A simple trick for power-reading ebooks

October 7, 2014

Students are often told that when they come across a word or concept that they don’t understand they should always look it up but that can be quite a difficult habit to acquire and is a nuisance when you are in the middlle of an interesting book. Back when I was a student it meant getting out of the chair, getting a dictionary off the shelf (if, that is, you were near a shelf with a dictionary on it) and looking up the word, but that was way too much effort and in any case the dictionary generally only gives you the meaning of single words, not phrases. Nowadays you can put the book down and Google the word or phrase, but that involves switching from book to computer with the associated risk of switching seamlessly to Facebook, Twitter and a-snake-eating-an-egg-on-youtube. It also involves breaking your concentration, opening a new tab and either typing or copying and pasting.

These days I mostly read on a Kindle, both for recreation (novels) and interest (history and general non-fiction), and this allows me to click on words and phrases for dictionary definitions and Wikipedia entries. If a person is mentioned in passing in a history book, for example, you can get their brief bio from Wikipedia, or you can find out more information on an idea or technology that is mentioned if you are reading something scientific. This is great, but I had always assumed that it wasn’t possible to do this on the Library’s ebooks. Right? Wrong. If you are reading the book in a web browser (Firefox or Chrome but not Internet Explorer) here is a simple trick that connects the text of the ebook to the massive resources of the Internet in just one click.

When you come across a word or phrase you don’t understand

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simply highlight it

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and then right-click and choose the Search Google option

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and there’s your definition

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Neat trick.

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