Islanders invent eNotated electronic books for Amazon’s Kindle device

Ireland’s isle of Iona boasts the Book of Kells, an intricately illuminated manuscript of the Vulgate gospels created by 6th-8th century Celtic monks.

Orcas Island has eNotated Classics, created by a trio of island presidents.

Former Orcas Library Board President John Ashenhurst, OPALCO Board President Chris Thomerson and Orcas Island Medical Center Board President David Sarver have formed an electronic publishing company, with its first titles now available on

The concept is the same: Illumination of the classics. Only, the men are working on an Amazon Kindle instead of calf vellum and inscribing their illuminations using software programming code instead of iron gall ink. The system, invented and programmed by Ashenhurst, is a combination of hyperlinks and a guide like Cliff’s Notes that allows book lovers to simply touch an unfamiliar word or phrase on their electronic reading device screen and viola! A definition appears. They call the enrichment “eNotations.”

“The idea is to make works more accessible by adding this layer of information,” said Ashenhurst, adding, “No one else is doing this.” He came up with the idea while reading James Joyce’s massive and opaque tome “Ulysses” last year, as he went back and forth between web searches on his laptop and the book.

Thomerson, a lifelong sailor, has produced three eNotated copies of classic works written by 1800’s sea adventurer Joshua Slocum: “Sailing Alone Around the World,” “Destroyer,” and “Liberdade.”

A gentle reader paging through Thomerson’s copy of Liberdade might give pause when confronted with a phrase like, “Bowser and frap the larboard catharpins!” But joy! an explanation is already embedded, just a fingertip touch away.

“Slocum uses phrases that are arcane, archaic and difficult even for today’s experienced sailor,” said Thomerson. “He uses special vocabulary that’s part of the Age of Sail. John had me take a look at Slocum, and as I read the trilogy I realized that I was understanding phrases, based on my background, that others would be ‘all at sea’ with. There was a natural fit for me to provide the second layer for this worthwhile series of books that might otherwise fade into obscurity.”

With an eNotated classic copy of Slocum, the research work is already done, so perplexed readers can sneak a quick peek and get right back to the story.

The three men are long-time friends, members together in a Deer Harbor men’s group, and often volunteer in the community. Sarver, a lawyer and businessman, has provided legal and tax planning advice. Thomerson, an electrical engineer, has a background in business leadership management and has worked in research for the British Civil Service. He and his wife Lynn moved to Orcas Island from Eugene Oregon more than ten years ago, after sailing in this area for many years.

Ashenhurst in the past created and managed a nationwide electronic insurance reference library. He and his wife Yvonne moved from Boulder Colorado in 2000 and now live on Crane Island.

The three men are looking for islanders with expertise in various areas who might be interested in working at eNotating books for electronic publication. Retired history professors and others of their ilk are especially welcome to apply.

“As the years go by, [the classics] continue to become less accessible to the modern reader,” said Ashenhurst. “Our job is to add this layer of information, expertise, illumination, behind the author’s original words to make it easily accessible to the reader at their convenience, so they can enjoy the book and understand it more thoroughly.”

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