taken for me and would mean more to the person who created the record, but I would have liked to have heard about that side of the process.

This raised another issue related to the one I just raised: we do not remain the same people over our lifetime. While there are, of course, continuities, we are different in high school than in college and different again in a college senior year than we were when new to college life. It occurs to me that we do not perceive the world in quite the same way, and therefore the imagery that we might employ to represent something as a high school senior might be significantly different from that we employ as a college senior or a doctoral candidate. This author must have insights into that, but I don't recall any of that being raised here which mades me sad and a little disappointed.

That aside, though, I think this book has value and it was a worthy read for me. There were some minor issues related to the fact that this was obviously designed as a print book with little thought given to the electronic version which is why page 73 for example, led to blank page 71, which in turn led to page 74! Strange but true. Note that this was an advance review copy, so maybe there will be changes to get rid of the 'sticky' screens, where one swipe won't move the screen to the next one.

I had several similar issues with books I read this weekend, all of which were no doubt designed as print books while other books I read had no such issues so something was going on independently of my tablet. Maybe I should have tried two tablets and written this in the morning?! But my considered opinion is that the ebook version requires attention and I'm sorry publishers undervalue ebooks so badly. Sometimes I found myself swiping three or four screens just to get the page numbering to go up by one! Obviously there is an issue with the conversion process which perhaps ought to be given some serious attention if this is going to be actually issued as an ebook.

But I am willing to let that slide and declare this a worthy read because I think this process has a lot of potential.