Book junkie? So how many expensive, hard-bound, non-fiction books are sitting by your bedside waiting for the full moon day when you will finally read them and make more intelligent conversation? I have 2 to 3 always. A high-profile biography and the latest best-selling self-help book in town are always staring back at me, reminding me that I was supposed to read them months back.
Blinkist Book Summaries
Here’s where Blinkist can be a saviour. You can be the most well-read soul in the office conference room again.
Blinkist takes non-fiction writing and distills it into Blinks – a series of concise reading bits with a key insight from the book. Each blink takes less than 2 minutes to read and a book is covered in a series of 7-8 blinks. So about 15 minutes and you are done.
Each book is clearly condensed by a writer who has read the book so it’s not some algorithmic output based on blurbs and book reviews. The format is engaging, very well optimised for mobile devices and quite tempting to read on the go and fill in free slots while commuting or waiting.
One may argue that it’s not equal to reading the book. Well, it’s not meant to be. Blinkist can be useful:
- when you want a quick summary prior to a critical meeting with someone and you know references to a particular book would be useful
- when you are not sure you want to invest time or money in a voluminous hardcover and the Blinks can tell you if it’s something you would or would not like
- when you genuinely want to know what a book is about, just don’t have the time to read it and an executive summary is just about enough for now
- when you are stuck in an elevator with a CXO and you want to sound really smart
- when you are in a social gathering and everyone else has read a book and has a view. A quick trip to the restroom and voila! – a more knowledgeable you! 🙂
- when you know your attention span these days is reduced to Blink size only so nothing more please
There’s no free lunch so Blinkist follows a Freemium model. Once you sign-in you get to choose 3 or more books to read in 3 days. After that you have 3 choices – continue for free but read only a pre-selected book per day (on the app or site); pay about $50 for the year and gain access to over 1200 books with 40 new titles each month or splurge $80 for the year and get nice frills like connects to Evernote, Kindle and audio books. By signing on friends you can extend your free 3 days.
Frankly if you are serious about getting smarter this way, $40 is a steal considering how much you would actually need to spend to read so many books – time is money too!
To get a sense of how much is gained and how much is lost in the whole process of condensing a serious book down to a few page clicks, I tried out a set of books – ones that I had already read cover to cover and ones that I had not.
Book 1 – Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance
I know very little about him and off-late he seems to be everywhere. The world seems to have moved beyond Steve Jobs quotes and found Elon Musk. Time to get to know him a little better. And the blinks on Musk were quite a handful, power-packed with inputs on his crazy life. I came to learn that all his actions revolve around one singular aim – move mankind to Mars! And he believes this with such a passion and fervour. I liked to learn about how his ventures, while sounding outrageous, beautifully tie into one and other.
“Musk’s businesses, while successful individually, also strategically complement each other. Tesla makes battery packs that SolarCity can sell to end customers, and SolarCity supplies Tesla’s charging stations with solar panels. This is because, despite being passionate about cars and solar panels and batteries, they are all just side projects for Musk. His main goal remains to ensure that humans start living sustainably now so that humanity has a future. In this way, all his endeavors are united by one ambitious goal.”
From his role in X.com, the first online bank becoming PayPal to his eccentric working style and his turbulent personal life, the Blinks do a really good job of covering a lot of information. You get to know a lot about Musk if you knew nothing to start with and you are definitely inclined to pick up the book or read up more.
The Blinks also end with a nice summary and reading recommendation.
Book 2 – Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua
The book is Amy Chua’s journey as a Chinese parent in the United States and she narrates how she brought up her daughters in the Chinese style of parenting. She continuously compares it to the American style of parenting and brings out how and why she feels the Chinese moms have got this right. The blinks get right to the point and highlight all the parenting style nuances. You can quickly understand how different Chinese and American moms are.
The blinks are enough to sound smart about the book in a Ladies Club meeting! Having read the book (catch my review a few years ago here) I know the reader has missed out on all the stories between the mother and her girls. In Amy’s dry humour you get to know how one daughter fell in line and how the other rebelled and there are some heart-tugging scenes. Blinks can’t do justice to that but you can surely now say you know what Tiger Mom means.
Book 3 – Blood Feud by Edward Klein
This was a book completely new to me. I was intrigued by the premise of the story of how the Clintons and Obamas hate each other. The blinks aim to cover three crucial aspects of the story – Benghazi incident (we all know and want to know more about that!); how Clinton said Obama is fit to serve coffee (!) and how Obama said Reagan was a better president. Sounded like a pot-boiler frankly. The blinks do a really good job of taking you through the original of their hatred for each other, how Obama needed Clinton for re-election, how Clinton took that chance to push Hillary 2016 and of course Benghazi.
I am quite tempted to pick up the full book on Kindle perhaps. In any case, the Blinks have done their job.
So go check out Blinkist… am sure you will find it useful for one reason or another. 1200 plus books – so much you can learn in just 15 minutes.
Now am off to hear Ogilvy’s The Confessions of an Advertising Man!
Available at www.blinkist.com and iOS and Android apps.
To talk to the author over the phone, click here.