Tolino needs better notes support

Highlights in a book in the Tolino webreader

A while ago I traded my Kindle in for a Tolino Vision 6 to no longer give money to that awful company and I’m overall satisfied.

The hardware is excellent, importing books worked fine, and I haven’t found a book yet via Orell Füssli that they did not have.

The only bad aftertaste is that international titles often have family sharing restrictions, which means I cannot share them with my partner, and they would have to re-buy (booh). But that’s a manageable trade-off compared to notes management.

Notes and highlights

Notes, or much more often just highlights, are a function that basically any e-reader supports and that should be a core use-case with a robust implementation similar to page navigation, book purchase or backlight adjustment.

Tolino supports highlights and collects them in a „My notes“ book on your e-reader. This book is not available in the „webreader“. However, when you open a book in the webreader, in which you highlighted passages (on the e-reader), you see the same highlights and can open and edit them one by one. You do not have a download or export button, but you can see them. This means that they have full cloud syncing of your notes, they exist in their database and Tolino can make them available how they choose. They chose to make them inaccessible.

Exporting the notes.txt

Okay, but how about that „My notes“ book? Could I get that from the e-reader and avoid manual work that way? Actually, yes, the device contains a notes.txt file with a well formatted reference to the title a predictable delimiter, nice.

So let’s open it on a computer and attach the reader via USB like it’s 2005. And then nothing happens on a Mac since they chose MTP, for heaven’s sake. Their own documentation says that „This enables users to continue to use the tolino e-reader while it is connected to the computer.“ Cool, nobody needs that and they are not offering a legacy option. So let’s install unwanted third-party software for which they so eloquently point out that they cannot take responsibility for.

And there is a notes.txt file and there are…not all highlights in there. It turns out that the device file only contains notes made on the device since the last factory reset and does not sync from other devices including reading in the iOS app. So the book I have, which has 12 highlights, now has 2 entries in notes.txt. Fantastic. So, basically, my only option is to script something in the webreader to get the information out.

Feature requests

It would be a fairly simply feature to add a button in the webreader and let users get their notes. They already have it in their database and a TXT file would suffice.

JSON or CSV would be nice but plain text would work just fine. It would be cool if they’d offer me the option for a webhook to integrate a highlight in real-time into my notes application of choice, but I’m really just looking to get a few lines of text here without copy and pasting every single item.

With the current implementation it’s faster for me to photograph the page and use OCR on my phone to get a quote out of a book for reference. That can’t be it.