Book summaries have been around for decades.
There have been book companies and websites whose entire job is to make books or articles to summarize the most popular books. In school, I remember services like Cliffnotes and Sparknotes, which used to be huge for people in English class who wanted summaries of assigned books so they didn’t have to actually read them.
Nowadays, we have a few new entrants into the field that specialize in self help and business content only. There is free content on social media and blogs that summarizes books. YouTube channels like Fight Mediocrity summarize books with animated videos. Blogs, like this one, provide free text summaries of books. There are paid apps, like Blinkist, that offer large library of 2000+ text and audio book summaries on a phone app.
My Experience With Book Summaries
Here’s a quick background on my experience in the self help book industry. I read every day through print books and audio books. I love it. I have read over 100+ books in the self-help, nonfiction, business, wealth-creation, and fitness/peak performance in the last year.
My opinion on book summaries is probably something you can relate to.
Some books turn out to suck and are big disappointments. They look good based on the cover, but it turns out that the big points could have been summarized in a few sentences or paragraphs at most. The authors clearly added fluff to waste our times to make the book look thicker.
There’s a lot of possible reasons for this. Some authors simply want to add fluff content to make their book look thicker. There’s an incentive for people to have the title of “published author” nowadays and the barrier to entry of writing a book has lowered. That has lead to a flood of books being published every year. This sometimes leads to people wasting time reading fluffy, useless content written by the authors who waste time writing fluff content.
Other books are literally gold. There’s so much incredible advice in there that you can’t put it down. In fact, it’s difficult to summarize because it’s already really concise. Good to Great is a great business book that’s an example. You’d be a fool to think that you can summarize that book in 2 pages and get all the juice you get from reading the whole thing multiple times through.
Are Book Summaries Useful? The Truth
Book summary companies are often in the game of making money. They’re incentivized to tell you that book summaries are the holy grail. If I had to choose between the guy who’s read 1000+ book summaries and the guy who has deeply studied a solid selection of 100 books, I’d choose the latter.
Summaries have their place. It’s great for the books that have gold nuggets of value but spend way too long repeating the same information in multiple forms. However, I usually can’t determine if a book is a winner or a fluff book until reading at least 20% of it. I’m always on the cautious side. I’d rather be the guy who reads more fluff in case I find that one valuable nugget of information that can change my life versus the guy who accidentally skipped it because he assumed the rest of the book was bad.
I would use a book summary if:
- the book is on a mid or low level priority.
- I heard from many other people and/or online reviews that there’s a lot of fluff or it’s not that good.
- I’ve gone through at least 20% of it and it’s pretty 100% clear that it’s fluff (if I’m still not 100% sure, I’ll read a bit more)
- if it’s lower priority but there are some critical points that I’ve heard of great value in the book that I need immediately or very soon.
The point is that great books should be read, studied, reviewed, read again, and notes should be taken. There are rarities to find such books, but they do exist and a book summary will never do it justice.
A great technique for finding out what type of book this is quicker is to look at the table of contents and structure of the book. It doesn’t always work but sometimes it helps you skip the “read at least 20% of the book” rule.
For example, let’s take the books The Power of Broke or Getting There. Both, upon examining the table of contents and skimming through the structure, are coffee-table type books. Each section details a specific person and how he or she achieved the financial and lifestyle success they have now. From there, I would learn that I wouldn’t need to read the whole book, just the sections on people I’d be interested in.
These would most likely be people who have achieved a lifestyle I want to achieve or success in an industry that I’m interested in myself. It will cut down my reading time. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean the answer is a book summary. In this case, it would simply mean reading the entire section on the people I like, which is probably better (to get more of the juice) than a book summary.
Blinkist is currently the #1 book summary app for the self-development, entrepreneurship, life hacking, biography, fitness, history, and science genres.
It offers an audio book feature in its higher priced option, Blinkist Premium. Almost every book you can think of in the genre is in their library as a summary and more are added daily.
If you prefer watching to reading, here is a video review and demo of Blinkist sharing what I like and don’t about the app:
I have tried Blinkist thoroughly and went through at least 100 book summaries. There’s text summaries (average of 5 to 10 pages) and audio book summaries (that last around 5 minutes at normal speed) on some of the titles.
I have not been paid or endorsed in any way to write this. For any other place you will see a review online, be sure to check the links at the bottom of the page. There’s usually hide an affiliate link. This means that they are getting paid each time someone buys through their link. They are persuaded to say that they like it and it shows because they do nothing but praise the service.
This article won’t be like that. I boldly point to all the clear drawbacks of Blinkist and what I don’t like about. I also am very clear and honest with my affiliate link, which I only put there in the off chance that you still want to try it out for some reason.
I repeat what I said in the last section. Book summaries have their proper place. I would only use it for specific purposes, as mentioned in the bullet points earlier. I just don’t think you can get even close to the full juice for many incredible books with a summary.
Having said that, there’s plenty of books that might fall into a book summary-type situation. These books are usually mediocre in certain ways but good enough to at least peek into. These aren’t high priority books but I heard enough to look into them.
For example, Seth Godin books like Lynchpin. I literally hear about him all the time from everyone in the self-help, business, self-development, and self-improvement niches online. However, is this book really worth reading? From what I’ve heard about the book from everyone, it seems like the whole book can be summarized by the title: “In the modern world, it’s important to be indispensable and irreplaceable at your job.”
Perhaps peeking into a 10 page book summary would be a good way to get more of the juice of the book and see if it’s worth reading. It works because it’s definitely not my #1 priority book to read right now (I’m currently more into career progression and lifestyle business books as those are more immediate in urgency and value).
They have their place but to use ONLY Blinkist or a similar service to read would be a huge issue. I would use it as an optional reading supplement to actually reading print books and/or listening to audiobooks only if you can afford it.
There are some books like I Will Teach You To Be Rich by Ramit Sethi that walks through techniques for investing, credit cards, reducing debt, and buying a car on that just cannot be summarized without butchering the point because of the data and numbers. Having said that, it can work decently well for a Seth Godin book.
Blinkist and other book summary services have an incentive to keep expanding its library of books that it summarizes. Each one has the ability to decide whether to value quality of book summaries versus quantity. Many book summary services end up pursuing the latter because they realize that there are thousands of different book genres and more book summaries means more people who might want to buy. Unfortunately, that often means the quality and accuracy of the summaries start to decline as they generate more content.
I checked out the Blinkist hiring page and they seemed to be looking for a bunch of people to come in to narrate books and/or read books to summarize. Hopefully, they don’t become a content farm and sacrifice quality of summaries too much. I did note that they seemed to make a point on the app and website that they were moving at a very fast-pace to expand its library of books and grow, grow, grow.
Despite my dislike of the whole “book summary” concept, I have to acknowledge that Blinkist does a good job with some summaries. This includes the summary of the book Business Adventures by John Brookes, Warren Buffett’s favorite business book.
I’ve gone through this book cover to cover and it is a hard book to summarize. You almost have to read the whole thing to summarize it and I thought they did a great job doing so.
It takes about 5 to 10 minutes to go through an entire audio book summary on Blinkist and even faster if you use the 2x or 3x speed. That means that you can get through 50+ books in a day if not more.
I’ve went through over a hundred Blinkist summaries in a couple days and felt overwhelmed. I also didn’t feel like I really gained substantial new knowledge. Maybe I was going too quick or maybe the summaries covered only the fluff of the book. That’s one of the possible problems with a fast overload of information, especially summaries.
Blinkist has two paid options right now. There is the Plus and Premium annual plan. $50 or $80 a year. The cheaper plan is only $4 a month or 13 cents a day, which is an affordable price.
The ability to sync highlights to Evernote or read it through Kindle is a nice touch if you’re a tech geek.
The important difference between the Plus and the Premium plan is that Premium plan offers access to the audio book library. I’m a listener much more than I am a reader. And I’m really drawn to the idea of being able to speed up audio recordings and listen to as many as I want while driving, shopping, or working out.
If you’re looking for alternative apps to Blinkist, there’s a couple main ones that do well and . While there are more than I will list here, the others suck so much that they’re not worth listing.
If you’re still interested in trying it out, please use my affiliate link: willyoulaugh.com/blinkist
The free trial and free version is a good way to dip your toes in the water. And when the most expensive plan is still only a few bucks per month (or 20 cents a day), it’s a low-risk option to test out.
I will get a commission at no extra cost to you if you choose to upgrade to paid program after trying it out through my link.
I sometimes couldn’t help but feel like Blinkist was churning out summaries like a Chinese factory based on their job descriptions page and the rate they were adding new summaries. For some books, this works great.
For other books (mainly biographies or denser material), I firmly believe they can’t be summarized well. There’s little fluff and tons of actionable advice. You can miss substantial points of a good book and only pick up the fluff when you’re skimming it with a summary. I was very familiar with some of the books Blinkist summarized and that was the issue: they missed big points.
Instead, I prefer checking out the books from the library and using the table of contents to jump to my favorite passages or audiobooks. Plus, there’s plenty of comprehensive book summaries online, including animated video summaries.
Having said that, there are benefits to Blinkist:
- If you want a quick refresher on a book you already read, it’s there for you. (I prefer writing my own notes but maybe you don’t have time)
- If you want to test to see if a book is worth the read, it’s a good sneak peek.
- If you believe you can get the main points of a book through a summary, it works great.
- If you prefer audio books to reading and want a summary, this is great.
- If you love self help, peak performance, and business books, Blinkist has the most thorough library of book summaries. Blogs and YouTube videos don’t come closs.
- If you want a much easier, cheaper, and more convenient way of getting the top points of a large amount of books, this may be it.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below to these questions: Why are you considering Blinkist? What’s holding you back? How have your thoughts changed after reading this?
Learn How To 2x Your Speed Reading – Free Crash Course
If you’re a book lover and you don’t have the time to spend weeks taking speed reading courses, I’ve created a video and supporting resource summarizing the top speed reading points for you. You can get it free by clicking the button below:
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